Another Stanislaus ex-deputy says he was forced out, sues

Latest claim against Stanislaus asserts injury led to retirement

gstapley@modbee.comJanuary 11, 2013 

— Another former deputy sheriff is suing Stanislaus County, saying he was forced out after suffering a work-related injury.

Mark Drewry said he had no choice but to retire in 2011 at age 43 after a series of surgeries on a wrist that was injured while apprehending a domestic-violence suspect two years before.

"They gave me no option," Drewry said Friday, two days after filing a wrongful termination and disability discrimination lawsuit.

Assistant County Counsel Ed Burroughs had no comment, saying the county had not been served with a lawsuit notice. Sheriff Adam Christianson could not be reached for comment.

Drewry's lawsuit says the county failed to engage in an "interactive process" or give-and-take negotiations to find tasks less demanding than those required of patrol officers.

Former deputies Dennis Wallace and David Reisz have sued on similar grounds after being injured and discharged. Francisco "Frank" Soria believed he was penalized by a retaliatory transfer in July 2011 and threatened to sue before county administrators reinstated him as a detective, gave him six months' back pay and adopted a policy mandating interaction between department managers and employees.

Drewry worked five years with the Ripon Police Department and more than six years for the Sheriff's Department, the last four as a K-9 handler. He was named officer of the year in 2007 and was honored in 2009 by American Legion Post 74.

In June 2009, Drewry and another deputy confronted a man beating his wife with a broom in a Keyes trailer. The man refused to cooperate and exchanged blows with Drewry, he said.

"He went to the hospital in an ambulance and I went to the next call," Drewry said, "but then I realized I couldn't hold my gun up."

Surgeons used a small pin to stabilize his wrist, and he was given light-duty tasks at work, the lawsuit says, but his wrist didn't heal properly and county personnel directed him to retire after a third surgery in late 2010. He suggested several positions, "but every time he made such requests, he was turned down," the document reads, and he retired in 2011.

Meanwhile, Wallace's lawsuit ended with a hung jury in August, and a new trial is scheduled for May 7. Reisz sued in June and a hearing is set Feb. 11. Both had demanded the interaction guaranteed later as a result of Soria's case.

Bee coverage of the Wallace trial spawned public dialogue on the department's injured employees and the phrase "limp, lame and lazy." Christianson called that "somewhat of an inside joke" in a pretrial deposition and later issued a public apology.

County officials had said Wallace no longer could do the job without putting himself, co-workers and the public at risk.

The Stanislaus County department has faced several legal challenges in recent years, winning some and settling others. Deputy Tom Letras cited legal trouble and public relations problems when he announced in August that he will run for sheriff in 2014 and called Christianson "a bully."

Drewry, now 45, teaches criminal justice at Heald College. He seeks "compensatory damages including lost wages, employee benefits and other such damages," the lawsuit reads.

More than 15,500 peace officers were injured each year, on average, over the past decade, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. More than 58,000 are assaulted each year, and an average of 156 are killed, the organization says.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at gstapley@modbee.com or (209) 578-2390.

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