Salt Lake Police Chief Ruben Ortega has been named in a $65,000 slander suit filed Thursday by the police officer who was suspended last year for threatening to drive his car through a dispatcher's home.
Louis Jones sued Ortega, the department and the city for the way the department treated him after he threatened to damage dispatcher Linda Nordquist's home, then used his police radio to do a license-plate check on a car parked in her driveway and attempted suicide later that night.Although he returned to work shortly after the incident, he was fired four months later on the recommendation of a citizens' review board. That discipline was later changed to six months suspension without pay after the city's Civil Service Commission ruled that Jones was unjustly terminated.
Jones wants the six months pay back - about $15,000 - and another $50,000 to compensate him for damage to his reputation allegedly caused by Ortega's remarks about the Nov. 1, 1993 incident.
Ortega fired Jones March 17, four months after the confrontation with Nordquist. The suit says he falsely described the incident to other police officers. Ortega allegedly told the officers that Jones drove his car up against Nord-quist's window, drove all over her yard and drove like a "crazy man."
He also described Jones as a "dangerous" man, said he wasn't fit to be a police officer, was a sexual deviant and had tried to take his own life before, the suit says.
The suit says Ortega also slandered Jones in remarks to the press.
Jones is an outstanding officer who took responsibility for his actions, expressed remorse and had no problems during the four months before he was fired, according to the suit.
A month after the Civil Service Commission ordered Jones rehired, Ortega decided that his six months off work should be suspension without pay, the suit says. Jones appealed to the commission, the suit says. The commission found that Ortega didn't have the authority to discipline Jones again for the same incident.
However, Jones later accepted the suspension because he feared further suspension from Peace Officers Training and Standards, the suit says.
Salt Lake City Attorney Roger Cutler declined to comment about the lawsuit, saying he had not yet seen it.
Jones' suit marks the second time in two years that Ortega has been sued by one of his officers. Sgt. Ken Hansen sued Ortega for allegedly violating his privacy by disciplining Hansen for his affair with a colleague. A letter of reprimand was placed in Hansen's file.
Hansen and the city settled out of court in January.
"I can tell you no cash exchanged hands," said Bryon Benevento, Hansen's attorney. "But he was made promises by the department that would assist in resolving the problems created by the letter of reprimand."
Benevento is also Jones' attorney.