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Attorneys for Los Alamos County are seeking to remove what it says is “unnecessary, inflammatory and inaccurate” language in a lawsuit filed against the county in district court by two former Los Alamos Police Department employees and a LAPD detective.
“ ... Plaintiffs have included excessive amounts of alleged detail which completely is unnecessary to state their case and services only to create false details to boost the shock value of their complaint,” attorneys (Randy Bartell and Jocelyn Barrett) representing the county said in their complaint.
The plaintiff’s attorneys, George Geran and Linda G. Hemphill, filed a lawsuit against the county in January, alleging they were unfairly treated by the county according to the New Mexico Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, The Whistleblower Protection Act, The Human Rights Act. They are also suing the county for breach of contract.
The plaintiffs are Randy Foster, Scott Mills and Paige Early. Foster and Mills were once commanders at the LAPD. Their suit alleges the county effectively ended the careers of all three plaintiffs at the department as a simple solution to a human resource issue involving the alleged erratic behavior of a colleague, Det. Brian Schamber.
In their lawsuit, they alleged they tried to notify the county of Schamber’s mental condition on several occasions, but were ignored. In the suit, they said Schamber threatened his work partner, Early, on numerous occasions, as well as displayed behavior that they perceived as a threat to the general public, such as several road rage incidents.
The suit alleges that Schamber once confessed to Early that “he had to fight to keep complete control of himself, so that he did not act out against people he knew, and people he did not know.”
In November of 2012, LAPD Police Chief Wayne Torpy suffered a stroke and was hospitalized, leaving Foster head of the department.
Schamber’s alleged mental issues culminated in late December when, according to Foster, he was acting strangely during a morning meeting and before that had allegedly been making threatening statements about the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Schamber also allegedly revealed he had not been talking his medication for his bipolar disorder.
The suit went on to say that Foster, concerned for the safety of his fellow officers as well as the public, had Schamber apprehended and committed to the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute for a 10-day evaluation.
Schamber then filed a $25 million lawsuit against the county for its role in the December incident.
The plaintiff’s suit then alleges that in order to placate Schamber and to minimize financial damage to the county, Torpy, upon his return, and County Administrator Harry Burgess proceeded to make Foster, Mills and Early scapegoats for the whole incident.
Foster was later fired, Mills was allegedly forced into retirement and Early is presently on “light duty” with the department.
Schamber resigned shortly after receiving $600,000 from the county from his lawsuit.
In the county’s current complaint, attorneys cited the suit’s description of Schamber’s alleged escape from Los Alamos Medical Center during Foster’s first attempt to get him committed as an example. One statement in the description read “ … The nurse returned to the ER and emerged shortly thereafter indicating that Schamber was fighting against being medicated, and the doctors were requesting the two officers’ help.”
Then on March 7, Geran and Hemphill filed a response to the county’s motion of “unnecessary, inflammatory and inaccurate” language.
“Plaintiffs believe the complaint is admirably concise, given that its only goal is not concision,” a statement in the complaint read. “It also fully intends to place (the county) in the uncomfortable position of either having to deny knowingly true allegations, or admit liability.”
The plaintiff’s attorney also took exception to the county’s claims that the detail of the complaint was made to gain the attention of the press.
“That is simply not true,” the amended response read. “Although Plaintiffs provided information to the press concurrently with filing the lawsuit, their counsel had also been in touch with the county attorney about service of the complaint, the filing of which they made clear was imminent.
“Given the fact that the county itself generated so much negative publicity about the Plaintiffs in the wake of the Brian Schamber lawsuit and Plaintiffs did not have an opportunity to tell their side of the story before filing their complaint, the county should not be heard to complain about any publicity generated by the lawsuit.”
The amended response also took exception to the county’s claim in its motion that the Plaintiff’s allegations are not true.
“This is one reason for the lawsuit; a disagreement about facts,” the response read. “The other is, no doubt, a disagreement about the law.”