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Deputy’s ‘playful’ groin shot not cause for termination, COA affirms

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A longtime Bartholomew County merit deputy disciplined after he “playfully shot a fellow officer in the groin with non-lethal training ammunition” was not fired for cause, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in affirming an administrative law judge’s determination the deputy was entitled to unemployment benefits.

Robert L. Amos was a merit deputy for nearly 40 years until May 2013, when the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Merit Board found Amos violated six department rules after the incident following a training exercise.

During debriefing, when participants had removed some of their protective gear, Hartsville Town Marshall A.J. Ross said he had not been hit with the non-lethal Simunition plastic bullets during the exercise, according to the record.

Amos laughed and said he had been hit four times during a “live fire” scenario exercise. “He then raised his weapon and playfully shot Marshal Ross, hitting him in his groin protector,” according to the Court of Appeals order in Bartholomew County, Indiana v. Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, and Robert L. Amos, 93A02-1311-EX-986. Ross wasn’t injured, but an instructor immediately took Amos’ weapon and admonished him.

The merit board found Amos’ rules violations constituted cause for termination and immediately discharged him from the department. Initially found ineligible for unemployment benefits, Amos appealed and testified before an administrative law judge that the rules were applied unevenly. He “testified to several instances of other officers playfully shooting fellow employees with (Simunition) without being disciplined,” and the administrative law judge reversed, finding the county didn’t uniformly enforce its rules for “just cause” discharge.
    
The county failed to prove otherwise to the Court of Appeals. The county argued that because Amos was a certified firearms instructor, the proper comparative class is firearms instructors who engaged in Simunition horseplay. “This claim has no merit,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the panel. “Not one of the six rules Amos violated differentiates between officers who are certified firearms instructors and those who are not.”

The county also lost its arguments that the merit board’s ruling collaterally estopped Amos from claiming he wasn’t discharged for just cause and that the Department of Workforce Development Review Board abused its discretion by denying the merit board transcript as additional evidence.

“The county claimed the transcript called into question Amos’s testimony at the ALJ hearing that other officers had playfully shot fellow employees with (Simunition) without being disciplined. The County, however, did not offer an explanation as to why it did not present the transcript as evidence at the ALJ hearing.”








 

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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