MOORHEAD – An arbitrator has ruled that Clay County must rehire a sheriff’s deputy who was fired after his superiors said he had lied during an internal investigation of a drunken poolside incident the night before a police dog training session in the Twin Cities.
Deputy Ryan Carey told The Forum that his attorney contacted him Tuesday to let him know he would get his job back, plus back pay.
“This is positive for me and my family – it’s been tough,” said Carey, who was fired on July 25.
The arbitrator found that Clay County didn’t have cause to fire Carey for conduct unbecoming of a deputy, dishonesty or insubordination, though he wrote that Carey would be wise to seek a mentor or counselor as he “appears to be in need of some guidance at this point in his career.”
According to the arbitrator’s report, Carey and a group of other officers who handle police dogs were reportedly intoxicated and loud the night of June 9-10 at the Residence Inn in Eden Prairie, prompting a hotel manager to call police.
No one was arrested in the incident, but the night manager at the hotel – who is blind in one eye – later testified in the arbitration hearing that Carey was the officer at the poolside gathering who had set off his squad car siren causing his dog to bark. But a Wabasha County deputy testified in the same hearing that he was the officer responsible for the siren going off and the barking dog, according to the arbitrator’s report.
An Eden Prairie police lieutenant informed Clay County authorities about the poolside incident, and Lt. Steve Todd launched an internal investigation.
According to the report, Clay County authorities – in addition to citing the hotel incident as among the causes Carey was fired – also took issue with Carey’s denial that he sent texts about the investigation to a fellow deputy despite being told not to discuss it with anyone other than his union representative or his attorney.
Carey admitted to investigators that he had called the deputy but denied he had texted him, which he had.
Carey argued in arbitration that the first order to not discuss the investigation with anyone was given over the phone while he was on vacation and in line waiting to register for a fishing tournament, so he didn’t hear the instruction clearly.
He also pointed out that though he didn’t recall the texts, he was sending or receiving an average of 67 texts a day at the time.
Though he wouldn’t talk about the details of the misconduct allegations, Clay County Administrator Brian Berg said Wednesday that “it would have been highly unlikely” that the initial allegations would have led to a firing without the actions Carey took during the investigation.
Berg said officials would be consulting the county’s labor attorney. “We’re going to try to see what the next steps” are, he said.
Sheriff Bill Bergquist declined comment, saying he had not seen the arbitrator’s ruling yet and that any comment would have to come from Berg.
Carey said he did not know when he would return to work or how much money the county would owe him in back pay.
In September last year, Carey’s police dog, Cuda, who he had taken ownership of the day after he was fired, attacked Carey’s 4-year-old son, injuring the boy’s scalp and nose.
“I guess when it rains, it pours,” said Carey of the attack, after which he transferred the dog to use at a prison in Delaware.
He would not comment on the incidents that led to his firing, saying only that he still respected everyone he had worked with at the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, where he began his law enforcement career.
“I’m happy with my co-workers, my friends and the support I have from the people at work,” said Carey.
Carey said his son was recovering but still needs to additional surgeries after the dog attack.
“He’s an absolute trooper, still loves dogs,” Carey said. “I’m just grateful he didn’t get hurt [worse], it’s repairable – he will have a full head of hair.”
Carey said he missed working with Cuda and had not made any decisions yet about whether he would continue to pursue work with a dog on the job.
He and Cuda won regional competition awards prior to the attack, and Carey received the Combat Cross in 2009 with two other deputies for the search and shootout with kidnapper Vincent Degidio Jr.
“I still almost come to tears almost every day,” over what happened with the dog, Carey said.
Emily Welker, INFORUM