Former officer dismisses lawsuit against East Spencer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 8, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
EAST SPENCER — A former East Spencer Police Officer who sued the town, police department and former Chief Floyd Baldo has dismissed his civil lawsuit claims of wrongful termination.
Jason Allan Sawyer originally filed the complaint in late June 2011 via his attorneys, Robert J. Scott and Cassie M. Keen, both of Scott Law Offices in High Point.
The lawsuit was also originally filed with Forsyth Superior Court, where Sawyer lives and later transferred to Rowan County.
Sawyer was employed with the East Spencer Police Department from December 2009 through June 29, 2010.
Baldo was also terminated June 29, 2010.
In early April Sawyer voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning Sawyer would not be able to sue again for the same matter.
Sawyer says in his suit he was fired in retaliation for pursuing a claim for workers’ compensation.
He also said in the suit he endured harassment from Baldo because the former chief believed Sawyer was an atheist.
Baldo invited Sawyer to attend church and Sawyer declined. According to Sawyer, Baldo said he would not have hired him “if he had known that he was an atheist.”
Sawyer said he’s not an atheist and believes in God, but doesn’t attend church and is not affiliated with any particular denomination.
In May 2010, Sawyer sustained a severe hernia, requiring surgery, after getting out of his patrol car.
Sawyer reported the accident to Baldo, who Sawyer says, told him if Sawyer did not continue with his duties that day, he would not have a job.
It was only after East Spencer Mayor John Cowan intervened that Sawyer left work for the doctor.
Sawyer’s doctor placed him on leave from work until July 2010, he was terminated a month before.
The lawsuit says the reasons Sawyer was fired, including failing to write a report and failing to properly identify and interview suspects were “pretexual and bogus.”
Sawyer says he was also terminated for filing a complaint with the Rowan County District Attorney’s Office.
In February the town and Baldo filed to have the case dismissed with prejudice.
The town said it was not an entity “capable of suing or being sued,” the lawsuit said.
The response filed by Charlotte Attorney Patrick Flanagan on behalf of Baldo and the Town of East Spencer said in the suit the former chief was not named in the “right-to-sue” letter from the N.C. Department of Labor.
Flanagan responded via the suit that the town not the police department was Sawyer’s employer at the time he was an officer and therefore the police department should not be named at all in the suit.
In late February during a hearing Superior Court Judge Anna Mills Wagoner dismissed with prejudice the claims Sawyer made against the police department and Baldo, court records said.
Sawyer through his attorneys amended his initial complaint to include a claim of assault and battery against Baldo. Sawyer said when he said he needed to leave for the hospital after being injured, Baldo tried to prevent him.
A confrontation ensued with Baldo grabbing Sawyer by the shirt and getting in his face, the suit said.
Attorney Patrick Flanagan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Attorney Robert Scott is out of town for the week and unavailable for comment.
In July, Cassandra Rankin, another East Spencer Police officer, who filed her civil lawsuit against the town, cited sexual and racial harassment by a supervisor employed by the town.
Her case was transferred to federal court in August. The case is scheduled for jury trial in January.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.