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Ex-Lawman Wins His Job Lawsuit

A jury, ruling against Riverside County, awards $460,000, which the state calls a record.

October 22, 2003|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A Riverside County jury has awarded $460,000 to a former sheriff's investigator who suffered a head injury in 1994 and said he was subsequently treated like "collateral damage" by the department and the county.

The state Department of Fair Employment and Housing helped represent William Clark, 50, of Riverside, and said the verdict was the largest in the department's history.

Clark's attorneys argued that Riverside County failed to offer him a reasonable job to accommodate his mental disability, as the state requires.

"The management style of the administration of the county, from human resources to the Sheriff's Department, is highly inappropriate and insensitive, and that has led to widespread disillusionment," Clark said. "If they had just taken care of me, we would not be where we are now. I'm sure the county's legal bills for this case are also large. It's the taxpayers who are losing."

The county will appeal the verdict, which was announced last week in Riverside County Superior Court.

"It's our feeling the county did the right thing in this case," said Ron Komers, county human resources director. "[Clark] was receiving retirement and disability benefits from us, and he never applied for a position. His position was, he wanted us to give him a job. Our position was, he had to be qualified and then apply."

Department attorney Eddie Washington said Clark, a 15-year Sheriff's Department veteran, was injured during a 1994 investigation when large closet doors fell and struck him on the head.

By 1996, Clark had been placed on disability status and was no longer with the Sheriff's Department.

"He wasn't allowed to carry a weapon and couldn't handle the stress within the department, but there were all sorts of jobs within the county that we established he could have performed," Washington said.

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