The attorney who represents former Mammoth Police Sergeant Eric Hugelman says his client never should have been fired in the first place. Rob Sergi, a former police lieutenant turned court advocate in police cases, said the Town of Mammoth terminated Hugelman as a result of the Rusty’s Bar brawl, a case in which all charges were dismissed against his client. Sergi also confirmed Hugelman has filed a civil action against the Town and wants to go back to work at the Mammoth Police Department.
Sergi said the recent decision by an arbitrator/ hearing officer overturned Hugelman’s termination. As for the Bishop bar fight, Sergi said, “The officers were never involved in a fight. They defended themselves.” He said the Town had a “knee jerk reaction and to impose that level of discipline,” he said, “was a poor decision.” Sergi also said that the Inyo District Attorney should never have charged Hugelman in the first place. The DA did eventually dismiss charges of disturbing the peace and challenging a fight.
Some reports said that Hugelman had assaulted fellow officers while at an event in Las Vegas. Sergi said there was no assault, but he said this “non-event”, as he calls it, may have influenced the Town’s decision to fire Hugelman. He said it was a “discussion between officers on matters in the Department.” Hugelman was disciplined, and Sergi said, “In any other agency this would have been a very minor incident.”
Sergi said the cost to the Town for all of this will loom large, including a protracted hearing, an attorney’s time, the cost of the arbitrator and back pay, benefits, accumulated time off and retirement.
Sergi and Hugelman were in Mammoth Lakes last Wednesday. Sergi said they were trying to get an audience with Town Manager Rob Clark and Police Chief Dan Watson.
Sergi said Eric Hugelman wants to go back to work at the Mammoth Police Department. Said Sergi, “For 18 years Eric was dedicated and hardworking. He was the go to guy as a sergeant. Eric wants to continue that.” Another attorney has filed a civil claim against the Town, Sergi said, for invasion of privacy.
Now, it’s up to the Town to decide whether to appeal the decision on Hugelman or reach some type of settlement with him, which could lead to re-instatement and back-pay. Mammoth officials have declined to comment much on this case, pending their decision on what to do next.