Garfield sheriff 
dismissed from jail employee lawsuit

Lou Vallario

A year and a half after indicating he would do so, a judge has dismissed Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario from a lawsuit accusing a former jail commander of requiring a onetime employee to have sex with him to keep her job.

Ninth Judicial District Judge James Boyd issued the order on Vallario’s motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit by Lisa Martin, daughter of county Commissioner John Martin. Vallario had been waiting on a formal ruling since Boyd had indicated in a June 2011 status conference his plans to grant Vallario’s motion.

Lisa Martin has sued former jail commander Scott Dawson, and Boyd has scheduled a five-day jury trial in that case beginning Sept. 30. The Colorado Court of Appeals last year found that Martin failed to file a timely notice of claim under Colorado’s Government Immunity Act in connection with all of Dawson’s actions within his scope of employment. But it ruled that Martin’s case could continue as it pertained to Dawson’s alleged actions outside the workplace.

Dawson, who was eventually fired, contends his relations with Martin were consensual.

Martin claims Dawson and Vallario’s actions led to her wrongful termination as an inmate services technician.

In his order, Boyd said Vallario failed to establish that Martin’s status as an employee who could be fired at will was undisputed. But the judge found that she was terminated “for proper cause following a proper procedure.”

He said Martin admitted over-reporting some hours worked and “implicitly admitted” not fully complying with an instruction she disagreed with to call her supervisor whenever leaving or returning to the jail. After she contested her firing, Vallario scheduled multiple appeal hearings with her but she canceled the dates based on inconvenience, Boyd said.

Martin’s suit also claims Vallario and Dawson asked her to falsify sheriff records, but Boyd said she was unable to back up that claim during testimony. Boyd said she also claimed in her suit that she complained to the two of them about inmate conditions, including a situation involving a naked inmate in a cell, but said in her deposition she hadn’t reported her concerns to Vallario. Nor, Boyd said, did she complain to Vallario “about the alleged conduct of Dawson.”

Vallario said Boyd’s ruling “again validates that the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office acts within the law, professional practices and our policies and procedures.” Past suits against Vallario alleging jail inmate claims of mistreatment have either been dismissed or settled on what he has characterized as favorable terms.


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