Nature of sexual relations disputed in jail firing case

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A former Garfield County Jail employee testified Thursday she had sex for a year with the then-commander of the facility “because he commanded me to do so.”

Lisa Martin spoke during a lawsuit proceeding in which Jonathan Cross, the attorney for former commander Scott Dawson, presented evidence suggesting Martin had engaged in a voluntary, romantic relationship with Dawson.

Martin, the daughter of Garfield Commissioner John Martin, has sued Dawson and county Sheriff Lou Vallario, contending she was wrongfully terminated.

She appeared in court as part of a hearing to determine whether she filed a notice of claim against the government in a legally timely fashion. The hearing is continuing today, and Vallario is expected to testify.

Martin became an inmate services technician at the jail in November 2004. She said Dawson forcibly kissed her at a party in October 2005, and then shortly afterward began having sex with her once a week.

Martin said she was recently widowed at the time, and with two children to raise, she felt she had to submit to Dawson to keep her job.

“He was my jail commander. He told me what he wanted and what he expected. He knew that being a single mother I needed every penny … to survive,” Martin said.

Martin was fired in late May 2007 for falsifying her time cards. She acknowledged Thursday she had made a “simple error.” But she contends in her lawsuit that the real reason for her firing was she complained about sexual harassment, discrimination and poor work conditions.

She testified she remarried earlier in the month in which she was fired, and Dawson had asked her at the time, “Are you sure you want to do that?”

Dawson since has been fired from the jail. Cross said Dawson wouldn’t be testifying in this week’s hearing. However, in cross-examining Martin, Cross sought to portray her as having flirted with Dawson, including by leaving him small gifts.

He also played back several voice-mail messages she left Dawson in which she said she loved him and loved being around him.

“You’re the first person in my life that has actually made me feel important,” she said in one message.

She expressed similar sentiments about Dawson in a letter to him a few days after he first kissed her. But she testified that she said what he wanted her to say in her messages to him, and in order to lie, she imagined she was speaking to her late husband.

She said she had written a first letter saying she was offended by the kiss, and Dawson asked her to write the second. She requested in the second letter that he shred it, but he kept it, and it was brought to her attention during deposition proceedings.

She said Thursday that she had asked for the letter to be destroyed “because this is not how I felt.”


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