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Discovery continues in Bloomfield police chief's lawsuit against former employer

Steve Garrison The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Discovery continues in a lawsuit brought by Bloomfield police Chief Randy Foster against his former employer, the Los Alamos County Police Department.

Foster was fired from the department in 2013 after Los Alamos County paid $600,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by former police Cpl. Brian Schamber.

Schamber claimed in his lawsuit that he was involuntarily committed to a state mental hospital for 10 days in December 2012 by his superiors, including Foster, who then served as the department's acting police chief.

Foster and two fellow officers filed a lawsuit against Los Alamos County in January 2014.

Foster claims in the lawsuit that officials in the Los Alamos County Police Department ignored warnings about Schamber's alleged mental instability for years, jeopardizing Schamber's fellow officers and the community at large.

Foster further claims he was initially praised by his superiors for committing Schamber on Dec. 21, 2012, after Schamber told his partner, Paige Early, that it would be "cool to know how it feels to run over a pedestrian."

Foster claims his superiors' attitudes changed after Schamber filed his lawsuit.

Santa Fe attorney Linda Hemphill is representing Foster and his fellow officers in their lawsuit against the county.

She said a district court judge ruled Thursday that the county will have to turn over significantly more documents regarding Foster's termination as part of the discovery process.

According to court records, the county refused to turn over, among other things, emails from county officials in which Foster's firing was discussed and a list detailing every individual who worked for the police department over an eight-year period who was fired, demoted or suspended.

The county argued against disclosure, claiming that Hemphill's evidence requests were overly broad "fishing expeditions" that did not relate to what is alleged in the lawsuit.

Hemphill said Foster was wronged by his former employer, and the documents help illustrate that fact.

"We are just trying to get him justice here," she said.

Randy Bartell of the Montgomery and Andrews Law Firm in Santa Fe is representing Los Alamos County in the lawsuit.

He acknowledged the county will need to provide more documents to Hemphill but said the county has solid defenses against Foster's claims. He said his firm will be prepared for trial, which is tentatively set to begin Sept. 14.

"We are vigorously defending the client, and we will be ready to try the case if it takes place in the fall," he said.

He said before then, however, the parties will be required to attend a court-mediated settlement hearing.

That hearing has not yet been scheduled, according to court records.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.