MODESTO -- Patterson's city manager testified in a civil trial Friday that he heard a Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department employee use the label "Limp, Lame and Lazy" to refer to a list of deputies unable to work.
Rod Butler said he heard business manager Dan Wirtz use the term while in a meeting in February with the city's finance manager, sheriff's Lt. Tori Hughes and sheriff's Capt. Tim Beck. He said they were discussing how staffing levels of deputies were affecting Patterson police services.
Butler was called to the witness stand by the attorney representing former deputy Dennis Wallace, who is suing the county, alleging that Sheriff Adam Christianson forced him out of his job after Wallace suffered a series of injuries on duty.
In the same civil trial Wednesday, Wirtz testified he never referred to the "Limp, Lame and Lazy" list during the February meeting with Patterson city officials. He also said he didn't say anything during the meeting that might have been misunderstood as "Limp, Lame and Lazy."
During cross-examination Friday, Butler said they met with sheriff's officials because he was concerned the city might be paying the Sheriff's Department for shifts not filled because deputies were unable to work.
Use of disparagement
Patterson has a contract with the Sheriff's Department to provide the city police services. Hughes works as Patterson's police chief.
Butler testified that two or three deputies assigned to Patterson were unable to work at the time of the February meeting in his conference room. He said the mood of the meeting was cooperative, looking for ways the Sheriff's Department and the city could find a solution.
"I would say the conversation was cordial," Butler said on the witness stand.
Wirtz has testified he heard the "Limp, Lame and Lazy" phrase used once to refer to list of deputies during a sheriff's executive team meeting, where Christianson and his captains and lieutenants were present. The business manager said they chuckled a little when it was mentioned.
Hughes testified that she has heard other sheriff's officials use the disparaging title many times while referring to a group of deputies receiving workers compensation for on-the-job injuries or on family medical leave. She also said she heard Christianson frequently refer to the "Limp, Lame and Lazy" list.
Wallace says he is capable of working as a patrol deputy after surgeries to repair his injuries and rehabilitation to strengthen his body. He alleges that the sheriff forced him out of his job but has found work within the department for other injured deputies.
Former chief deputy coroner Kristi Ah You also testified Friday afternoon. She said she heard her ex-boss, Christianson, use disparaging remarks about Wallace three or four times. "He said (Wallace) was useless and worthless," Ah You said on the witness stand.
She worked as a civilian manager at the coroner's office, attended the department's management meetings and had regular conversations with Christianson, according to her testimony under cross-examination.
Ah You left the Sheriff's Department late last year to take a job with a longtime Modesto-area funeral home that was acquired by a new owner. She works as managing partner, overseeing three funeral home facilities for Carriage Serv- ices Inc., which bought the Franklin & Downs business.
In January 2011, sheriff's officials met with Wallace, who then worked as a court bailiff. Based on a report from Dr. Richard Baker, sheriff's officials sent Wallace home because they said he no longer could perform the duties of a deputy.
Baker, an orthopedic surgeon based in Oakland, examined Wallace in the fall of 2011, reviewed his medical records and looked at a job description of a deputy's duties. Baker testified Friday that his job was to determine whether Wallace could put himself in a work situation where he could further injure himself.
The doctor said Wallace suffers chronic problems in multiple body parts, including his back, neck, knee and ankle. He concluded that Wallace no longer can work as a deputy.
"My concern is Mr. Wallace will suffer further damage to these body parts," the doctor testified.
Testimony ended Friday afternoon. The trial is expected to resume Tuesday with jury instructions and closing arguments from the attorneys in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.
For past coverage of the case, click on the links with this story at www.modbee.com/local.