Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sarpy County pays Federal Court judgment in favor of Deputy who alleged whistle-blower retailiation, $155k and his attorney $70K Sarpy County has paid a $155,000 jury award to a deputy who won a lawsuit against the former sheriff. The county will not appeal the award to Sheriff's Deputy Mark Shiller, said Terri Weeks, the county's attorney.The county also paid court-ordered fees and costs of nearly $70,000 to Omaha attorney John Corrigan, who was Shiller's attorney for the case. The payments bring to an end a dispute that boiled up two years ago after Shiller sent two letters to the Nebraska Attorney General's Office alleging misconduct in the Sheriff's Office. Officials investigated Shiller's allegations, and Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov found no evidence that crimes had been committed. On Sept. 30, however, jurors in U.S. District Court found that former Sarpy County Sheriff Pat Thomas retaliated against Shiller for sending the letters. Shiller alleged in court that Thomas had punished him more severely for wrecking a cruiser than other deputies would have been. Jeff Davis, who in May replaced Thomas as sheriff, said this week that the case was "not pleasant for anybody in the department on either side, and we think it's time to move on." "I have nothing against (Shiller) or anybody else involved in that ordeal," he said. "As long as he does his job, he's going to be fine." Shiller still works for the department in the county jail. Corrigan said important principles were at stake in the case, and he hopes the verdict will do some good for the department. "The hope is that other employees can engage in protected activity with a free and open debate rather than be concerned about retribution," he said.

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