Judge Boyd faced with multiple motions, issues
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
In an upcoming trial involving Garfield County law enforcement officials – one former employee and the other currently serving – one of the big questions is whether or not the trial will take place as scheduled.
A flurry of motions were filed between Aug. 20 and Aug. 23 by attorneys in the case of Lisa Martin versus Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario and his former jail commander, Scott Dawson. The case is currently scheduled for trial in late September.
The motions are to be decided by 9th Judicial District Judge James Boyd in the coming week or so, the judge said in court on Tuesday, but appeals may be filed depending on how the judge rules.
Plus, Dawson has moved to Vermont, further complicating trial preparations.
The recent filings include a motion by one of the attorneys, arguing that the notice of intent to sue was filed too long after the dates of the alleged incidents named in the complaint, and thus the case is “barred” from resolution by trial.
Martin is a former employee of the county jail who has accused Vallario and Dawson of “wrongful termination” in retaliation for her blowing the whistle on Dawson’s alleged sexual misdeeds, including an alleged sexual assault on Martin.
Martin, daughter of County Commissioner John Martin, filed suit in 2008 over her dismissal in 2007.
Vallario has maintained that Martin was fired because she falsified her time sheets, a contention that is backed up by his supervisory staff.
Vallario’s attorney, Cathy Greer, has asked the judge for a “summary judgment” invalidating the suit, arguing that it fails to prove several of the accusations in her suit, which mostly have to do with technical rules concerning employment with the sheriff’s office.
Attorney Jonathan Cross, representing Dawson, argued in court documents and during Tuesday’s hearing that Martin’s failure to file a notice of intent to sue within 180 days means her lawsuit cannot go forward under state law. Cross, in his motion, said the court has no legal “jurisdiction” for such a trial.
Attorney Richard Dally, representing Martin, has indicated he wants a hearing on the merits of that motion to determine if the case should go forward.
Dally also has filed several motions on Martin’s behalf, including a demand that Vallario respond to questions that Dally states the sheriff refused to answer during a deposition.
The questions had to do with an email sent to two Garfield County commissioners and to the local media, accusing Vallario of showing favoritism toward a subordinate he was sleeping with.
At the time, Vallario noted in an email to the Post Independent that Dawson’s personnel file contains a document that states he was fired for “conduct unbecoming a deputy.”
Vallario declined to provide further information on the matter, according to news stories at the time, and maintains that the information in the email is not relevant to the case.
It was determined through an investigation by the 9th Judicial District that Dawson was one of the authors of the emails.
That same investigation found no criminal wrongdoing within the Sheriff’s office, but added that there was confusion between ranks on what the protocol is for vacation time requests.
Dally, in his motion, argues that the questions he wants the sheriff to answer would provide evidence of Vallario’s “consistent enforcement or not of his own policies … regarding intra-agency relationships” and cheating on time cards.
Dally’s motion refers to an email alleging “corruption and ethics violations in the sheriff’s office” that refers to Vallario’s affair with a subordinate, and claims that the two would go on vacations together that the subordinate allegedly recorded as worked time on her payroll card.
“So if she was stealing vacation time from the county and getting paid for it, the sheriff had full knowledge of it,” the motion alleged.
Vallario has indicated that all such charges are irrelevant to the case at hand.
Martin’s case, he wrote in an email, boils down to “three complaints remaining against me. They are: 1. Breech of Implied Contract, 2. Breech of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, 3. Promissory Estoppel.
“And none of them have anything to do with what you described in your story,” the sheriff concluded.
Judge Boyd told the attorneys on Tuesday that he would rule “pretty soon” on Cross’ “jurisdictional motion,” which could have the effect of canceling the trial depending on how the judge decides.
As it stands, the case is set to go to trial on Sept. 27, and last until Oct. 5.
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