- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Calvert County Sheriff’s Office sergeant has filed an injunction against Sheriff Mike Evans (R), citing alleged coercion and retaliation on the sheriff’s part after the deputy made known his support for Evans’ political opponent in the upcoming election.
Both the sheriff and the accusing officer, Sgt. Matthew McDonough, declined to comment on the state of the injunction or the circumstances surrounding it. Evans’ attorney, Jason Levine, said the Attorney General’s Office does not comment on pending litigation but said the sheriff’s written response to the injunction is due to be filed by June 16.
The injunction, which was filed March 28 in the Circuit Court of Calvert County, claims Evans withheld a promotion from McDonough and transferred him from his position as assistant commander of what was then called the Calvert Investigative Team, allegedly in direct response to McDonough’s support for Democratic sheriff candidate Sgt. Craig Kontra.
McDonough’s attorney, Steven Sunday, said although Evans has not yet responded to the injunction, a hearing to assess the validity of McDonough’s claims has been scheduled for July 2.
If the judge finds McDonough has proven his case, Evans will be required to fulfill McDonough’s requests to be promoted to lieutenant retroactively to July 2013 and reinstated to his previous position as the assistant commander of what is now called the Criminal Investigation Division, Sunday said.
The injunction alleges that Evans, who has held the sheriff position in the county since 2002, violated the retaliation section of the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights that states that a law enforcement officer may not be “discharged, demoted, or denied promotion, transfer or reassignment, or otherwise discriminated against” in the capacity of his position as the result of having “lawfully exercised constitutional rights.”
In this case, the constitutional right is that of free speech in the form of supporting an electoral process, according to the document.
In April 2013, after having informally announced his candidacy for sheriff in the upcoming November 2014 election, Kontra, who is also a Calvert County deputy, requested McDonough assist him in his political campaign, the injunction states. At this time, promotions were pending, and McDonough was poised to be named a lieutenant, according to the injunction.
Instead, Assistant Sheriff Maj. Dave McDowell allegedly asked McDonough about the “rumors” that he was supporting Evans’ opponent in the election, the injunction states. McDonough told McDowell he was undecided and was soon after informed he would not be promoted, according to the document.
McDonough has more than 15 years of experience and a special skill set related to drug enforcement, Sunday said.
McDonough has served as a drug unit investigator, completed assignments as a member of Drug Enforcement Administration and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area groups and, from December 2003 to July 2007, served as a supervisor for the Calvert County Drug Enforcement Unit, according to the injunction. In October 2008, he took on the position of assistant commander of the Calvert Investigative Team and eventually assumed responsibility over the drug unit, the warrant unit and the Southern Maryland Information Center.
But the Monday after he attended a Saturday Ducks Unlimited Dinner in November 2013 with Kontra, at which Evans was also present, he claims in the injunction that he was transferred to patrol in Chesapeake Beach without explanation.
This patrol is historically reserved for new deputies, Sunday said.
According to the injunction, a detective had told McDonough during summer 2013 that the sheriff had made it known he intended to remove McDonough from his position as the assistant commander of the Calvert Investigative Team. The alleged reasoning for this was that Evans was concerned McDonough’s holding that position would equip the sergeant with information to assist in Kontra’s campaign — as part of Kontra’s platform has been to more aggressively address the growing heroin and prescription pill problem plaguing Calvert County.
When the hearing occurs, Sunday said, the judge will likely not be one who is currently active in Calvert County, as those judges would recuse themselves from being involved in cases dealing with local politicians. He said once the sheriff responds to the position, intermediary steps might be taken before the hearing.