Posted: Jul 19, 2010 11:59
Ennis Suit Against Sheriff, County Dismissed
Public Informaton Officer
Boundary County Public Information
PO Box 419
Bonners Ferry, ID 83805
July 19, 2010
A lawsuit filed by former Boundary County jail commander and unsuccessful sheriff's candidate Jeff Ennis against Boundary County for alleged wrongful termination and civil rights violations was dismissed July 15 by a summary judgment in Idaho District Court.
In his suit, which listed Boundary County, county commissioners Dan Dinning, Ron Smith and Walt Kirby, sheriff Greg Sprungl and undersheriff Rich Stephens as defendants, Ennis claimed that he was dismissed from his position in retaliation for his decision to run against Sprungl in the 2008 election.
The court found, however, that Ennis had worked with the department for nearly 11 years without being Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified, a violation of Idaho Code.
Sprungl hired Ennis March 3, 1997, and contends in the suit that he informed Ennis of the need to attain POST certification within one year, but he lost election to George Voyles in 2000. Sprungl was reelected sheriff in 2004, and according to court documents he worked with Ennis and POST academy staff to attempt to clear up questions and disagreements regarding Ennis' qualifications and the status of various waivers that had been applied for beginning shortly after his re-election.
In running for sheriff, Ennis claimed to be the only one of the three candidates to be jail and patrol certified, but a subsequent POST determination was made that Ennis was not qualified because he failed to meet minimum health and application requirements.
Ennis withdrew his application for POST certification in January, 2009, and was terminated from employment March 19, 2009.
Ennis contended that no action was taken against him until after he ran against Sprungl, a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech, but the court found that he had knowledge of his lack of certification long before that.
"The parties agree that Ennis had notice of the certification requirement at least three years before he exercised his protected speech," the court determined. "Defendants have not justified why it took ten years to terminate Ennis … when they had statutory authority to do so. However, no reasonable juror could find that Ennis was entitled to a job that he held unlawfully."
In its decision, the court found that "allowing Ennis to continue his employment as an uncertified officer would involve significant consequences," and would "subject Ennis, Sprungl and Boundary County to grave consequences, such as civil and criminal penalties."
"A series of unusual circumstances led to him continuing to work uncertified," Sprungl said after the court's decision was released. "I can assure you that this will not happen again."