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Update: Federal jury awards former Scappoose police chief $4.1 million

Story updated to reflect city of Scappoose not affected by jury award, case under review for appeal

PMG FILE PHOTO - Former Scappoose Police Chief Douglas Greisen was awarded $4.1 million in federal court Thursday. Greisen filed a lawsuit against his former supervisor, former City Manager Jon Hanken, alleging retaliation.

A federal jury last week awarded a former Scappoose police chief $4.1 million in damages in response to the chief’s claims his supervisor at the time, former City Manager Jon Hanken, initiated a campaign of retaliation against him for voicing concerns about Hanken’s financial and budgeting practices.

Former Scappoose Police Chief Douglas Greisen first brought the lawsuit against Hanken in August 2014. Though the case initially listed the city of Scappoose and five “John Does” as defendants, the jury award solely targets Hanken.

“The city really isn’t a part of this lawsuit,” said Michael Sykes, city manager for Scappoose. “The city was named originally but was dismissed, so consequently we’re out of it and have no exposure. Which was music to my ears.”

Scappoose is insured by CityCounty Insurance Services, or CIS. Because Hanken was a city employee and acting in that role during the time when the reported offenses against Greisen occurred, CIS has ultimate say on whether or not an appeal would be filed.

Mark Williamson, a senior litigation specialist for CIS, said the ruling is being reviewed.

“The case is under legal review for potential appeal right now,” Williamson said. CIS has 30 days after the judgement order is signed to file an appeal.

The judgement order awarding Greisen $1.1 million in economic damages and $3 million for emotional distress was signed Friday, July 22.

Attorneys for Greisen argued Hanken targeted the police chief after Greisen in 2012 spoke out about Hanken’s budgeting practices to city councilors and city finance staff. Hanken responded by browbeating and threatening Greisen, according to court documents in the federal case, and told him to stay on “his side of City Hall.” In 2013, Hanken launched three internal investigations into Greisen. The first focused on Greisen’s involvement in a February 2013 police pursuit, the second into workplace harassment allegations against Greisen, and the third into an envelope containing cash intended to be delivered to a food bank that was found in a locked file cabinet in Greisen’s office while he was on administrative leave.

Greisen received a notice of discipline following the results of the first independent investigation conducted by Craig Stoelk, a former Salem police detective, into his involvement in the February police pursuit. The investigation found Greisen had violated 10 city policies, triggering a two-week unpaid suspension, for which Greisen was allowed to use accrued vacation time.

According to court documents, Hanken threatened Greisen with release of the investigative report in the notice of discipline, stating, “I can’t help but wonder if you would

be able to maintain your position if this report was known by or reported to the news media.”

Greisen appealed the discipline to the Scappoose City Council, which prompted the formation of its Personnel Review Committee, or PRC. The PRC, after initiating its own investigation, ruled the Stoelk report was flawed, calling it a “prosecutorial document calculated to achieve a desired end.”

Shortly afterward, Hanken commissioned the second investigation into workplace harassment, which came about following a complaint that Greisen was retaliating against then-Scappoose police Sgt. Doug Carpenter, who had initially raised concerns about Greisen’s actions during the February police pursuit.

Greisen’s attorneys, John Ostrander and William Drew of the Portland firm Elliott, Ostrander and Preston PC, argued Hanken violated Greisen’s First Amendment free speech protections by ordering him not to talk to the press and barring him from city-owned property while he was on leave. They point to a specific example of a TV news crew from Koin 6 visiting Greisen’s house. Footage appears to show Greisen hiding inside his house and avoiding the cameras, though his attorneys argued he was only upholding Hanken’s gag order.

Greisen’s attorneys further asserted the second investigation, which was withheld from the press, exonerated Greisen of nearly all claims, with only one minor exception related to conducting annual performance reviews of his second in command. A document filed by Greisen’s attorneys indicates not even Greisen had seen the results of the second investigation until “long after his lawsuit was filed.”

Hanken initiated the third investigation into the cash discovery on Oct. 14, 2013, the same day the PRC report recommending discipline against Greisen should be rescinded was released.

Hanken resigned his position Nov. 7, 2013.

Attorneys for Greisen argue the chief was humiliated due to press coverage of the investigations and that the wide dissemination of the stories through Internet news sites prohibited him from being able to find a job. He was fired from the city of Scappoose without cause by an interim city manager in 2014.

Defense attorneys for Hanken argued the investigations were warranted and claimed Greisen’s speech about city finances was not constitutionally protected as he did so in his role as a public employee. They also claim Hanken never saw the results of the second and third investigations, and point out that Hanken did not terminate Greisen.

Hanken was represented in the case by attorneys Karen M. Vickers and Blake Fry, of the Portland firm Mersereau Shannon LP.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon presided over the case.