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La Liga de Las Americas


Vindicated and reinstated, John Flores back on job at sheriff’s office

By Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent

John Flores, the corrections officer in the Lucas County Jail wrongfully accused by the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office in 2002 of stealing an envelope containing an inmate’s money, is back at work.

 Although Flores was not returned to the position he previously held in the jail’s booking office, he returned to work March 6 assigned to the second shift. This followed a February 4th ruling in his favor by the State of Ohio State Personnel Board of Review. The ruling became final on April 13.

Flores calls his victory “bittersweet,” although he says his coworkers have welcomed him back to their ranks. He was reinstated with full back pay and benefits.

Flores was accused of stealing $310.22 from an inmate being processed at the jail. Flores, who then worked the third shift at the jail, was forced to resign under duress in September 2002.

The Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, of which Flores was a member, filed suit against Lucas County Sheriff James Telb over the department’s subsequent refusal to allow Flores to continue to work. At an arbitration hearing in July 2003, Flores was ordered reinstated with full back pay and seniority.

But that didn’t happen. Shortly after that ruling, the Sheriff’s Office filed internal charges against Flores, charging him with law violations, conduct unbecoming an employee, dishonesty, and malfeasance.

Flores was told a hearing would be held on those charges on August 13, 2003. That day, a Review Board meeting voted to terminate Flores and it was followed almost immediately by a Sheriff’s Office Disciplinary Review Board which also called for his termination. A month later, Flores was officially terminated.

The Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association and its executive director Terry Gallagher continued to press Flores’ case before the State of Ohio State Personnel Board of Review.

Administrative Law Judge Jeannette E, Gunn ruled that Flores’ proximity to the missing envelope containing the inmate’s cash was “not adequate” to establish a probability that he took the money envelope.

The judge found that “Flores was not the only individual who had an opportunity to come into contact with the money envelope after the conclusion of the booking process as any individual admitted to the control booth would have had access to the envelope.”

Flores was represented at the hearing by Joseph M. Hegedus, the attorney for his union. “I also owe a lot to Sgt. Joseph Scroggs of the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office for always believing in me,” says Flores.

As reported in La Prensa last June, Flores filed a federal suit against Sheriff Telb, two high-ranking members of his staff and the office of the Sheriff, and Lucas County Prosecutor.

Flores retained high-profile Toledo attorney Thomas A. Sobecki to file what is believed to be the first federal lawsuit of its kind against the Lucas County Sheriff’s Office.

That lawsuit, in which Flores seeks compensation for his mental anguish as well as damages stemming from his firing, is before United States District Court, Western Division, Judge David Katz. Sobecki declined to comment on the status of the federal case, but a review of the docket reveals that it is still pending.

“I’ve been put through this for more than two-and-a half years,” says Flores.  “People should be appalled that this was all being done with the taxpayer’s money. At one point, we thought they were going to appeal the state’s ruling to the Lucas County Common Pleas Court.”

Although Flores has been vindicated, he still believes he lost a good chance for employment with the Toledo and Oregon police departments while the accusations were pending against him. He worked at his old job at UPS during the appeal process.

He is just thankful that his ordeal is over.





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