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A former SLO cop claims the city inflated facts to fire him following drug charges 

A former San Luis Obispo police officer who pleaded guilty to delivering misbranded drugs into interstate commerce has filed the opening brief in his lawsuit against the city, arguing that city officials were overzealous in terminating him from the department.

Daniel McDow, who was detained at the San Ysidro border crossing along with another SLO police officer in September 2009, is moving forward with his lawsuit to be reinstated as a police officer with back pay, seniority, rank, and all other benefits.

On Jan. 14, McDow, through his attorney Michael Morguess, filed the brief in which he claims that his termination not only flew in the face of recommendations by a hearing officer, but also that the city exaggerated facts of the incident in order to support his termination on May 3, 2013. McDow spent 11 months on administrative leave for which he was paid $150,530.

Specifically, the brief refutes the city’s position on five points, claiming that the police department’s decision to terminate conflated more stringent state laws with less severe federal laws; city officials unfairly compared his case to more “reprehensible” cases involving police officers; they had no evidence to support claims that McDow’s girlfriend Holly Hovore called in sick on his behalf, violating department policies; that they falsely claimed McDow attempted to hide medications from border officials and that he was uncooperative in the investigation; and that the decision to terminate was “a manifest abuse of discretion.”

McDow pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of delivering misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, though the brief argues that he unknowingly possessed 34 pills of unlabeled methylphenidate (Ritalin), assuming they were diet pills based on the pharmacist’s assurance.

“It is plain therefore that McDow was terminated for failing to ‘know the law’ and pleading guilty to a strict liability crime,” the brief states.

McDow could not be located for comment. Morguess had not responded to requests for comment as of press time.

SLO City Attorney Christine Dietrick said in an email to New Times that the city plans to file its response on Feb. 10: “The city is evaluating the opening brief and the city’s opposition brief will fully articulate the city’s valid legal and factual reasons for the termination and why the city maintains Mr. McDow’s petition is without merit.”

Dietrick added that McDow’s lawsuit represented a “fairly glaring lack of accountability for his own conduct.”

The next hearing in McDow’s case is scheduled for March 17.

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