A Fairfax County employe who leaked an internal report critical of emergency police communications to the press said yesterday he acted because "for years there were promises, promises" of improvements from senior county officials, but the problems remained.
The employe, Robert E. Jurgenson, said manpower shortages and other deficiencies at the county's communications center, detailed in the report that was never officially released, gave him a "moral obligation" to "let the people know the service they were getting was not up to standard, in my opinion."
Jurgenson, who was demoted and transferred after The Washington Post published an article last summer revealing the report's contents, made the statements in opening-day testimony in federal court in Alexandria.
The eight-year civilian employe is asking $250,000 in damages from Fairfax County and senior police officers, claiming he agreed to the demotion "under duress" and in violation of his rights.
Assistant county attorney Robert Ross, in an opening statement, sharply attacked Jurgenson, contending the report was "an attempt at internal housekeeping" that relied on confidentiality. He criticized The Post for attempts to learn its contents.
Jurgenson, said Ross, was "repeatedly pressed, hounded and cajoled by none other than Pulitzer Prize-winning Robert Woodward," then The Post's Metro editor, to hand over the document. "He was pressured and conned by The Washington Post into releasing the report," Ross said.
The newspaper is not a party to the lawsuit and no Post reporters or editors are expected to testify at the trial.
Attorney Victor Glasberg, representing Jurgenson, said in his opening statement that publication of the report embarrassed police officials who wanted to suppress "tensions and problems" in the department's Emergency Operations Center, located in the basement of the Massey Building in Fairfax City.
Besides the county, the complaint names the Fairfax police department, Police Chief Carroll D. Buracker and Maj. Kelly Coffelt as defendants.
At issue is the manner in which Jurgenson, who testified he never denied to his superiors that he leaked the report to a Post reporter, was disciplined. The county maintains that in a meeting with Buracker and Coffelt shortly after publication of The Post article, Jurgenson requested a "voluntary demotion" rather than dismissal.
Jurgenson was demoted from an assistant supervisor in the communications center to a lesser job at the department's McLean substation.
Glasberg argued yesterday that Jurgenson was under duress at the time, in part from financial and marital worries. "They Buracker and Coffelt knew he couldn't by any means risk losing his job," Glasberg said. Glasberg said Jurgenson's "jaw was shaking" during the meeting in Buracker's office and that terms of the "voluntary demotion" were dictated by Coffelt.
A few days later when Jurgenson asked Buracker to rescind the demotion agreement, the chief refused, Glasberg said.
Buracker, who was deputy chief at the time of Jurgenson's demotion, also testified that "most of the issues [raised by the report] had been dealt with in toto" by the department at the time of The Post's article. County attorney Ross maintained the report by then was "stale."
John E. Bazyk, a civilian employe in the communications center, testified that the EOC's manpower, training and equipment problems remain "relatively the same" today.