Two Officers Seek $100,000 From Town

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Gila County Narcotics Task Force Officers Ken Wortman and Jimmy Oestmann, along with their wives, have filed a claim against the town and its police department.

They are represented by attorney Harlan Green who said, "The town has 60 days to respond to the claim. I haven't heard from them and I normally don't."

Town Attorney Sam Streichman said his office had received the claim, but could not comment on it as it was a pending action. However, he said the town's insurance, Southwest Risk, will decide on, "whether and when to respond."

The basis of the claim is that Wortman and Oestmann, officers assigned to the task force, have been injured by the negligent, intentional and grossly negligent acts and omissions by the town and its employees.

The suit cites a variety of allegations:

  • Defamation, libel and slander;
  • Interference with contract, employer relations;
  • Subornation of perjury with the intent to injure claimants;
  • False reporting of protected activities related to attending public meetings, exercising Constitutionally protected speech, freedom of association, right to assemble;
  • Wrongfully causing non privileged formal complaints to be filed with the employers of Wortman and Oestmann.

Named in the claim along with the town are Chief Gordon Gartner, Lt. Donald Engler and the Payson Police Department.

"At this point, we can't comment. We can only refer you to the town attorney," Gartner said.

The claim seeks $100,000 in damages for both Wortman and Oestmann, plus attorney's fees and costs, estimated at $25,000.

The notice of the claim was dated March 31.

The suit is the result of an investigation by the Payson Police Department into whether the task force officers intentionally or accidentally leaked information to a confidential informant that his residence was going to be served with a search warrant.

The police investigation was reviewed by the Gilbert Police Department, which found no wrongdoing on the part of the officers.

However, it also resulted in internal investigations by both the Gila County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Public Safety, the agencies with whom the task force officers work. The sheriff's investigation found the police at fault, according to Chief Deputy Sheriff Bill Fogle, who said in his summary of the report, Wortman and Oestmann would be filing suit against the town and police department.

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