Jury: City retaliated against former McCall police chief

A federal jury found in Gerald Summers’ favor, ruling that he was fired without cause two years ago.

The jury found that Summers was fired after reporting that City Manager Eugene Drabinski was hostile to him at a Sept. 19, 2012, police department meeting and for reporting Drabinski was illegally driving with a suspended license.

“I am thrilled the jury saw through the false reasons provided by the city of McCall to justify my termination,” Summers said in a statement. “I had reported I was being illegally retaliated against by Mr. Drabinski multiple times to various members of the city of McCall government, and the city council refused to investigate my claims.”

Summers said Drabinski moved toward him in a threatening manner during the police department meeting, held to discuss a community survey on the department. Two officers reported to city officials that Drabinski had acted unprofessionally during the meeting.

Summers, who began his career in McCall as a code enforcement officer in 1997 and moved up the ranks to become chief in 2005, said Drabinski also became upset with him after the chief informed the city council that Drabinski was driving in town on a suspended license. Drabinski was not cited, but Summers had warned him not to drive until he had his license reinstated. Drabinski ignored the warning, according to the complaint filed in the case.

Drabinski was hired in August 2012 as interim city manager while the city searched for a permanent replacement for former City Manager Lindley Kirkpatrick. Drabinski initially did not apply for the permanent job but later changed his mind and was selected for the job, which he still holds.

Summers served on an employee committee that interviewed and selected finalists for city manager. He had supported Carol Brockman, a deputy Valley County prosecutor, for the job.

Summers claimed that after Drabinski became city manager, he continually questioned the police chief’s loyalty and created a hostile work environment. Summers was fired in April 2013.

“It was very important to me that my reputation as the chief of police be restored, and I am thankful the jury decision restored that reputation,” he said Tuesday.

Bentley Stromberg, who represented Drabinski and the city of McCall, did not return a call for comment.

The verdict came after four days of testimony. The jury, meeting in Boise, reached its decision Friday after deliberating for a little more than three hours.