Oregon court records dispute Washougal mayoral candidate’s claims

Records show Derik Ford was dismissed from Alaska police academy before losing Sweet Home Police Department job

Questioned earlier this summer about a 2003 lawsuit he had filed against an Oregon city and its police chief, Washougal mayoral candidate Derik Ford claimed he filed the lawsuit after being dismissed from the Sweet Home, Oregon, police department for being a “probationary, non-union-represented employee” who “didn’t fit in.”

“It was a toxic environment, a toxic department, and I knew it wasn’t a good fit for me within literally weeks of being there,” Ford told The Post-Record in June when questioned about his short time with the Sweet Home Police Department. “They just said, ‘It wasn’t a good fit, you’re a probationary employee.'”

Public records recently obtained by the Post-Record, however, paint a different picture.

The records, which include a 2004 summary judgment ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Oregon and a dismissal of Ford’s lawsuit against the city of Sweet Home and its police chief, show Sweet Home police leaders dismissed Ford from his duties as a probationary police officer after learning Ford had been dismissed from a police academy in Alaska and failed to disclose that information during his hiring process.

According to the court records, Ford indicated on his Sweet Home job application that he had attended the University of Alaska, but had actually attended the Alaska Department of Public Safety Academy — an institution that dismissed Ford from its program.

In a letter to Ford explaining his dismissal, police academy officials said they were expelling Ford for “intentionally (giving) false and misleading statements” to academy staff during an inquiry into the disappearance of a bicycle.

The court records from Ford’s dismissed lawsuit said Ford showed this police academy letter to “lots of people, including prospective employers,” but failed to show the letter to the Sweet Home Police Department.

“After consulting with his parents, (Ford) had decided not to provide the information regarding his attendance and dismissal from the academy on future job applications,” the summary judgement from the U.S. District Court stated.

When the Oregon police department learned Ford had been dismissed from the academy and the reasons behind that dismissal, it terminated Ford’s employment on May 21, 2001.

“The undisputed facts are that (Ford) was dismissed from the Alaska Department of Public Safety Academy,” the summary judgment stated. “The plaintiff received a letter from the Alaska DPS explaining his dismissal. The plaintiff did not inform defendants of his attendance at the academy or of his dismissal. … There is no credible evidence that the contents of the Alaska letter is false, and there is no dispute that at the time he applied for work for the city of Sweet Home, Mr. Ford failed to advise the city of the circumstances of his attendance and subsequent dismissal from the Alaska academy.”

In his lawsuit, Ford accused the city of Sweet Home and Police Chief Bob Burford of disgracing and defaming him, publicly discrediting him, causing the public to hold him in contempt and publishing reports to prospective employers that indicated he had been terminated for making false statements, cheating, stealing and lying.

Ford’s lawsuit against the city and police chief also claimed the police department had discharged him for arbitrary personal reasons.

“I filed a lawsuit because I heard some things that were being said that I wanted to make sure (people) knew weren’t true, because obviously they weren’t giving me any information, and I wanted to get a little bit more,” Ford told The Post-Record in June. “They refused and obviously the city has deeper pockets than me to continue.”

In its final ruling, the U.S. District Court stated Ford had “absolutely no evidence to establish that defendants violated his legal rights in any manner.”

“His claims are primarily based on his assumption that some information was provided by the city of Sweet Home to other police agencies when he was applying for employment,” the court stated in its ruling. “However, he provided all of those police agencies with releases authorizing the city of Sweet Home to disclose all information about him and relieving the city of Sweet Home from all liability for doing so. … Finally, to the extent any information was provided to other police entities, the information was true. Accordingly, all of Ford’s claims should be dismissed.”

Ford did not respond to The Post-Record’s request for comment in time for this publication’s print deadline.