Attorney says client dealt with coverups at police department

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - An attorney for a police sergeant said department leaders have been "vindictive and retaliatory" toward his client in an attempt to drive him out of his job.

George Derr, who filed a tort claim notice on behalf of Sgt. John Umenhofer, also said his client has been dealing with coverups at the Springfield Police Department for the last 7 years.

The tort claim notifies the City of Springfield and the police department of Umenhofer's concerns and possible intent to file a lawsuit. Derr said no lawsuit has been filed but that litigation is possible if his client's concerns aren't addressed.

Derr said the trouble started for Umenhofer when he brought a binder full of information about police department employees to the city manager.

"What I think is laid out in the tort claim is the city manager gave the info in there directly to the officer's involved," said Niel Laudati, a city spokesman, "and that never happened."

The city launched internal investigation into at least two employees in the wake of the ouster of Police Chief Jerry Smith, who retired suddenly in March. In June, the public learned Smith left days after video footage of him kissing a subordinate employee landed on the city manager's desk.

Interim Chief Rick Lewis said Monday that he cannot comment on Umenhofer's accusations.

"Unfortunately, I can't comment on specifics," Lewis said.

Regarding Umenhofer, Lewis said: "As far as I'm concerned, he's an employee of this police department."