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County settles parole officer’s lawsuit

January 20, 2018 GMT

Lane County has paid $80,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former county parole and probation officer who won back his job after being fired in 2015.

Ken Border alleged in the federal suit, filed last March in U.S. District Court in Eugene, that he was targeted for retaliation, wrongly branded a liar and fired after a dispute with his immediate supervisor over how best to supervise a paroled gang member.

Border’s firing, however, came after an investigation into a 2014 incident in which he brought an off-duty handgun into his office in violation of a county rule.

A county-hired investigator who interviewed Border determined that he had been untruthful about some circumstances of the gun incident, which prompted his termination.

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Border challenged the firing, and it was overturned when an arbitrator ruled it was unlikely that Border had deliberately tried to deceive the investigator. The arbitrator also ordered the county to give Border eight months’ back pay for the period in which he was without work.

Under a settlement agreement in the case, the county denies wrongdoing.

In addition to the $80,000 payment, county officials provided Border a letter signed by Lane County Parole and Probation Manager Donovan Dumire that discusses the employment dispute.

In the letter, Dumire commended Border for the officer’s “strong attention to detail” while supervising a caseload of more than 100 gang members. Dumire also wrote that Border was an effective field training officer for new hires and that the officer “routinely volunteered” for projects “to help the overall success” of the parole and probation department.

Border returned to work for several months after the arbitrator’s decision in his favor before voluntarily resigning in September 2016. He worked a total of 12 years for the county.

Border, in his lawsuit, characterized the off-duty gun incident as a “low-level” occurrence that his immediate supervisor, Aaron Rauschert, seized upon to exact revenge on him for having previously complained to Dumire about Rauschert’s desire to transfer a gang member on parole to Washington County.

Lane County filed in court a formal response to the lawsuit that acknowledges Border had expressed concern in 2014 that the parolee would not be immediately supervised by an officer after moving back to the Portland area. But the county denied that Rauschert, as the lawsuit alleged, had threatened retaliation and become openly hostile toward Border after they disagreed about whether or not to delay the parolee’s transfer.

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Border’s suit also sought a court order that would have required the county to remove from his personnel file a potentially career-damaging document written by a Lane County prosecutor, who noted the investigator’s original finding that Border had not truthfully answered questions about the gun incident.

The prosecutor said the district attorney’s office would be required to let defense lawyers know of the untruthfulness finding — which Border asserted had prevented him from finding work after he was originally fired.

The settlement agreement does not mention the document, but the reference letter signed by Dumire states that Lane County prosecutors “expressed continuing support for using officer Border as a witness after making the disclosures required by law” both before and after the arbitration hearing.

The letter also quotes the arbitrator’s conclusion in Border’s case, saying that statements that led to his firing were “more likely a failure to accurately communicate (with the county hired investigator in the gun incident) than a deliberate attempt to deceive.”

Border’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comment on the settlement.

Follow Jack Moran on Twitter @JackMoranRG . Email jack.moran@registerguard.com

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