Thursday, June 24, 2010

Judge to rule on deputy Troy Durham's termination

The fate of a former Somerset County sheriff's deputy's career is expected to be decided during a Somerset County Circuit Court hearing Friday.

A judge will determine if James "Troy" Durham, 42, was unfairly terminated in September after being placed on administrative leave for more than a year.

"I'm not nervous," Durham said. "I'm glad I will get my day in court."

Durham claims he was placed on leave because of a grievance he filed against the Somerset County Sheriff's Office that alleges police corruption within the agency.

The grievance alleges Durham was forced to change an incident report and omit information related to a police chase he assisted with in August 2008.

"The law clearly states if you report corruption, you cannot be terminated," Durham said.

The former deputy, who dreamed of becoming a cop since childhood, worked in law enforcement for two decades before he was fired. A little more than half of his career was spent at the Sheriff's Office.

"He has a right to appeal," said Somerset County Sheriff Robert N. Jones during a previous interview. "It's part of the process."

Wicomico County Circuit Court Judge W. Newton Jackson III is expected to preside over the hearing Friday.

While Durham said he was shedding light on police corruption, a police hearing board found him guilty of disseminating departmental information and engaging in unbecoming conduct after Durham sent a copy of his grievance to outside agencies including the Maryland Attorney General's Office, Maryland State Police, local media and a U.S. senator from Virginia, according to a copy of the hearing board report obtained by The Daily Times.

"The only time I went outside the agency is when I was told that the grievance I filed against Sheriff Jones would be investigated by Sheriff Jones," Durham said.

The police trial board convened a two-day hearing July 16 and recommended a five-day suspension for disseminating department information and another five days for unbecoming conduct, according to a report on the hearing proceedings.

The sheriff deviated from the board's recommendations and terminated Durham for reasons stated in a hearing Sept. 16.

According to transcripts from the September hearing, Jones said Durham undermined the public's trust and hampered the Sheriff's Office's ability to protect the public when he distributed copies of the grievance.


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