Curry sheriff faces new tort claim

March 27, 2007 11:00 pm

By Valliant Corley

WesCom Wire Service

GOLD BEACH, Ore. – A third woman has filed a tort claim against Sheriff Mark Metcalf and Curry County, contending she has been subjected to sexual harassment, intimidation, battery, sexual battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The claim by Colleen Wallace was the last by the three victims listed in a grand jury indictment of the sheriff, handed up in January.

Metcalf is scheduled to go on trial July 9 on 11 misdemeanor counts, including four counts of sexual abuse in the third degree, four counts of harassment and three of official misconduct. Those include charges against

Metcalf by Wallace, Kimberly Wood and Sheryl Luzmoor, all county employees.

The third tort claims, by Wallace, was filed by her attorney, Frank C.

Roberts of Gold Beach.

"Ms. Wallace has requested that I present a tort claim notice preserving any claims that she has against Curry County and Sheriff Mark Metcalf," the claim says.

"Beginning around November 2003 and continuing through the present date, Ms. Wallace has been subjected to sexual harassment, intimidation, battery, sexual battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Sheriff Metcalf while he was acting in his professional capacity as Curry County sheriff," the claim continues.

"Ms. Wallace will be filing an action which will include theories of recovery based upon both state and federal government against Sheriff Metcalf and Curry County for damages she suffered as a result of Sheriff Metcalf's conduct and the hostile work environment it has caused."

A tort claim is a notice to a government or public official that a claim will be pursued through the legal system.

Meanwhile, City County Insurance Services of Eugene has sent Metcalf a letter dated March 15 acknowledging receipt of a tort claim notice submitted on behalf of Kimberly Wood by her attorney, Shawn M. Dickey. Wood's tort claim was the first to be filed in the case.

"Curry County has been a member of the City County Insurance Services Trust

since July 1, 2005. As such, the county has coverage for certain claims

under the Liability Coverage Agreement," the letter says.

"It is our position that the allegations of sexual harassment, sexual

discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and sexual

battery are outside the course and scope of your duties for Curry County.

"We are therefore investigating this matter under a full reservation of all

our rights, to later disclaim coverage, if we determine there is no coverage

for the claims being made against you and Curry County. We will inform you

of our decision on these coverage issues when our investigation is complete.

We expect that you will cooperate in the investigation," the letter said.

A second tort claim, filed by Sheryl Luzmoor, was recently filed by her attorney, Adam Gould of Coos Bay.

That claim says that "beginning around April, 2004 and continuing through the present date, Mrs. Luzmoor has been subjected to sexual harassment and intimidation by Sheriff Metcalf while he was acting in his professional capacity as Curry County sheriff."

Wood, an employee of the sheriff's department, filed a six-page tort claim, detailing alleged acts by Metcalf.

A second recall petition is being circulated by a group that wants to give county voters a chance to vote Metcalf out of office.

Metcalf has said that if he is found guilty of any charge in his July trial, he will resign immediately.

Metcalf made the statement in response to the second recall campaign by the group which fell short of valid signatures in an earlier attempt to vote the sheriff out of office.

"I am not guilty of the charges and look forward to the conclusion of the jury trial in July," Metcalf said. "Nonetheless, if I should be found guilty of any charge, I would resign the office of sheriff immediately."

He said with the filing of the second recall petition, he felt compelled to make some public comments.

"As reported, I'm scheduled for a jury trial in July," Metcalf said. "I previously asked the citizens of Curry County for the opportunity to present my case to a jury before public judgment is passed.

"This matter has become a firestorm of gossip, accusations and innuendo," Metcalf said.

Judge Richard L. Barron, presiding judge of the 15th Circuit Court, will hear the court case.

The first recall try fell 139 names short of qualified voters. The 217 sheets contained 1,776 signatures, but not enough were Curry County registered voters.

The recall needed 1,421 signatures, but the Curry County Clerk/Elections Office determined there were only 1,282 valid signatures.

The same group is trying again with Marisu Terry of Gold Beach the chief petitioner and Pam Nagel of Brookings the treasurer.

Metcalf said he suggested to the Attorney General's investigator last November that he be given a polygraph examination. The sheriff said the state refused to do so but sent the case directly to the grand jury.

Metcalf said that with the assistance of his lawyer, he arranged for a former FBI polygraph examiner to test him with the so-called lie detector.

"I passed that polygraph examination," Metcalf said. "I continue to believe that one of the most fundamental components of the American justice system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty."

A statement released by sheriff's department employees said they had taken a no-confidence vote before the indictment was handed up on Jan. 21.

The employees said 33 votes were cast in that secret ballot, which ended with 32 saying they had no confidence in Metcalf to effectively lead the Curry County Sheriff's office and one vote of confidence in the sheriff.