Fired Stanfield officer files whistleblower lawsuit against Eastern Oregon city
A former officer from the Stanfield Police Department in eastern Oregon has filed a lawsuit against the city, contending he was fired in retaliation for his whistleblowing about a lieutenant’s misconduct.
Ryan McBride is seeking $500,000 for the emotional distress, anger and humiliation he suffered, plus about $3,700 for lost wages, according to the suit filed in Umatilla County Circuit Court.
McBride said the chief extended his period of probation, from 12 to 18 months, shortly after he shared serious concerns he had about the on-duty behavior of his supervisor, Lt. Troy LaMonte Toombs. That included allegations of improper traffic stops and inappropriate sexual solicitations.
The city fired McBride on Oct. 26, 2015, without a termination letter or explanation why, his lawsuit said.
But in a letter to Oregon Department of Justice officials from a former colleague, Toombs placed McBride on leave after McBride showed up drunk while off duty to help a sheriff’s deputy, also off duty, pull his truck out of a ditch that he had driven into after a night of drinking with McBride and another on Aug. 5, 2015. McBride was driven by someone else to the scene, his lawyer Sean Riddell said. Months later, McBride was fired.
Stanfield City Manager W. Blair Larsen said McBride was fired for failing to be forthright on the night of Aug. 5, 2015, and said his lawsuit mischaracterizes what occurred.
The Justice Department, which investigated Stanfield’s four-member police force. reported last spring that the police chief and Toombs failed to properly log evidence and did shoddy work, but their lapses didn’t rise to criminal misconduct.
The state, for example, found Toombs failed to document the 2015 seizure of two marijuana plants from a property and the subsequent destruction of the plants. He completed paperwork only after a complaint was raised. He also “inappropriately reported” to a state police certification agent that he had done a full background check to hire a friend as a reserve officer when he hadn’t. His “misrepresentation” on the state form raised ethical questions, an assistant attorney general wrote to Stanfield city officials.
Gene Jorgenson, a former Stanfield officer and city councilor who was asked by the chief to do an inquiry before the state Justice Department’s investigation began, recommended Toombs’ termination, citing concerns about his credibility.
“In the 15 minute chat I had with him, I think that he does not always tell the truth, and tends to report the problems as not his fault,” Jorgenson wrote, according to an exhibit attached to McBride’s lawsuit. “Several times I questioned him on items that I knew were true, he told me that they didn’t happen at all or happened that way. When I called him on this, he stated that he had not been advised of his rights and that this was illegal.”
The Stanfield city manager, though, said Jorgenson never concluded his investigation, which was done in a voluntary capacity.
McBride had reported to his police chief in May 2015 that Toombs conducted multiple traffic stops of a young woman but gave her only warnings until he saw a man in her car and then gave her citations and instructed McBride to stop the woman whenever possible, the suit says. It also alleges Toombs solicited married residents in the Stanfield and Echo area to engage in sexual acts with him and his wife.
The lawsuit alleges that the city failed to do a proper background search on Toombs before hiring him in March 2014. It contends that Toombs resigned from an earlier police job in Orofino, Idaho, after a lawsuit filed against him was settled that alleged he had assaulted a man after responding to a routine call to help resolve the man’s dispute regarding his credit union account.
Toombs told the investigator hired by the city that he left the Orofino job for personal reasons, according to court documents.
Though Toombs held a supervisory position on the Stanfield police force and provided field training to McBride, Toombs never received any management or supervisory certification from Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, the suit says.
The Stanfield city manager had the city’s insurer conducted an internal review and audit of the police department after the Justice Department investigation. Both the chief and Toombs were placed on probation. On Jan.20, 2016, the chief returned to his job.
On Jan. 29, 2016, Toombs was stripped of his supervisory role and demoted to senior officer, with the understanding that after additional training and evaluations he might regain his supervisory status, Larsen said. Yet Toombs’ demotion did not include a drop in pay, the city manager said.