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Former West Valley cop claims he was wrongly forced out

Published August 13, 2013 1:03 pm

Military • Feds look into reservist's claims of discrimination over his military service.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jeffrey Martin, a senior airman with the Air Force Reserve at Hill Air Force Base and a police officer, was deployed to Kyrgyzstan for three months in 2012 and expects to head to Afghanistan later this year.

In June, he spent two weeks in annual reserve training. When he went back to work at the West Valley City Police Department, a disagreement over his timecard led to a letter of resignation, which he claims he was "tricked" into signing after being told that if he were fired, it would be hard to get another job.

But Martin also contends he was discriminated against because of his involvement with the Air Force Reserve, based on his claim he was "mocked" by a lieutenant officer for being an airman.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service is investigating the matter, which arose from a dispute over the hours Martin put on his timecard. Under federal law, a person who takes military pay can save his civilian wages and vacation time for another time.

Martin was on a routine one-year probation that began with his hiring by West Valley in November. He said he wanted to save his police force comp time and vacation hours, so he put 30 hours worked on his time sheet and said he wanted to rely on his military pay for the rest.

A sergeant insisted he put the full 80 police hours on his timecard. Martin resisted, citing federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protections.

A human resources employee restored the original 30-hour time sheet. But a lieutenant, whom Martin did not name, put 50 hours of comp time and vacation pay back on the time sheet.

"He forced me to use that time," Martin said. "I stood up to him and said, 'Here's the law, here's your own policy.' He violated that."

A week later, Martin said, he resigned effective July 19.

He was, according to a letter from Deputy Chief Larry Marx, "not a good fit." Marx also advised him that because Martin was on probation, the department's decision was "final and not subject to appeal."

But the Veterans' Employment and Training Service has asked West Valley City to answer several questions, including when and by whom Martin's probation was ended, a copy of his performance reviews, notes on exceptional performance and/or disciplinary notes, and any complaints he made against West Valley City management.

The list also includes WVCPD policies on military members, notes from supervisors when Martin requested time off for service, correspondence relating to his military service and a copy of his termination letter.

"Should the evidence support Mr. Martin's claim, he may be eligible for lost wages and benefits derived from his termination," wrote H. Dale Brockbank, director of the Veterans' Employment and Training Service.

"As a remedy to his claim, Mr. Martin is seeking lost wages from the date of his termination," he added, "until a settlement is reached."

Attempts to reach WVCPD spokesman were unsuccessful.

As a reservist, Martin gets paid about $250 for two-days-a-month training. In November, he'll likely begin a six-month deployment to Afghanistan, where he said he'll be "throwing things on a C-17 [transport plane] and getting shot at."

He also anticipates moving up from an E4 senior airman in air logistics to staff sergeant, which offers better pay.

Before he joined the WVCPD, Martin worked for the Salt Lake City International Airport police. For him, it was a "great job but no opportunities."

Because the force is so small, and officers stayed put, there was little potential for advancement.

Martin is married and has two small children. The family lives with his parents. He and his wife, Candace, had sold their home and were building a new one in Stansbury Park when he lost his job. Both are looking for work.

These days, he and his wife make do. They try not to disturb the children, who, he says, "can sense your emotion. We'll get a plan together, settle down and get a job."

Martin said he no longer has an appetite for police work. Instead, he's studying for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in hopes of earning a law degree.

pegmcentee@sltrib.com