Erin Brown grew up in an Irish cop family. One brother, a sister, and three cousins all work for the Broward Sheriff's Office. Her father, Don O'Brien, retired from BSO in 1995. And a career in law enforcement was all that the freckled redhead wanted for herself. Two years out of high school, she applied to join BSO; in February 1987, she spent her first day on the job as a detention deputy sheriff at the Broward County Jail. In 1989, she married another BSO deputy.
Brown's employers were happy with her too. She collected five letters of appreciation from superiors and even some from relatives of the inmates she guarded. The two performance evaluations which appear in her personnel file, from 1991 and 1998, give her excellent marks. While she served under three Broward sheriffs, she was credited with recruiting her sister and two cousins for the department. She hoped and expected to serve for 25 years and retire with the dignity due a long-time law officer. But that's not what happened.
On the night of August 11, 1998, Brown was working in the visitation area when the dispatcher called for all available deputies to respond to a disturbance in a cellblock. Racing to the scene, Brown led a file of deputies running around one side of the jail's circular control room. As she rounded the bend, she nearly ran into another deputy leading a line from the other side. She changed directions to avoid a collision but felt her legs slide out from under her. Brown slammed down, banging her elbow and head on the concrete floor. She knew she was hurt, but as her fellow deputies helped her up, she didn't think it was serious. The deputies, including Brown, went on in search of the emergency only to find that a faulty alarm had directed them to the wrong end of the jail.
She filled out an event report and shrugged off the initial pain. But the next day, she awoke with a splitting headache and knew something was seriously wrong. She went to see a doctor approved by Workman's Compensation, and the next week also got a brief get-well note from Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne, signed with a green felt-tip scrawl.
Brown has come a long way from receiving letters of condolence from Jenne. Now, almost four years later, Brown's faith in BSO is shattered. She claims that BSO, seeing an injured employee as a liability, never really intended to keep her on the job even though the Americans with Disabilities Act required the department to accommodate her needs. She believes that BSO waged a hamhanded campaign to discredit her with the intention of making her quit: She was investigated twice as a suspected malingerer and twice was cleared. When that effort failed, she says, BSO played a shell game with bogus job offers until it found an excuse to fire her.
Now that she no longer has a job, Brown says she's more disappointed than anything else. She expected better from Jenne, whom she once saw as the "savior" of BSO. "I'm disappointed in his leadership, or lack thereof," Brown says. "I fear he has allowed himself to become insulated and isolated by his command staff to the point where he has no idea what occurs in daily operations."
The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn't require the creation of jobs for injured employees but does require reassignment to a vacant position if the injured person is qualified and the change does not involve a promotion or create an undue hardship.
Brown's father, a BSO retiree with 13 years of service, says that dumping injured employees was never a policy under previous sheriffs. But among the comparatively small group of detention deputies Brown knew, she could immediately name several others who had lost their jobs -- she believes unfairly -- since Jenne took over in January 1998. They all say that once they were hurt in the line of duty, their BSO "family" disappeared, replaced by harassment and endless runarounds that resulted in their firing.
One of Jenne's obsessions is slashing BSO's expenditures on sick time. He publicly credits his PowerTrak statistics systems with identifying bogus claims of ailments, thus saving more than 4 million taxpayer dollars since his arrival.
But at least three of his ex-deputies hint at another method of cost-cutting. Injured employees with years of seniority earn more than uninjured new hires, making compliance with the law uneconomical. And Mario Perez, attorney for two of Brown's injured acquaintances, points out that having injured employees on the payroll can run up the department's insurance costs. If those deputies are driven from the department, collecting Workman's Compensation disability checks, they are shifted off Jenne's books and onto the Broward County Risk Management budget, which pays out Workman's Comp. "Unfortunately," Perez says, "this is something you see more and more of with employers."
The Broward Sheriff's Office employs nearly 5000 people, of whom 1470 were injured on the job between 1997 and 2001, according to Broward County Risk Management. That's roughly one out of every 13 in any given year. But how many of those injured employees have been dismissed, for whatever reason, is harder to figure out. New Times asked BSO public information officers that question. They referred the inquiry to Broward County Risk Management. A spokesperson for Risk Management, however, said they didn't keep track of that and directed New Times back to BSO. It might be possible, she said, to figure it out by pulling boxes of old records from the warehouse, going through every injury claim and then calling BSO 1470 times to ask if each person still worked there.
Behind all the vague numbers are people like Erin Brown. There's no way to tell if her story is typical, but she, Sonya Wimberly, and Lisette Cox tell tales that, while differing in detail, form a pattern in their essentials.
"I'm living with pain for the rest of my life, and 'the BSO family' just doesn't care," says Brown, punctuating her words with sighs and sniffles. "I don't understand why any deputy who works there now, even on the road, would respond to a major incident, knowing what they do to their staff. 'Cause I'm not the only one."
Sitting in the comfortable living room of her parents' home in Coral Springs, Brown begins her story calmly enough, leafing through the big stack of paperwork beside her on the couch for specific dates and incidents. But it's no more than a few minutes before emotion overwhelms the 36-year-old mother of two, and she drops the papers to wipe away tears with her hands. She was always told that BSO was one big happy family, she says, and she believed it. That family promised to take care of her, no matter what. Her voice rises as she describes the humiliation of being accused before her friends of faking injury. Her father joins in, enraged at the frustration she's suffered. Finally, Brown must pause and leave the room to compose herself before finishing her description of the year-long runaround that ended with her unceremonious firing from the job she loved by people she once trusted.
"I just can't believe it, the way they've treated me," Brown says. "So much for all their talk of being a family."
Those people include Dr. Donald McCarthy, her first doctor under the HMO that treats Workman's Comp cases for BSO; and Janet O'Brien, benefits manager at BSO's Human Resources Bureau. But most of Brown's anger is directed toward Veranda Daniel, director of BSO's Equal Employment Opportunity Division (whose job it is to find a place for injured employees), and Patrick Lambert, another BSO deputy and president of the Fraternal Order of Public Employees (FOPE), the union to which Brown belonged.
When Brown first saw McCarthy on August 12, 1998, immediately after her fall, he suggested physical therapy and sent her back to work. But two days later, Brown was in terrible pain and couldn't move her right arm. McCarthy told her, "I think you can't move your arm because you don't want to move your arm," Brown says. It took her two more days to get an MRI from Dr. Ignacio Magana. When he saw the results, Magana grabbed the phone and scheduled her for immediate surgery. He removed three ruptured disks from her spine and later wrote to Broward County Risk Management that Brown was permanently 10 percent disabled and would not be able to return to her previous job.
Janet O'Brien urged Brown to apply for ADA accommodation, Brown says -- and then, she adds, her application was used as a pretext to investigate her. She says investigators conspicuously tailed her to the bus stop when she dropped off her two children, scaring her kids. They also secretly videotaped her at family functions and while shopping. Some videos showed Brown in obvious pain. But one tape showed her lifting a child's stroller from a car, twice lifting a toddler, and once tossing a ball. The video was sent to Magana, who lifted many of Brown's restrictions.
Yet the most damning portions of the video -- in which the woman on tape was lifting objects overhead -- showed not Erin Brown but her sister, as investigators acknowledged much later. And Brown tossed the ball underhanded with her uninjured left arm.
Brown remained out on Workman's Comp until September 1999, when Risk Management told her to start working the jail's control-room desk. She alleges that she was told not to worry about getting an official return-to-work form. But the supervisor on duty had no idea she was supposed to be there. When Brown called Human Resources, O'Brien professed no knowledge of any physical restrictions on Brown and asked for a copy of them (despite having earlier urged her to apply for ADA accommodation), Brown said in a letter to BSO. O'Brien also told her to go home until the problem was straightened out.
Brown returned to the control room the next day. In O'Brien's interview with BSO's Office of Professional Compliance, she explicitly states that Brown met the standard for ADA accommodation and that Veranda Daniel approved that decision. Daniel acknowledges that by March 2000, she had accepted that Brown was permanently partially disabled.
But even as Brown worked, the investigations went on. In July 2000, BSO's ADA committee asked the BSO Office of Professional Compliance to examine whether Brown had defrauded Workman's Comp after her initial injury. The investigator found no evidence that Brown was malingering. When interviewed during this process, O'Brien acknowledged that Brown had willingly done whatever she was told to do.
During this period, Brown was on "light duty," awaiting an improvement or final settlement of her medical condition. Under the union contract, light-duty assignments are for only 60 days, says Patrick Lambert, FOPE president. That time is not usually extended except in very unusual circumstances, Lambert says. He couldn't explain why, if extensions are so rare, Brown's light duty was extended eight times.
Brown, still experiencing pain and limited movement, could clearly no longer work as a detention deputy in rough-and-tumble contact with prisoners, Daniel says. "As a result, we did offer to her in August 2000 a position as records technician," Daniel says. But by this time -- more than nine months after she returned to light duty -- Brown had grown wary of BSO's motives. She had attorney Michael Srebnick, retained by FOPE, send Daniel a letter pointing out that the job offered to Brown did not meet her medical restrictions but that BSO was then advertising several positions that did, "including the position she has been working in for quite some time now," he wrote. Without challenging Brown's disabled status, BSO accepted that response.
Then in January 2001, Brown came in for work as usual but was told that she didn't have a job and was sent home. Daniel sent Brown a second job offer, as a 911 operator, on March 22. In it, Daniel freely acknowledged that Workman's Comp doctors and BSO accepted that she had some physical restrictions. It concluded, "Your rejection of this offer would compel your separation from the agency." Brown quickly replied with interest but had questions about the pay cut, her retirement, seniority, and the possibility of doing office work at the jail. More than a month later, Daniel replied with negative answers on all counts. Then came the kicker: "To date, you have failed to advise the agency of your decision. Consequently, your silence in this matter is construed as a rejection of the offer," Daniel wrote. So she recommended to BSO Human Resources that Brown be fired. "Good luck in your future endeavors."
To Brown, this made Daniel's and BSO's strategy clear at last: harass her until she agreed to leave; if that didn't work, then play a shell game with half-hearted job offers until they found an excuse to fire her.
Brown called Daniel and assured her she wanted the job, as long as her questions were answered. She was given a final date of May 18, "which she ignored," Daniel says. "She basically rejected each of those offers."
But Daniel's statement is contradicted by a May 8, 2001, letter she received from Brown. In it, Brown stated that she wanted the job; she just wanted her questions answered first. By then, Brown had learned of Dr. Magana's reaction to the investigators' secret videotapes. She therefore asked, if she were officially cleared to return to full duty, why BSO was not proposing that instead of offering an inferior position.
Daniel replied on May 17 by faxing Brown what she described as a third job offer. It was the same as the second, except it offered a slight pay raise and the chance for additional raises. Daniel demanded a yes-or-no decision by 5 p.m. the next day. Brown says she immediately called Daniel and told her she would accept the job. At the time, she asked two more questions about her duty restrictions, which Daniel assured her would be no problem, she says. Daniel, however, denies that Brown ever called her about the third offer.
If Brown never called Daniel, the issue would have ended there; but events proceeded as if she had replied -- into a further labyrinth.
The amount of time Brown was given to respond to this third and final offer is the crux of the dispute. FOPE's Lambert and BSO's Daniel, sitting together with BSO Public Information Officer Cheryl Stopnick, were interviewed via speakerphone by New Times. But even together, searching through their files (the rustling of their paperwork was clearly audible), they could not get their stories to agree.
On the evening of May 17, Brown says, her sister (also a BSO deputy) called Lambert, who said that under the union agreement Brown had seven days to reply to a job offer, not one. Lambert concedes that he called Daniel. Five days later, Brown sent Daniel a letter stating her two final questions for the record (by this time, she wanted everything in writing). Again, Brown stated her willingness to take the job. But when she called Daniel to ask if she had seven calendar days or seven business days, Daniel told her she had already missed the deadline. Alarmed, Brown called Lambert -- whose story had changed, she says. Now, he said he'd told her five days. "What kind of drugs are you on?" Lambert asked, according to Brown.
"I don't know where she got that information from, but it's obviously some sort of confusion of facts on her part," Lambert tells New Times. "Her recollection of things was so different from mine that I just wondered who I was talking to. Every time I talked to her, she had a different recollection of previous situations."
Not that Lambert's memory is any clearer. The extension Daniel granted was "a short number of days," he says. "I don't know, maybe five, six days, something along those lines." He thinks Brown was "trying to cut her own deals with supervisors" to get a better deal than the union could.
And Daniel's recollection is still different. She granted only two days, she says. And even if Brown thought she had five days, she didn't respond until May 24, seven days later. "We didn't understand why she needed so much time to ponder the offer," Daniel says. "So from my perspective, this was simply another way to delay."
But a letter from Brown to Daniel, in Brown's personnel file, is dated May 22 -- five days after the last offer. In it, Brown asks for written confirmation of Daniel's answer to two questions "that we had previously discussed," she wrote, "so I may return the job acceptance paperwork back to your office prior to my deadline of acceptance of this job offer."
After hearing what she considered to be Lambert's abrupt about-face, Brown feared collusion between FOPE and BSO, so she immediately hired a private attorney to try to save her job.
Daniel waited until June 7 to recommend that BSO Human Resources fire Brown. But notice never reached Brown herself, she says. Indeed, on June 19, her new attorney, Richard Norat, sent a letter to BSO Human Resources asking to be informed of any attempt to fire Brown. All she got was a letter informing her that she was now eligible for COBRA. Lambert said he didn't know why Brown wasn't immediately informed of her termination.
A copy of Brown's termination notice does turn up in her personnel file. It bears dates ranging from June 18 to 21 and is finalized with a scrawl similar to Sheriff Jenne's note of condolence from 34 months earlier. New Times unsuccessfully sought comment from Jenne on the plight of his ex-deputies. "Sheriff Jenne's not really inclined to talk to you about this issue," BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal told us.
When Brown called the BSO benefits section asking for her last paycheck, she was told she was terminated "not in good standing" so she wasn't due what she had put into BSO retirement. She asked for this statement in writing, which a clerk in the benefits section promised to send her, she says; it never arrived.
Brown applied for unemployment benefits; BSO opposed them, saying that she was not fired but had only refused a job offer. Norat asked for an arbitration hearing (as BSO was required to provide by the union contract), noting the "now you see it, now you don't" job offers, convenient silence from BSO officials, and screwy dating of the termination form Brown hadn't received. It was scheduled for December 10, 2001. Norat suggested that, to show just how irregular Brown's firing had been, she should wear her BSO uniform -- which the department had never requested back.
When she arrived that day, Brown says, she encountered the crowning humiliation. The department's attorney didn't show up, but the BSO representative lighted into Brown, threatening her with immediate arrest for impersonating an officer. She left immediately, in tears. Even after its threats, the department did not ask for her uniform back until January 15, 2002. She didn't get her last paycheck until April.
"I was in shock," Brown says. "I almost had a nervous breakdown. I couldn't believe the way they were treating me -- as if I were some criminal sitting in front of them, and I didn't do anything wrong. I did my job."
Norat sent BSO's lawyer a letter saying that Brown would withdraw from arbitration if she were given the reason for her firing in writing. That explanation was never received, Brown says, but Stopnick now cites this letter, saying that Norat withdrew his demand for arbitration and that BSO's legal department considers the matter closed.
Since then, Brown and her family have looked for help from political figures and more-prominent lawyers, to no avail. Her father thinks the lack of interest from FOPE and even big-name attorneys is due to fear of Broward's powerful sheriff: "It's Jenne -- they're all afraid of him," Don O'Brien says.
In April 2002, Brown had a fourth collapsed disk removed and is now unable to work at all. "I'm in pain all day, every day," she says. She's on medication for depression, and her marriage has suffered. But she's finally given up on trusting her BSO "family." All she wants now is medical retirement, for which permanently disabled deputies are eligible after ten years of employment (Brown served 12 years). Retirement for Brown isn't just a matter of getting back the money she paid into her pension. Retired deputies, like her father, keep their badges as a token of honorable and faithful service.
Veranda Daniel and Patrick Lambert agreed to speak once with New Times about Brown, but BSO grew wary after that interview. When called with further questions about Brown and two other former deputies, Daniel refused to discuss their cases. One of the injured deputies BSO doesn't want to talk about is Sonya Wimberly, another long-time BSO officer who alleges that she was forced out by bureaucratic sleight of hand.
Wimberly, a sergeant with 18 years' service who worked at the Central Intake Unit, the jail's booking desk, says that her injury exacerbated a political situation and resulted in her dismissal.
In 1996, she had a herniated spinal disk removed and returned to full duty. Everything ran smoothly for the next few years. The numerous performance reviews in her personnel file give her good marks; she received two letters of commendation. In March 2001, her old injury flared up again after a jailhouse scuffle, but she shrugged it off and returned to work. Then on April 29, 2001, BSO Deputy Alvin Stewart was arrested and charged with domestic violence. He appeared at Wimberly's desk for processing.
It's an unwritten rule at BSO to get arrested deputies through processing and out to a bond hearing as fast as possible, while keeping the deputies in their civilian clothes; otherwise, Wimberly says, they need to be isolated to protect them from possible retribution by other prisoners.
That's what she proceeded to do. But her superiors had already decided to treat Stewart differently. After Wimberly called the jail and asked a deputy there to treat Stewart "with kid gloves," she was immediately suspended. Then she was investigated by BSO's Office of Professional Compliance, charged with indiscretion, insubordination, and conduct unbecoming an employee.
The investigator's report admits that special treatment is sometimes accorded to arrested law enforcement officers but says that in this case, "due to the nature of the arrest, it would not be in the best interest of the department to provide partisan treatment." That decision had been made by Lt. Col. Pat Tighe and Maj. Michael Barkhurst. It was to be carried out by Lt. William Lawhorn, then executive officer at Central Intake, who says he told Wimberly their decision before she called the main jail. Tighe had ordered Wimberly's suspension, and Lawhorn made the charges against her.
The reason for the harsh reaction to her efforts, Wimberly alleges, is that Stewart was involved in organizing an all-black deputies' union. She says that Tighe wanted Stewart to suffer in retribution. Wimberly (who, like Stewart, is black) has made a discrimination complaint to the Florida Commission on Human Relations.
Meanwhile, Wimberly's back got worse, and she went to the emergency room on May 7. While Wimberly was still suffering back pain, she was called in for the investigative interview. She returned to work on light-duty status for 60 days, but she didn't have to be reassigned. "I sat there and did my same job," she says. Booking was usually a desk job, but sometimes she was asked to help with other tasks, she says. She just cut those out when she went back. After 60 days, she reapplied for light duty but got no response. Shortly before Thanksgiving 2001, she was sent home on Workman's Comp. Then she received a letter from Janet O'Brien telling her to check BSO's on-line job listings for a job she could do or to call Veranda Daniel.
A Workman's Comp doctor said Wimberly was physically unable to do her booking-desk job, and O'Brien sent her notice that if she didn't find another position, she would be terminated on February 8, 2002.
Daniel's office set up a clerical test for her. But Wimberly, on painkillers and diagnosed as suffering from depression, broke down in tears during the test: She realized that her 18-year career depended upon a typing test. She failed. She was offered a communications job for less money, which would also cost her her seniority.
Workman's Comp sent her to a psychiatrist, who ruled that she should be able to return to work in July 2002. But BSO didn't like that, she says, so it ignored the psychiatrist's report and fired her in February.
Wimberly was accustomed to working lots of overtime. She routinely brought home about $4000 per month, which she needed to keep her large household going. Now, the mother of four is living on Workman's Comp. "Here I was making over $25 an hour, and now I'm down to making just pennies an hour," she says. Wimberly is applying for Medicaid, but Social Security disability has just turned her down for the second time.
Her back has since deteriorated further; the 39-year-old moves slowly and stiffly across the bare tile of her sparsely furnished house in Miramar. Two herniated disks and arthritis in her spine keep her in constant pain, which morphine lollipops are unable to deaden. Her right leg is now weak, and recently she reinjured herself by falling in her front yard when her leg collapsed. She worries that she is still being spied upon by BSO investigators. Wimberly discusses her fears and fading hopes dispiritedly as she sits on her couch in a plain housedress in late afternoon, but even strong painkillers can't mask her disgust at the way she believes she's been railroaded.
"Just because I pissed Lt. Col. Tighe off, this was their way of getting rid of me altogether," she says angrily. "There is no way I should have been fired. As soon as I get better I should have my job back. I love my job. I love what I do, and I still want my job back." Tighe is on vacation until July 15 and could not be reached for comment, BSO spokesman Leljedal told New Times.
Failing that, Wimberly says, she should be eligible for medical retirement regardless of departmental politics. She now awaits a mediation hearing on August 7, when she hopes to settle her case.
Brown's tale, and Wimberly's, sound all too familiar to Lisette Cox. The peppy 32-year-old former detention deputy's large hazel eyes flash with anger as she talks, sitting on the patio of her house in Wellington. She, her husband, and their three children moved to this smaller house after the loss of her BSO paycheck; now, she can't find a quiet spot to tell her story as her children run in and out. Between admonitions to her kids to stay away from the fireworks some neighborhood teens are lighting, Cox gives her account.
She was moving prisoners to a cellblock on January 6, 2000, at the North Broward Detention Center when she slipped on an unmarked wet floor. Her right hand was full, so when she went down, she took the full impact on her left wrist. She dropped off the inmates, but her wrist was throbbing.
Like Brown, the 11-year veteran had devoted nearly her entire working life to BSO, starting there at age 20. "That's basically all I know," Cox says. She twice received commendations for evacuating prisoners and helping to extinguish fires in the jail. She also received good performance reviews and was Employee of the Month in September 1999.
When Cox fell, she had just passed the qualifying test to make sergeant and was on a waiting list. She was passed over, losing a big pay raise.
Workman's Comp sent her to Dr. Donald McCarthy in Pompano Beach -- the same doctor who Brown says ignored her injury. McCarthy x-rayed Cox's wrist and, seeing nothing broken, simply wrapped it. Weeks later, her wrist was more painful than ever; when she called back, she says, McCarthy told her that the pain was all in her head and that she just didn't want to work.
New Times attempted to contact McCarthy about his treatment of Brown and Cox, but he stated through his receptionist that he absolutely refuses to discuss his action in their cases.
Disgusted, Cox called Workman's Comp back and pleaded for another doctor. She was sent to Dr. David Gilbert for an MRI, which showed that she had torn her wrist cartilage. He operated to repair the damage in March 2000, and soon, Cox went back to work in the jail control room. She stayed on light duty for more than five months, anticipating a return to full duty as soon as her wrist improved.
But one day during physical therapy, she heard a loud pop from her wrist, and the pain got worse instead of better. That's when Gilbert gave up on her, saying that she was no longer fit to be a deputy. He said permanently fusing her wrist in one position was the only remaining option. Cox asked her Workman's Comp case manager if she could get a second opinion; the manager sent her to Dr. Marvin Kohn in West Palm Beach. Kohn did a second MRI in December 2000 and said he could restore her wrist to full movement. He called the case manager and told her that one more operation would make Cox fit for full duty after a few months of physical therapy.
"Risk Management knew this. The sheriff's office knew this," Cox says. "Then the sheriff's office decides to send me a letter saying I need to pick a position outside of being a deputy or else I'm going to get terminated."
Given until January 29, 2001, to find a new position, Cox dutifully reported to Veranda Daniel's office for a skills test. But Cox doesn't know if she passed or failed, she says. Even though she called to ask about several advertised openings, she never heard another word. "Veranda Daniel never did, truthfully, a damn thing to find me a position," Cox fumes.
Still hoping for a full recovery, Cox scheduled surgery with Kohn for July 2000. But as she was being prepped, her blood work came back indicating that she was pregnant. Her surgery was delayed.
Cox worked light duty for another month and then was told to go home on Workman's Comp. It was then that she says BSO's attitude toward her changed. "Personally, I think they did that because I was pregnant," Cox says, even though she had worked through eight months of her two previous pregnancies.
With bills piling up, the recently remarried Cox needed money. A private attorney told her that, while she waited, she could get another job without jeopardizing her BSO career as long as the job was within her acknowledged medical restrictions. She took a job answering phones.
Her surgery was rescheduled for February 2002, and Kohn told her that she should be ready for duty by June. But in January, before Kohn could operate, Cox received a letter from BSO saying that she was fired for being physically unable to perform as a deputy.
She then got a call in February from BSO Internal Affairs informing her that she was being investigated for "unauthorized outside employment." She had to laugh as she told the investigators that BSO had fired her the previous month.
On June 4, Kohn cleared her for light duty again and says she should be fully recovered in July -- not that it matters to BSO. Cox protested that she could soon be back, but BSO preferred to take Gilbert's opinion of her condition over Kohn's, even though Workman's Comp had approved sending Cox to Kohn.
Cox had briefly quit her phone-answering job when she went in for surgery but has since returned to it; due to the loss of her healthy BSO paycheck, she and her new husband have had to move to a smaller house.
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Cox says she has been told that if she wants, she can reapply for her old job as a detention deputy -- as a new hire, thus losing her 11 years' seniority and the pay that went with it. But she's sure that even if she reapplied, BSO wouldn't rehire her. "I'm afraid now that if my attorney succeeds in getting my job back that they'll make it a living hell for me," Cox says.
The experience has shattered her life and disrupted her family, she says. "It's breathtaking. It's really torn me up a lot, because I never thought that they would do this." She feels betrayed by BSO, to which she devoted her life. Now she has the creepy feeling that she's being secretly videotaped, as Brown was. When things began to go wrong, Cox thought her treatment was out of character for her beloved BSO. Now, she suspects that this was standard practice.
Cox has pinned her hopes on a mediation hearing her attorney has scheduled for July 22. But she now says she wouldn't go back if asked.
In her 11 years at BSO, Cox often met Ken Jenne, who always seemed very caring, she says. But she notes that all the firings of injured deputies she knows of took place on Jenne's watch and that he must know what's being done in his name. She frequently heard Jenne declare that BSO was a family, with the implication that he was the proud and benevolent papa, she says. "Goddamn," she exclaims, "if this is how you treat your family, I'd hate to see how you treat your enemies."