Attorneys Respond to Los Alamos County’s Settlement With Detective

Det. Brian Schamber
Staff Report
Following this afternoon’s announcement that Los Alamos County and Los Alamos Police Det. Brian Schamber had reached a settlement agreement, comments were issued from Schamber’s attorney and an attorney representing three additional police officers with pending litigation against the County.
Comments from Schamber’s attorney John W. Day of Egolf + Ferlic + Day, LLC in Santa Fe:
“Los Alamos County has agreed to pay upwards of $600,000 to settle Brian Schamber’s claims. Brian was a dedicated cop who went through a terrifying experience of an involuntary commitment to a mental hospital due to the staggering incompetence of Los Alamos County officials. Los Alamos County is full of smart people but the county government made some remarkably stupid decisions in this case. The county’s weak claim that they deny wrongdoing in this case is not supported by the large amount they are paying to resolve Brian’s civil rights claims.
“Brian was always ready to return to work at the police department, but county government bungling and notably bad decison-making led to this resolution, which will help Brian move forward and put the nightmare of the Los Alamos Police Department’s incompetence behind him.”
Comments from Attorney George Geran of the Law Office of George Geran in Santa Fe:
“Linda Hemphill and I are representing (Cmdr.) Randy Foster, (Cmdr.) Scott Mills and (Det.) Paige Early related to this matter. We will be filing a Complaint shortly attempting to fully address the grave mishandling of those fine police officers’ employment pursuant their brave and fully-justified dealings with Mr. Schamber. We regard the settlement as an equally grave misuse of public funds. Mr. Foster was fired because of the matter. Mr. Mills was constructively discharged because of the matter, and Ms. Early remains employed under duress as a result of the systematic failure of Los Alamos County to address a real and imminent public threat by a fellow police officer whose conduct should alarm the Los Alamos community.  
“After bringing this matter of dire public concern to the attention of County Officials, including County Administrator Harry Burgess and former Chief of Police Wayne Torpy, and other Government Officials, Plaintiffs Foster and Mills lost their jobs. For a year prior to the involved events, Plaintiff Early has been discriminated against by being forced to “babysit” Mr. Schamber, and then, retaliated against for complaining about Mr. Schamber’s conduct. The settlement, obviously, did not involve our clients in any way, and has no legal effect on the claims of Mr. Foster, Mr. Mills and Ms. Early. County money, unfortunately, is being spent to settle what we firmly believe was a groundless suit. This is particularly distressing because it seems to have happened without consideration of the evidence now in the County’s possession.
Los Alamos County stated in its news release this afternoon that Schamber had been evaluated by the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas, N.M. in December 2012 before being released and cleared for active duty as a police officer by a psychiatrist. Following his release, Schamber had continued to be employed by the County but working from home after stating that, because he had been evaluated at a mental health institution, he was now prohibited by federal law from carrying a firearm.

Los Alamos County disagreed, and requested that Schamber return to active patrol duty. In May, the County filed a request for declaratory judgment in federal court, asking the judge to rule that there was no federal prohibition against Schamber working as a police officer and carrying a gun.  The parties stipulated to a judgment that supported the County’s position. The settlement addresses a tort claim notice filed earlier this year by Schamber for $25 million, as well as a counter claim Schamber made against the County Council in July regarding a violation of civil and constitutional rights for an unspecified amount of compensation.

The County was represented in the settlement by Attorney James Sullivan of Brennan & Sullivan and the New Mexico Self-Insurer’s Fund, an insurance pool of New Mexico municipalities and other political subdivisions, including the County, through an arrangement with the New Mexico Municipal League. Under the agreement, Schamber has agreed to resign from the County effective Dec. 15, 2013 and to surrender his state law enforcement certification. The New Mexico Self-Insurer’s Fund will pay $600,000 to Schamber. Of that amount, the County will pay $200,000.

The County agreed to the settlement in the sole interest of economic costs, including the time and expense of litigation, but denies any fault or wrongdoing.

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