La Plata, MD – There was a political advertisement from a 2006 edition of the Maryland Independent which hung on the wall in the hallway of Rex Coffey’s La Plata office during his two terms as Charles County Sheriff from 2006-2014.
In the advertisement—promoting Coffey’s former opponent Fred Davis—were listed the names of dozens of officers from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office who supported Davis.
Coffey said he kept the ad out of sight, and only had it there to remind him that former Charles County State’s Attorney Leonard C. Collins Jr., who he had considered a close personal friend, had supported Davis; had “stabbed him in the back.”
That advertisement has been part of the focus in the lawsuit filed against Coffey in 2013 by Troy Berry, winner of the 2014 election for sheriff.
Coffey took the witness stand during the second day of the trial, Tuesday, Jan. 27 before visiting Judge Maureen Lamasney in Charles County Circuit Court.
Berry’s attorney, Timothy Maloney, tried repeatedly to get the former sheriff to admit, that when Coffey demoted Berry and Lieut. David Saunders in 2010 following his re-election, that he showed the ad to both men and proclaimed, “I never forgot who supported my opponent.”
Coffey successively denied saying any such thing, testifying under oath that when he showed the ad to the two men, it was to say, “I have put all of this behind me.”
The former sheriff has said throughout the trial that he “wasn’t out to hurt him” when he demoted Berry from the rank of captain back to lieutenant in 2010.
Coffey said when he demoted Berry to lieutenant, he also upped his pay grade three steps in an effort to lessen the financial impact.
“Again, I wasn’t trying to hurt him, I just wanted him away from me,” Coffey said, noting he reassigned Berry to commander of District 3.
“The county code gives me the right to move him with or without cause,” Coffey said. “It wasn’t an election issue. It was not connected to politics at all. I didn’t see it as a big deal.”
Maloney, also questioned Coffey about another officer, Dave Saunders, who was demoted at the same time as Berry.
“He gave me cause,” the former sheriff said. “He thought his way was the only way to do things. He was a hard person to work with. I worked with the guy for four years. He was disagreeable. He was never in accord with what I wanted to do. The county code gave me that authority.”
Coffey testified that he promoted both men to captain when he was first elected, Berry because “he was already in that position” on a temporary basis.
When Coffey’s attorney, Jason Levine, cross-examined the former sheriff, he had Coffey highlight with a magic marker the number of names on the Davis 2006 ad, of officers he had promoted despite having supported his opponent.
Levine was able to demonstrate that Coffey had promoted at least seven of the officers listed in the ad, including Saunders and Berry.
“I was a guy of second chances,” he said.
Testimony will continue Wednesday, Jan. 28 as the civil jury trial enters its third day.
Contact Joseph Norris at email@example.com