HEPPNER - A civil case between the city of Boardman and former police officer, Mark V. Gruenwald, was continued by Judge Jeff Wallace Friday in Heppner.

Defense attorney, Toni Skinner, objected to a pre-trial motion to eliminate evidence by the prosecution. David Blanc, representing the city of Boardman, had faxed information to Skinner Thursday afternoon regarding the motion.

Blanc requested evidence regarding the collective bargaining agreement or unfair labor practices be omitted.

"It's a motion to preclude evidence on any alleged violation on a collective bargaining agreement or violations of a statute on unfair labor practices," Blanc said.

Gruenwald was hired by the department in October 2003. The contract called for an agreement to remain employed with the department for 36 months or the officer would be required to reimburse the city for training.

"If you leave employment you must pay them back wages and benefits for time in training," Gruenwald said. "They figure six months they're asking for."

He said this amounts to nearly $19,000.

City Manager Rex Mather and Mayor Ed Glenn said the purpose of the contract is to save the city money in hiring and training officers.

"We have contracts with our police officers - so this is reimbursement to the city for training," Mather explained

"The city is pretty insistent in enforcing employment contracts and we spend a lot of money and a lot of time in training," Glenn added. "We would like them to stay with the police department rather than spending our money and training and going someplace else."

Gruenwald voluntarily left the department after approximately 18 months.

"I sought employment elsewhere because of issues," he said. "It wasn't really stuff happening to me, but to other officers - but it could happen."

He declined to explain further due to the pending case.

Several former Boardman police officers were present as witnesses for Gruenwald. Chance Dixon, William Golter, Justin Alps, Victor Gutierrez and Dan Conner all left the Boardman department, but continue to work for other Eastern Oregon law enforcement agencies.

Gruenwald has been with the Umatilla County Sheriff's Office for nearly two years.

Blanc questioned the court having jurisdiction in the case, suggesting it should have gone before the Employee Relations Board, due to wording which suggested allegations of an unfair labor practice.

"He's never filed with the ERB," Blanc said.

Blanc also pointed out if the case was regarding an unfair labor practice, it needed to be filed within 180 days of the occurrence. He said an unfair labor practice was filed in August 2006, well past the date it should have been since the contract was signed in October 2003.

"We're not asking for an unfair labor practice," Skinner said. "We're not taking that route."

Skinner contends the contract was not enforceable and should be considered void due to the collective bargaining agreement. She thinks the city doesn't want her client to be able to bring up the collective bargaining issue.

"They're saying, 'We don't want to use this because it works against us,' " Skinner alleges.

Wallace asked Skinner if he allowed the motion, how would it impact the case.

"It is a key point," she responded. "To take it away from us at the 11th hour is unfair."

After a brief conversation with counsel in his chamber, Wallace chose to continue the case.

"I'm going to do this without taking a position one way or another on your motion," Wallace said to Blanc.

Wallace agreed Skinner needed additional time to review the motion.

Wallace will consider the motion on Jan. 30. The case is continued to 9 a.m. Feb. 2 in Courtroom 4 at the Stafford Hansell Justice Center in Hermiston.

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