$6 million question: Can alcoholic officer be fired over DUII? - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

$6 million question: Can alcoholic officer be fired over DUII?

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Jason Servo Jason Servo
GRESHAM, OR (KPTV) -

A Gresham police officer fired after a DUII arrest is suing the city for $6 million, claiming his alcoholism is a disability that can't be used as a reason for termination.

Jason Servo was arrested in January 2011 after crashing a department vehicle into a ditch after leaving McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, following a day of training.

The incident was investigated by the police department and he was fired in April of that year. Servo was a Gresham officer for 12 years.

The lawsuit claims Chief Craig Junginger made false claims and statements during the investigation into Servo's arrest, while the police union failed to adequately represent him.

It also states Servo is diagnosed with alcohol addiction, so while he violated general orders by driving drunk and getting arrested, his attorney contends that cannot be used as a reason to fire him.

"He is afflicted with a significant disability recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Oregon Law," according to the lawsuit, which later states, "Plaintiff is disabled and due to that disability is limited in one or more major life activities."

In a press conference Friday, Servo spoke about his addiction.

"There were times I went home and I couldn't get crime scenes out of my head," he said. "I went to drinking for that and there's other officers that do the same thing."

The lawsuit alleges Servo was not the only officer drinking while carrying his weapon and badge into several of the bars on the McMenamins campus in January 2011.

"This was also in keeping with the department custom and policy," the lawsuit states.

The officers had previously been at a gun training session in Troutdale. Investigators said a witness claimed Servo showed his badge and gun in a threatening manner, while "significantly intoxicated."

"Due to the significant amount of alcohol he had consumed, Plaintiff has no clear recollection of events of that evening," the lawsuit states.

Servo attempted to drive away, but soon crashed an official police department Chevrolet Blazer into a ditch. A Clackamas County deputy investigated and cited Servo for DUII and someone else drove him home.

He entered and completed a diversion program. His attorneys said he has not consumed alcohol since January 2011.

The lawsuit alleges "he has lost a career," while no other officers who drove away from McMenamins on the night in question were investigated or disciplined.

Servo said beyond the money involved in the lawsuit, he hopes the situation will help other officers.

"If officers are treated the way that I am, they're not going to seek help on their own and I don't want to see others officers harmed in the future," he said.

The city of Gresham has not released a statement and city leaders said they can't comment on pending litigation.

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