Bluffton officer denied damages seeks new trial

astice@islandpacket.comApril 23, 2013 

A Bluffton police officer who claims his military service cost him promotions at work is seeking a new federal trial after a jury denied him damages from the town.

Officer Mark Dorsey, who also is enlisted in the Army National Guard, alleges in court filings that he did not receive bonuses or promotions and was the target of harassment and discipline under former Police Chief David McAllister because he was sent on multiple tours of duty.

But a federal jury ruled against him in February, saying the town did not violate the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Act, which protects job rights for veterans and active members of the U.S. armed forces when they are absent for military service.

New court filings from Dorsey's attorney, Nancy Bloodgood of Charleston, ask for a new trial. The filings say the judge did not properly explain the reemployment act, which might have affected the jury's decision.

Attempts Tuesday to reach Bloodgood were unsuccessful. Bloodgood won $236,000 in two settlements for former Bluffton police Lt. Katherine Sours and has served as co-counsel in other employees' suits against the town, including one pending in Beaufort County court in which a Bluffton police officer alleges he was unfairly demoted for complaining about McAllister.

The town is asking the court to dismiss Dorsey's request for a new trial and said no error was made that confused the jury.

Town attorney Terry Finger declined to discuss the case, saying the town's case is outlined in court filings.

Dorsey's suit, originally filed in March 2012, said he was called to active duty many times since 2003, including a tour in Afghanistan and another to help Hurricane Katrina victims.

When he returned from an assignment in September 2011, he was not given bonuses and raises that other officers received, according to filings. His suit contends he also was a target for discipline and that McAllister set off a congressional inquiry when he complained to military authorities that Dorsey was missing too much work.

The inquiry undermined Dorsey's reputation and career opportunities in the Army National Guard, the suit states. Dorsey seeks the bonuses and raises he says he is owed, as well as attorney fees.

During the February trial, several town officials testified, including town manager Anthony Barrett, human resources director Jessie Hershey, former police Lt. Angel Tubbs and Sours.

McAllister, who resigned as chief in August for another job, provided his testimony by deposition, court filings show. In previous interviews, McAllister has said the town "did everything it could" to accommodate Dorsey's military service.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allison.

Related content:

Discrimination suit against Bluffton PD heads for $50K settlement, Aug. 15, 2012

2 lawsuits brought by Bluffton police pending in federal court, July 3, 2012

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