A federal jury has awarded $755,000 to a former public-safety officer at the University of Oregon after determining that his supervisors at the institution retaliated against him for blowing the whistle on mismanagement and a juvenile culture in the campus’s police department. The Oregonian reports that the jury found the university’s police chief, Carolyn McDermed, and a lieutenant, Brandon Lebrecht, had retaliated against James Cleavenger by firing him and seeking to defame him.
“This is a victory for every honest police officer,” Jason Kafoury, a lawyer representing Mr. Cleavenger, told the newspaper. “The jury today honored and enforced an officer’s right to speak freely on matters of public concern, regardless of whether their superiors approve.”
A spokesman for the university, Tobin Klinger, said its leaders were disappointed and would review the verdict before deciding whether to appeal. The university itself was dismissed as a defendant in the case, but Mr. Klinger said its insurance would pay any damages awarded.
Mr. Cleavenger’s lawsuit made the university’s police department infamous for its juvenile culture, symbolized by a lengthy list officers maintained of people they believed should “eat a bowl of” a certain part of the male anatomy. Featured on the list were the New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, the now-deceased Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and North Carolina.Return to Top