JOHN DAY — An attorney for the jail deputy recorded having sexual phone conversations with an inmate said there was no public interest in the matter and threatened to sue the county if records related to the investigation are released.
Dan Thenell, general counsel for the Fraternal Order of Police union, argued his clients, former deputy Abigail Mobley and her husband the undersheriff, had been "vilified" based on "false accusations." He made the statements at a name clearing hearing June 23 offered by the Grant County Court, which has indicated it plans to release records related to the case.
"(Mobley) has been the victim of a vicious campaign to defame her," Thenell said.
Thenell said there was no public interest in the records because Mobley resigned from her position at the sheriff's office and the only reason to release them would be to hurt her.
He said, if the county releases the records as planned, it would present his client in a false light, and he would have no choice but to pursue a legal remedy. (False light is a tort for which a lawsuit could be filed.)
Personnel discipline actions are conditionally exempt from disclosure under Oregon law — unless the public interest requires disclosure in the particular instance. Personnel investigations of public safety employees that do not result in discipline may not be disclosed — unless the public interest requires disclosure, or the public body (in this case, the county court) determines that nondisclosure of the information would adversely affect the confidence of that body.
Mobley spent 21 months on administrative leave from March 2019 until she resigned in December 2020, costing county taxpayers between $117,500 and $149,000, amid investigations by Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, the Oregon Department of Justice and Umatilla County Sheriff's Office.
DOJ officials determined through dozens of recorded jail calls that Mobley was having sexual conversations with former jail inmate Darren Mortimore but concluded there was not "a reasonable likelihood of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Ms. Mobley committed the crime of custodial sexual misconduct."
Thenell said at the hearing that the inmate was an intelligent predator seeking out and abusing vulnerable women, including another former female sheriff's office employee.
He said Mobley had taken responsibility for her actions. He said she completed a diversion for a driving under the influence of intoxicants charge and completed inpatient treatment for alcoholism.
"She was using alcohol to cope with the pressures of the job," he said.
Thenell said Umatilla County's investigation concluded that Mobley violated the terms of her employment but found no evidence of sexual contact or theft of drugs from the evidence locker, which had been alleged by former deputy Tyler Smith. (The Eagle has not been able to verify this because those records have not yet been released.)
Thenell said most of the "false information" related to the case came from Smith and his girlfriend Haley Olson, each of whom has a federal lawsuit pending against the county.
Mobley did not speak at the hearing. After Thenell read prepared remarks, Grant County counsel Dominic Carollo asked why he opposed the disclosure of the records if they confirm everything he says.
Thenell said the information was "personal" and "embarrassing" and related to Mobley's "demons."
After the hearing, Carollo told the Eagle he could not yet release the records because Mobley has a pending temporary restraining order filed in circuit court to prevent the release of the records. That lawsuit had been on hold, pending the name clearing hearing.
"We don't think their lawsuit has merit," Carollo said but added the county has to balance the legal issues.