Sheriff Johnson loses case, has to pay upLake County Sheriff Carey Johnson has reached the end of the road in a court case over his handling of an employee’s assignment and must now reimburse the county for legal fees, commissioners said this week.
By: Matt Suoja, Lake County News Chronicle
Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson has reached the end of the road in a court case over his handling of an employee’s assignment and must now reimburse the county for legal fees, commissioners said this week.
At a County Board meeting Tuesday, commissioners said the state Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal of the case — the gist of which states Johnson violated a collective bargaining agreement — means he will personally have to pay back money the county spent on litigation. The board previously passed a resolution saying Johnson would have to pay legal fees — capped at $4,900 — if he were to lose the case.
“I think we need to get our money back,” Commissioner Rick Goutermont said.
Johnson, who was a union steward before becoming a manager, disagreed.
“I retained an attorney to represent the Sheriff’s Office, not me,” he said. He went on to say he had to take out a loan to cover attorney’s fees above the $4,900 that he personally paid. He declined to say the amount of that loan, calling it “personal.”
According to County Board minutes from July 10, 2007, a resolution was passed that stated: “Authorize payment in the amount of $4,900 for legal retainer fees to Nichols, Kaster and Anderson, PLLP with the understanding that Sheriff Johnson will personally reimburse Lake County for legal fees if he doesn’t prevail in the lawsuit and request the County Attorney and Auditor to find a mechanism to ensure repayment by Sheriff.”
The Supreme Court declined to hear the case this summer. Earlier, an appeals court upheld a ruling by the 6th District Court that Johnson committed an unfair labor practice when he ignored a grievance filed by Deputy Richard DeRosier. The deputy had challenged Johnson’s decision to appoint a less-senior deputy, and one with less narcotics investigations experience, to head a multi-agency drug task force.
DeRosier filed his grievance in early 2007. According to court documents, DeRosier had worked to secure state money for the North Shore Drug Task Force, which also included representatives from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and the Two Harbors and Silver Bay police departments. As the deputy with the most experience with narcotics investigations, DeRosier said he expected to be assigned to the task force.
But a day after taking office in January of 2007, Johnson — who faced DeRosier in the 2006 primary race for sheriff — told DeRosier that another deputy would be appointed to the task force.
Johnson said he should have won the case.
“I’m disappointed things didn’t work out the way they should’ve,” he said, adding that he harbors no ill will toward DeRosier. “Our relationship is fine.”
DeRosier said he felt similarly. “I still consider us friends,” he said, adding, “There’s no winners [in the case].”
DeRosier said Johnson’s office has since talked to him about joining the Lake Superior Drug Task Force.
The DeRosier name has a history in Lake County law enforcement. His father Bill, is a former sheriff.
“I think the upholding is correct,” the senior DeRosier said of the case. He said he has a hard time understanding why Johnson acted the way he did.