A former Sunriver Police sergeant is suing the department, the chief and others for violating his right to free speech and retaliating against him after he pressed harassment charges against a former chief.
Joseph Patnode, who was fired from the department in June, is asking for $2.5 million in lost wages, benefits and more names as defendants current Police Chief Cory Darling, Lt. Michael Womer and Debbie Baker, a board member with the Sunriver Service District. The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Eugene.
The suit stems from an incident in December 2017 when then chief Marc Mills struck Patnode in the chest with a metal sign so hard Patnode’s head hit a wall behind him. The altercation was witnessed by a Sunriver Police administrative staff member who reported the incident to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.
Patnode pressed charges against Mills and testified against him, both of which are protected under whistleblower laws.
Mills eventually resigned from his position as chief in February 2018. He pleaded guilty to harassment a month later and fined $100.
The suit claims Patnode, a 21-year-veteran of the department when he was fired, was retaliated against for his role in the Mills resignation including being passed over for a promotion and, ultimately, being fired.