Mariposa County Sheriff’s Detective Wins Reinstatement
DAVID J. GARCIA
Associate Labor Attorney
Goyette & Associates
After several days of arbitration, David J. Garcia of Goyette & Associates was successful in persuading hearing officer Robert Hirsch to order that Mariposa County Sheriff’s Detective Nicole Gilmore “be reinstated to her prior position with the Mariposa Sheriff’s Department.”
On July 3, 2011, another deputy informed Gilmore (who was off duty) that the Department was “working a case” on a peace officer from an allied agency. The officer was accused of threatening his wife and placing a data logger on his wife’s vehicle. Immediately after receiving the information, Gilmore contacted the officer and asked him where he was located. Gilmore drove to meet the officer at the local laundromat, where she asked the officer if he had threatened his wife and placed a data logger on his wife’s vehicle. Gilmore told the officer that a Mariposa deputy was looking for him and that she intended to call the deputy.
However, before she could do so, the deputy arrived at the laundromat and served the officer with an emergency protective order. The deputy later testified that he was surprised by Gilmore’s presence with the officer, but that Gilmore’s presence did not interfere with his investigation. Following the encounter, the deputy prepared a criminal report regarding the allegations against the officer. The prosecution against the officer ultimately was not pursued.
It is important to note that Gilmore had known the officer from the allied agency for several years. He regularly worked with Mariposa deputies on operations targeted at seizing illegal marijuana, and he had attended law enforcement training seminars with Mariposa County deputies. Gilmore was aware that the officer previously rode dirt bikes with the sheriff and socialized with many other deputies. By all accounts, the officer was well known and was considered to be a trusted member of the law enforcement community in the small rural county. Based on Gilmore’s familiarity with the officer, she believed he would speak to the investigating deputy.
During this same time period, rumors were spread in Mariposa of alleged misconduct by the sheriff. The rumors had spread throughout the small city and also involved the officer from the allied agency. Gilmore was alleged to have been involved in spreading the rumors about the sheriff.
Later that month, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department initiated an internal investigation into Gilmore’s conduct. The investigation included allegations that Gilmore was involved in spreading rumors about the sheriff, and that she had provided information to a criminal suspect (the officer from the allied agency) before he could be questioned by the investigating deputy. Gilmore participated in two internal affairs interviews. During the course of the first interview on August 3, 2011, she was asked if she had discussed the officer’s criminal case with him. Gilmore responded, “No. Because I never looked at his case.” The statement was not accurate. In fact, Gilmore had briefly reviewed a synopsis of the officer’s criminal case in the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department database, known as TracNet.
In the time between Gilmore’s two interviews, her labor representative advised her to obtain a copy of the transcript of her first interview and review it for any mistakes. Gilmore testified that she listened to the recording of the first interview and noted her inaccurate remark about reviewing the officer’s criminal case. She, therefore, opened the second interview by volunteering the corrections.
At the beginning of her second interview, which took place approximately two weeks later, Gilmore volunteered that she had been inaccurate about a few matters during her first interview. One of the corrections she made was related to her claim that she had not reviewed the officer’s criminal case. Gilmore acknowledged that she had reviewed it.
Following the second interview, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department terminated Gilmore’s employment, in essence for two reasons. First, Gilmore had provided information to a criminal suspect (the allied agency officer) before he could be questioned by the investigating deputy and interfered with the investigation. Second, Gilmore allegedly gave false statements to the internal affairs investigator regarding her review of the officer’s criminal case. The Department alleged that Gilmore had provided sensitive law enforcement investigation information to a suspect, that her involvement resulted in detrimental effects to the case’s investigation and that she used sensitive law enforcement information for personal gain.
Significant Events and Testimony
During her hearing, Gilmore testified that upon her return to work after the Fourth of July weekend on July 5, 2011, she reviewed between 40 and 75 reports on the TracNet system. Gilmore testified that she was ordered by her supervisor to regularly review all reports upon her return to work in order to familiarize herself with cases that had been opened or updated during her days off. Gilmore testified that this was a mundane task, and she quickly reviewed the reports in a robotic fashion so that she could begin working on her primary duties.
Gilmore testified that she did not recall that the officer’s case was included in the reports she reviewed on the TracNet system until she reviewed her first statement to internal affairs. Only after listening to the first interview did she realize that she had been wrong in volunteering that she had never reviewed the officer’s case. Gilmore testified that when she prepared for her first interview, her focus was on the questions that she anticipated would be asked about her allegedly spreading rumors of misconduct by the sheriff. Based on the buzz in the small town about the sheriff’s alleged conduct, Gilmore perceived this to be the bigger issue in the investigation, and it was the focus of her preparation for her first interview.
Gilmore also testified that the report about the officer contained in the TracNet system was not a complete report. It contained incomplete initial information pages and a page with a short “synopsis.” Similarly, the deputy assigned the underlying case testified that his supervisor had approved him to keep the report about the officer on his laptop until it was completed. As a result, when Gilmore quickly reviewed the officer’s report on her first day back to work, it only contained random pages and was not complete. Gilmore did not learn anything new about the case from her review of the officer’s case on the TracNet system.
As a result of the above, the arbitrator opined, “Why then would Gilmore lie about reviewing a file when nothing could be gained from the lie, the file review took place after the critical laundromat conversation with the [officer]?” The hearing officer concluded that Gilmore did not intentionally mislead the internal affairs investigator during her initial interview. Gilmore “voluntarily corrected the error, along with three others, during her second interview.” The hearing officer found that there was no basis for terminating Gilmore’s employment because of her answers during either investigatory interview.
As to the allegation that Gilmore provided sensitive law enforcement information to a suspect that resulted in detrimental effects that interfered with an ongoing criminal investigation, the Department failed to carry its burden of proof. Gilmore testified that when she met the officer, she told him to immediately contact the deputy. She did not tell the officer to lie, hide or obfuscate the truth. No evidence was presented to suggest that Gilmore was trying to “tip-off” the officer to help him defeat the charges. More importantly, the deputy testified at the hearing that Gilmore’s actions did not interfere with his investigation of the officer. The hearing officer found that Gilmore’s actions did not result in detrimental effects on the investigation and did not establish just cause for termination.
Gilmore is grateful to the PORAC Legal Defense Fund and her many supporters in the Mariposa County Deputy Sheriff’s Association for assisting with her defense.
About the Author
David J. Garcia is an associate labor attorney with Goyette & Associates. He represents law enforcement officers throughout California. He represented Nicole Gilmore throughout her administrative appeal.