FORMER DEPUTY PAID $300,000 TO SETTLE CLAIMS AGAINST SHERIFFS’ OFFICE FOR VIOLATING HIS FREEDOM OF SPEECH

AND POLITICAL ASSOCIATION
Deputy was terminated from his position after failing to support Sheriff in election, and openly supporting his opponent on Facebook

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wa. April 1, 2014 – Washington Counties Risk Pool (WCRP) paid $300,000 last week to settle a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Former Deputy Paul Murphy, against the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. According to the suit, William Elfo, Elected Sheriff of Whatcom County, terminated Murphy after he made public statements on the popular social media site, Facebook, in opposition to Elfo’s re-election. The lawsuit claimed Murphy’s termination was in violation of his First Amendment Rights to Freedom of Speech and Political Association. The lawsuit was filed by attorneys Robert D. Butler of, Law Offices of Robert D. Butler, PLLC, and Emily C. Beschen, of Law Offices of Robert D. Butler, PLLC in US Federal Court, Western District of Washington, Case No. 2:13-cv-00727 on April 24, 2013. The case was scheduled for trial May 19, 2014. Murphy was a contributor to a Facebook page titled “Campaign to un-elect Bill Elfo.” The page discussed issues regarding the election and why Elfo should not be re-elected. Murphy posted to the social media site throughout the election season hoping to draw attention to issues he believed were an abuse of power by Elfo. Issues of public concern were raised on the page, such as whether Elfo was using his official authority to affect the results of the election, and whether Elfo had mishandled past situations of officer misconduct within the department by promoting officers accused of committing bad acts. The lawsuit claims, Murphy started experiencing retaliation as a result of his participation in the Facebook page. According to the suit, Murphy was called into Elfo’s office after the election and asked whether he planned to resign from his position. Murphy refused to resign. In the months following Elfo’s reelection, an internal investigation was started into whether Murphy had modified his County issued laptop. Additional allegations of misconduct were added throughout the internal investigation and Murphy was placed on administrative leave, and ultimately terminated for purported misconduct in June of 2012. The reasons given by Elfo for Murphy’s termination were reviewed by a five-member grievance committee, a part of the

Whatcom County Deputy Sheriff’s Guild. The committee came to a collective decision that Elfo’s termination of Murphy’s employment was not reasonable. Murphy was a Deputy at Whatcom County Sheriff Office for more than 11 years, starting in 2001. Throughout his career he was commended for his exceptional investigation skills. In 2004, Murphy was awarded the Peace Builder Award for his participation and dedication to solving a brutal home invasion and double rape case. Throughout his career, Murphy received various commendations from outside the agency for his efforts in solving crimes and assisting citizens of the community. Performance evaluations demonstrated Murphy consistently met or exceeded expectations of the Sheriff’s Department. An agreed motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed on March 27, 2014 as part of the settlement. An order approving the dismissal is currently awaiting signature from the judge. Also as a part of the settlement agreement, Murphy will submit his resignation from employment at the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office today. ### If you would like more information or a copy of the lawsuit, please contact Robert Butler or Emily Beschen at (360)734-3448.

Emily C. Beschen Attorney at Law Law Offices of Robert D. Butler, PLLC 103 E. Holly Street, Suite 512 Bellingham, WA 98225 Phone: 360-734-3448 Fax: 360-734-7975 Website: www.rdbutlerlaw.com Google+ Profile: plus.google.com/+EmilyBeschen Law Offices of Robert Butler PLLC 103 E Holly # 512 Bellingham, WA 98225 Ph. 360-734-3448 Fax 360-734-7975 Web: www.rdbutlerlaw.com Email: bob@rdbutlerlaw.com Follow on Facebook Profile on AVVO

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