On Wednesday, February 15th, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch dismissed Pueblo County’s filing for a motion to dismiss suit, and issued an eleven page ruling that former Pueblo Lodge 7 President Tommie McLallen’s 1st Amendment claims (free speech and freedom of association) shall move forward to trial. The Judge further ordered that not only do the constitutional claims exist against sheriff Kirk Taylor, but in addition to Taylor those command staff individuals that participated in McLallen’s termination should also be tried for these violations. As a result each of those individuals who took part in this travesty could be held both professionally and personally liable for their actions.
A copy of the eleven page 02-15-12 written ruling is attached to this article and can be accessed below. Also attached are the prior motions that led to the ruling. It is public record and can be distributed. Reading the 02-15-12 ruling you will see that in this very important decision by the US Tenth Circuit Court, not only did Federal Judge Richard Matsch throw out the motion to dismiss, but his written decision exposed the travesty, from his judicial opinion, committed against McLallen. All that Taylor and his underlings have repeatedly denied doing (in our almost three year battle in defense of Sgt McLallen) has been exposed in the eyes of the Judge. Now it will be up to a jury to agree.
There is no doubt from anyone familiar with this case that Sgt McLallen was railroaded by this sheriff and his underlings. This was clearly retaliation for legal organizing conducted by Pueblo FOP Lodge 7 at the request of its members. There is no doubt that Kirk Taylor (aka sheriff Taylor) and his minions took this retaliatory action against the Lodge President to silence him and send a strong message to the Pueblo FOP membership that Taylor hoped would have a chilling effect on those who would choose to be FOP members. We are confident a jury will see this the same way.
This case has been expertly handled by the FOP law firm of Elkus & Sisson with full support and assistance of the Colorado FOP. It received the attention of the National FOP and at the 2009 National Biennial Conference a resolution was adopted condemning the actions of this sheriff and supporting Sgt McLallen. Thousands of dollars came in from across the nation in financial assistance to this FOP brother.
Colorado has many Sheriffs who treat their employees fairly and with respect. Those Sheriffs have good managerial skills and employ fair personnel practices in the workplace. They rarely use their office to remove employees for political expediency or reasons other than performance, and provide a minimum level of due process. As such those Sheriffs have the utmost respect of their employees and this organization. This is not about them. It is about those whose egoistical over-officious belief causes them to treat their law enforcement officers as serfs in their kingdom; promoting a departmental attitude that law enforcement officers are not entitled to their constitutional rights; or that they are only entitled to a watered down version of those rights.
This decision to try Kirk Taylor and members of his command structure comes on the heels of a nearly $900,000 jury award against Adams County Sheriff Darr (also handled by the Elkus & Sisson firm) for similar egregious behavior. This case against Taylor could easily cost the taxpayers of Pueblo County upwards of one million dollars, not to mention damages that could be personally assessed against Taylor and his involved underlings.
Sheriffs, who suffer under the misguided belief that their elected office gives them absolute power over their employees, need to understand there are consequences for certain behaviors. Make no mistake about it. The FOP support of legal actions in these legitimate cases is designed both to protect the rights of peace officers and to drive that point home. Those egoistical over-officious individuals need to understand we will act when there is legal standing into the courts for relief or damages.
Having said that both the Darr case and the current Taylor case speak strongly for the need to establish minimum due process rights. It is an unfortunate fact that the arrogant decisions of these Sheriffs in violation of these officers' constitutional rights clearly comes at the financial sake of the taxpayers who elected them. That in and of itself is shameful. All of this could have been avoided if the current FOP due process bill HB-12-1062 were law. The result could have ended this far short of the court system, and saved the taxpayers of both counties thousands of dollars.