Judge dismisses lawsuit against Buffalo police chief
A judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit that accused Buffalo’s police chief of pursuing an affair with a married woman while on duty and abusing his position to threaten the husband.
Police Chief William Jordan, who is also a Putnam County sheriff’s deputy, filed a motion to dismiss the suit last month, as did the Town of Buffalo and the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, which were also named as defendants. Putnam Circuit Judge Joseph Reeder granted their motions on Thursday.
In late February, Scott England filed the suit, alleging that Jordan pursued an affair with his now ex-wife while on duty for both the Buffalo Police Department and the sheriff’s department.
England said he hired a private detective, who found his wife would meet Jordan while he was on duty as a school officer. England said he complained to the sheriff’s department about the affair, but “Jordan continued to use his position of authority granted by Defendants ... to advance his adulterous affair.”
England also accused Jordan of threatening him when he called and told him to stop.
“You don’t know who you are [expletive] with,” Jordan said, according to the suit. “I may take this uniform off every day, but I still have my gun.”
The suit stated Jordan is now separated from his wife and living with England’s now ex-wife, to whom he was married about 17 years. England asked the court to determine how much compensation he was entitled to for denial of equal protection, breach of duty and the effect of the affair and divorce upon the couple’s son.
On Thursday, lawyers for Buffalo and Putnam County argued for immunity, arguing that even if Jordan did conduct an affair with England’s wife while on duty, that affair would have been “beyond the scope of his employment.”
In dismissing the case, Reeder pointed to a March ruling in which the state Supreme Court found the state Regional Jail Authority couldn’t be held liable in a lawsuit alleging one of its correctional officers raped a female inmate 17 times in 2009. In a 4-1 ruling, the court stated the Regional Jail Authority was immune from the suit because, if the alleged rapes took place, the correctional officer was not acting within the scope of his employment.
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women, the state division of the National Association of Social Workers, the West Virginia Council of Churches, the West Virginia Employment Layers Association, WV Free and the state Association for Justice filed a brief this month stating the Supreme Court should have instead let a jury decide whether the correctional officer was acting within the scope of his employment. They want the court to reconsider its decision.
As to the case against Jordan, Reeder said. “There’s no question from either side that the actions of Deputy Jordan were clearly outside the scope of his employment” with both law enforcement agencies. David Moye, England’s attorney, said the Supreme Court decision made his case against the law enforcement agencies hard.
In response to the breach of duty claim, Jordan’s motion to dismiss had stated England hadn’t alleged which, if any, town or state law Jordan violated.
“Instead, the Plaintiff simply states that Defendant Jordan had an adulterous relationship,” the motion said. “... Unfortunately for the Plaintiff, an individual having an adulterous relationship with your spouse is not a violation of law.”
The sheriff’s department echoed that statement in its motion and also argued England was not denied equal protection because he isn’t a member of a protected class and the department has no policy or custom of encouraging the alleged discrimination.
“Plaintiff ... was not treated differently from others, as the Sheriff has never undertaken to prevent affairs in any household other than his own,” the motion stated.
Putnam Sheriff Steve Deweese said Jordan went on paid sick leave for a “paralyzed fracture in his right ankle” about three days after the suit was filed. He said he believes it’s a recurring injury sustained years ago that has since worsened. The sheriff said Thursday that Jordan had returned to light duty with the sheriff’s department within the last two weeks.
Reach Ryan Quinn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1254.