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Victor Lancaster claims his employment was unlawfully terminated last April



TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The city of West Linn, Police Chief Terry Timeus and City Manager Chris Jordan are named as defendants in a lawsuit that alleges a 20-year veteran of the West Linn Police Department was unlawfully fired.Former West Linn Police Captain Victor Lancaster has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of West Linn, claiming that his constitutional rights were violated when his employment was terminated in April 2014.

The lawsuit was filed April 6, 2015, with the United States District Court, naming the city of West Linn, Police Chief Terry Timeus and City Manager Chris Jordan as defendants. Lancaster, a 20-year veteran of the department, is seeking damages as a result of “loss of employment including lost wages and fringe benefits, emotional distress, mental anguish, injury to his personal and professional reputation (and) loss of self-esteem and dignity,” attorneys Matthew Ellis and Stephen Brischetto wrote in the complaint.

Lancaster claimed that his employment was illegally terminated for two primary reasons: his testimony at an unlawful labor practice (ULP) hearing on behalf of former WLPD officer Chad Atkeson; and his reports of what he believed to be unlawful searches performed by a WLPD sergeant. In a statement to the Tidings, Jordan said, “I terminated the employment of this individual because it was in the best interest of the city of West Linn to do so.”

Timeus did not comment on advice from counsel.

TIMEUSJORDAN

According to Lancaster’s complaint, the trouble began when he voiced concerns about the “status quo” in the department.

“On numerous times throughout his employment, (Lancaster) reported to Timeus and others that he believed that the West Linn Police department suffered from mismanagement, gross waste of funds or abuse of authority, and that he and others were dedicated to fixing those problems,” the complaint stated. “The police department was split between those who preferred the status quo and those, like (Lancaster), who did not.”

The complaint alleged that Lancaster and other like-minded officers were “derided” as members of “The Clique.”

In January 2013, Lancaster told Timeus that he believed a WLPD sergeant had performed an unlawful search of a citizen's vehicle. He also reported the search to the Clackamas County District Attorney's Office and the Oregon Department of Justice, according to the complaint, and was told that the search may have indeed been unconstitutional.

In late March 2013, Atkeson filed his ULP, which accused Timeus of preventing him from obtaining a promotion to sergeant by stacking the hiring board with friends and negatively influencing the peer evaluation process after Atkeson blew the whistle on potential violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

In the ULP complaint, Lancaster was quoted telling Atkeson that he had a “target on his back” at the department as a result of the memo he wrote about the potential FLSA violations. In May 2013, Lancaster met with city attorney Kathy Peck to discuss the ULP and a separate Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) complaint, which was also filed by Atkeson.

“Lancaster provided Peck information generally supportive of Atkeson’s ULP and BOLI complaint including that he had warned Atkeson that his general activities had ‘put a target on his back,’” Ellis and Brischetto wrote. “However, Lancaster told Peck he could not recall if he said ‘target on your back’ with regard to the FLSA memo.”

Shortly after Peck concluded that there was “no merit” to Atkeson’s claims, Timeus informed the department’s human resources manager that “he could no longer work with Lancaster,” according to the complaint.

Lancaster provided sworn testimony at a Dec. 6, 2013, ULP hearing for Atkeson, once again stating that he had warned Atkeson about a “target on his back” but that he was unsure whether he had said so in relation to the FLSA memo. Shortly thereafter, on Jan. 6, 2014, Lancaster was placed on administrative leave for reasons “arising from information revealed through testimony at the recent unfair labor practice hearing.”

After an Internal Affairs investigation, Lancaster’s employment was formally terminated April 8, 2014.

Ellis and Brischetto were not available for comment.

Lancaster has requested a trial by jury, and will seek an award of economic damages “in an amount to be determined at trial.”

The discovery period for the trial is set to be completed by Aug. 4. A pretrial order will then be turned in by Sept. 3 before the trial begins.

Patrick Malee can be reached at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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