After a four-year battle, a San Luis Obispo police officer convicted in 2010 of bringing misbranded prescription pills across the border will not get his old job back, a judge ruled Thursday.
Former Officer Daniel McDow plans to appeal the ruling upholding the city’s termination, his lawyer said.
In rejecting McDow’s motion to get his job back, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Martin Tangeman agreed with City Attorney Christine Dietrick, who said that McDow’s conduct was unbecoming of an officer, reflected poorly on the city and was just the latest in what Dietrick called a “blaring pattern of his administrative record as a whole.”
McDow’s attorney, Fullerton-based Michael Morguess, said after the hearing that his client had been convicted only of a federal misdemeanor, and the city had trumped up its case against him by adding alleged violations of department policies in order to fire him.
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“The city’s case is a lot weaker than the city thought it was when it charged McDow with the allegations,” Morguess said. “Now, given that the bottom has fallen out of their case, the city has come up with some post-hoc rationalizations.”
McDow was seeking full reinstatement, with back pay, as well as the deletion of all references to his troubles from his personnel record.
He was an eight-year veteran of the department when he was fired following his detention at the U.S.-Mexico border with fellow Officer Armando Limon for trying to cross into the U.S. with a number of prescription drugs in misbranded containers.
On Sept. 15, 2009, McDow and Limon brought about 850 pills across the border, some of which it was later discovered contained methylphenidate, a component of the attention deficit disorder medication Ritalin.
McDow pleaded guilty to one federal misdemeanor count of introducing a misbranded drug into interstate commerce and was subsequently fired. Limon also was fired but did not appeal his termination.
Following the ruling, Mayor Jan Marx emailed news of Tangeman’s ruling to the City Council. Councilman Dan Carpenter said he was elated over the news, but noted the inconsistency between the resolution of McDow’s case and that of firefighter John Ryan Mason, who was accused of beating a fellow bar patron in June 2011 and subsequently rehired in June 2013 following a criminal mistrial.
“Yes, (today’s) ruling was great, but I’m disappointed that while there is a legal distinction between the two, I don’t think the public sees them differently,” Carpenter said. “They are our public safety employees and they should be held to the highest standard.”