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Sheriff Fires Deputy After 'Dummy' Incident

March 18, 2002

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Sheriff Fires Deputy After 'Dummy' Incident

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By Scott Shenk - The Fauquier County (VA) Citizen

A three-year veteran deputy lost his job last month after he allegedly posed a mannequin, "Deputy Friendly," in an unfriendly position.

Some time in January, Deputy Alexi Abdo positioned the mannequin upside down, posing its clothed rear end in a cruiser window, according to sources.

Mr. Abdo also allegedly propped up one of the mannequin’s middle fingers, so Deputy Friendly flipped passersby "the bird" from the cruiser, parked behind the sheriff’s office in Warrenton.

The sheriff’s office uses Deputy Friendly regularly on county highways for traffic control, propping the mannequin in a cruiser, which has a radar unit and a roof-mounted display flashing the speeds of drivers.

Sheriff Joe Higgs fired Deputy Abdo and demoted 17-year-veteran Sgt. Jerry Apffel to corporal after the incident. Cpl. Apffel, who could not be reached for comment, served as Mr. Abdo’s shift supervisor.

"It’s part of a discipline issue, a personnel issue," Sheriff Higgs said.

He declined to discuss the incident, but added: "I will tolerate nothing other than professionalism from my people."

Mr. Abdo, 34, had been reprimanded for other violations of department policy prior to the Deputy Friendly incident, a source said.

The sheriff fired the deputy for two incidents, according to Mike Leibig, Mr. Abdo’s attorney.

Mr. Abdo had a grievance hearing Monday, Feb. 11, in Warrenton. The former deputy and Sheriff Higgs each presented his case to County Administrator Bob Lee.

Mr. Lee must decide by Monday, Feb. 25, whether to uphold Deputy Abdo’s dismissal.

At the hearing, Sheriff Higgs cited two incidents, according to Mr. Leibig, who did not attend the meeting.

In one incident, Mr. Abdo wrote a negative comment on a board in the sheriff’s office roll-call room.

Furniture in the room had been moved temporarily into a corner. Mr. Abdo wrote, " ‘Roll call in a closet,’ or something like that," Mr. Leibig said.

Mr. Leibig believes the other incident, involving Deputy Friendly, was blown out of proportion.

Mr. Abdo "didn’t position the deputy intentionally," Mr. Leibig said. "He threw it over . . . the passenger seat."

Sheriff Higgs also reprimanded Mr. Abdo for wrecking a cruiser and for putting inaccurate information in an incident report, according to Mr. Leibig.

"They weren’t serious offenses," the attorney said.

"First of all, we didn’t know why he was terminated until the hearing," Mr. Leibig said last Friday in a telephone interview.

The incidents cited by Sheriff Higgs "aren’t deserving of dismissal," Mr. Leibig said. "It’s not like that shows a record of a guy who’s a screw-up. When you look at it, he’s a guy that really cares."

Mr. Abdo "is active in the community," he said. "Everybody in the sheriff’s department thinks he’s a good deputy."

Mr. Leibig said assistants in the Commonwealth’s Attorney office and lawyers with the Public Defenders office wrote letters supporting Mr. Abdo.

If Mr. Lee rules against him, Mr. Abdo can appeal his firing to a three-person panel. Mr. Abdo and Mr. Lee would each choose a panel member. The two panelists then would pick a third.

If the panel appeal fails, Mr. Abdo can file a petition with the Fauquier County Circuit Court.

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