OGDEN, Utah (CN) - A sheriff's sergeant says she was demoted for her truthful report to the FBI that a sheriff's captain broke his back while trying to take custom cabinets from a foreclosed home.
Teresa Perkins, a 15-year member of the Weber County's Sheriff's Office, says she was reprimanded talking with an FBI agent during a chance meeting at a farm supply store.
Perkins says she also was warned she "has a target on her back" because she supported a challenger for the elected job of sheriff.
Perkins says a colleague, a lieutenant, told her that Sheriff's Capt. Klint Anderson broke his back trying to take the cabinets, which Anderson had built, from a foreclosed home before the bank took possession.
According to the complaint: "On or about Nov. 2, 2009, Sgt. Perkins was told by Lt. Kevin Burns, a member of the Weber County Sheriff's Office, about an incident involving Capt. Klint Anderson, also a member of the Weber County Sheriff's Office, in which he, apparently, committed the act of burglary in Morgan County, Utah, while he was on duty and in his department vehicle. Lt. Burns indicated that Capt. Anderson had previously installed $15,000 worth of cabinets in a home which was in foreclosure and that the owner failed to pay for the cabinets. Capt. Anderson was apparently trying to repossess the cabinets before the bank took possession of the home. As he was trying to enter the home, Capt. Anderson fell off the roof of the home and seriously injured himself."
Sheriff's deputies were informed by email that Anderson broke his back and would be off work "for an undetermined amount of time," the complaint states. It adds: "Lt. Burns, above referred to, further stated that after returning to work, Capt. Anderson told a group of deputies in the patrol room about the incident. Sgt. Perkins asked Lt. Burns if the administration was aware of this incident. He said, 'Yeah, and they haven't done anything to him about it.'"
Perkins says a member of the Perry City Police Department later asked her about the incident, which was "openly discussed and widely known by the line officers" in the sheriff's department.
At about the same time, in January 2010, Perkins says, Sheriff's Capt. Brett Haycock met with Sheriff Brad Slater to tell him that he intended to run for sheriff. "Apparently Captain Haycock was ordered not to do so. By the end of that week Captain Haycock was removed from his assignment as Kiesel Jail Commander and placed in a cubicle outside of the Sheriff's and Undersheriff's offices where he could be more closely monitored," the complaint states.
Perkins says Haycock ran for sheriff anyway, and she supported him. Sheriff Slater did not run for re-election. His chief deputy, Terry Thompson, did.
When she received a critical annual evaluation in February 2010, and told her supervisor, "Lt. Bell," that she objected to it, Perkins says, Bell told her that "he knows she has a target on her back at their office."
In April 2010, Perkins says, she bumped into the FBI agent, whom she describes as an "acquaintance," but does not name in the complaint.
"During the course of their conversation, they discussed particular morale issues they faced as law enforcement officers, as well as supervisors. While talking to the agent, plaintiff told him about the incident involving Capt. Klint Anderson. Plaintiff informed the agent that she had been told by a superior officer that Capt. Anderson had been involved in a residential burglary and that the line deputies she supervises were aware of the allegation. Plaintiff also indicated to the agent that many Weber County deputies openly talk about how Capt. Anderson continuously spends more time at his cabinet business than he does at the office and is evidently compensated for these actions. She said that as a supervisor these are very challenging issue[s] to keep your line deputies in check when they think that this type of behavior is condoned by executive staff members. Plaintiff also told the agent that in addition to all of this Capt. Anderson had recently been selected to attend the National FBI Academy, which also had a negative impact with the line officers when it fact they see it as rewarding bad behavior. The agent responded by stating that based upon this information he felt he needed to inform his supervisor because Capt. Anderson had applied to attend the F.B.I. National Academy."
Perkins says she told the agent she was worried about retaliation for this, and the agent promised to keep her identity confidential.
But 10 days later, Perkins says, Lt. Bell warned her "that she needed to be very careful about bad mouthing him, Capt. Anderson and the administration. Lt. Bell further stated that she had a 'target' on her back around the office."
In April, Perkins says, she learned from the FBI agent that the FBI had contacted the undersheriff, informed him that the Bureau knew of the allegations about Anderson, and "encourage[d] Capt. Anderson to withdraw his application for the F.B.I. Academy in order to avoid the information coming out in the background check."
In late April, she says, she told the undersheriff about her conversation with the FBI agent, and the undersheriff immediately put her on paid administrative leave and made her surrender her equipment, including her gun and badge.
When she returned to work six days later, she says, the undersheriff reprimanded her for talking to the FBI agent: "Undersheriff McLeod indicated that it was his determination and opinion that this conversation between plaintiff and the special agent was politically motivated."
Haycock lost his bid to become sheriff, and he and his supporters, including Perkins, were systematically demoted to corrections and courts positions, Perkins says. She lists 19 sheriff's employees by name whom she says have been "transferred, administered disciplinary action or are pending some type of retribution," all of whom supported Haycock's campaign.
"Sgt. Perkins was treated differently than other members of the Weber County Sheriff's Office for her communication with the special agent in that she was disciplined for such communication with outside personnel, when other members of the Weber County Sheriff's Office received no discipline for communicating with outside personnel," the complaint states.
Perkins seeks $500,000 for emotional distress she suffered from the "malice" of her supervisors. She also demands the "cleansing" of her personnel file, and "reinstatement ... to a law enforcement position."
The only defendant is Weber County.
Perkins is represented by David Havas.
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