U.S. Magistrate Judge Scott Varholak ruled on Jan. 26 that a lawsuit against Adams County’s sheriff can proceed.
Sheriff Richard Reigenborn and his office sought to dismiss the suit filed by four former deputies claiming wrongful termination. Former senior-level officers James Coates, Gene Claps, Mark Mitchell and Kevin Currier claim Reigenborn didn’t provide sufficient reasoning for firing them.
The four plaintiffs served under former Sheriff Michael McIntosh, who was in office between 2014 and 2018. Coates was captain of the detective division, Claps, the jail division chief, Mitchell, the patrol captain and Currier, commander and coordinator of the 17th Judicial District. The four also supported and were major donors to McIntosh, who ran as a Republican, in the 2014 and 2018 elections against Reigenborn, a Democrat.
Furthermore, before Reigenborn ultimately won election in 2018, he held leadership roles in the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, where he led the charge for collective bargaining, according to the suit. The four plaintiffs, who were part of the same lodge, opposed collective bargaining.
After Reigenborn assumed office in January 2019, the sheriff notified the four deputies he was terminating them. In an email dated Jan. 9, Reigenborn told the four, “I have my own vision for how to best meet the needs and objectives of the Office. After careful review and deliberation, I do not believe retaining you is in the best interests of the organization,” according to the suit.
The next week, the four deputies met individually with Reigenborn to discuss their terminations, who said he would let them resign instead. According to the suit, Reigenborn didn’t point to a specific reason he was terminating the deputies, which a state statute requires.
The plaintiffs allege the sheriff’s true reason for terminating them was their support for McIntosh and opposition to collective bargaining. They claim the sheriff violated their First Amendment rights by retaliating against them and their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.
The case will continue moving forward in the U.S. District Court of Colorado.