West Virginia University officials said Monday they will file a motion challenging the verdict in a civil action alleging retaliation against former and current Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers. The jury found on Thursday (Feb. 5) that plaintiffs were treated differently than co-workers, and one was fired, for making good faith reports of inaccurate crime reporting, and awarded a total of $868,000 in damages.
WVU maintains, however, that DPS reported crime statistics properly under all state and federal laws, and that it did not retaliate against the officers. Evidence at trial indicated that one officer was discharged for falsifying his employment application. University officials also believe that testimony at trial demonstrated that the plaintiffs were treated the same as fellow employees.
The officers are claiming that reports over two yearstime (1998-1999) were changed or falsified and that they were retaliated against for bringing forth those claims,said WVU s General Counsel Tom Dorer.Evidence presented at trial showed that, in fact, only approximately 20 out of thousands of reports from that time period were at issue. In each of these few cases, testimony and exhibits showed that WVU s records were correct.
Less than half of the reports were actually changed, Dorer added, and in most cases supervisors simply added missing data. In two cases, supervisors felt that the crime had been misidentified. In one instance, an item taken from a residence hall room left open and unattended might have been labeled as a burglary by the investigating officer, but a supervisor determined that, because there was no indication of unlawful entry, the crime was a larceny.
In another instance, the reported value of some stolen used compact discs was changed based on the conclusion of a local magistrate and prosecuting attorney to reflect the actual depreciated worth of the CDs, rather than the retail value initially reported by the investigating officer.
In several other cases, Dorer said supervisors made additions to reports, based on the investigating officersnarrative, such as adding a suspects characteristics or noting that a warrant was issued on a certain date.
Several other reports were determined by supervisors to have been mislabeled burglaries by the officersrather than larceniesbecause the narrative indicated that the residence hall rooms were left open and unattended with no unlawful entry.
These are the types of minor and appropriate report changes we are talking about,Dorer noted.Put simply, there was no wrongdoing or falsification of documentssupervisors were simply following the law. And, indeed, the jury verdict does not say that WVU ever falsified records. It finds only that we retaliated because of good faith complaints from the officers, without determining that the complaints were valid. As to the jurys conclusion, we respectfully disagree.
The motion for a judgment as a matter of law and in the alternative for a new trial will be filed within the next 10 days.