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Mendocino deputy who reported 'wife swapping' settles lawsuit

A Mendocino County deputy's lawsuit that included allegations of wife swapping and other sexual shenanigans at the lonely Sheriff's outpost in Covelo was quietly dismissed late last year.

Deputy Jason Cox did not receive any money, but the county paid $20,000 in attorney and court-related expenses for him, Mendocino County Counsel Jeanine Nadel said Wednesday.

Details of the settlement were not contained in Mendocino County Superior Court records, only that Cox's attorney filed a request to dismiss the case at the end of October. The parties to the lawsuit have agreed not to discuss the case.

Nadel said they agreed it was in the best interest of all concerned to settle the case, which had a disruptive effect on the Sheriff's Office.

The lawsuit cast a harsh light on the Covelo substation in remote northeastern Mendocino County, revealing seedy secrets that allegedly took place over a decade, from the mid-1990s through 2006.

Cox served in Covelo from 2002 to 2006.

In the lawsuit, he alleged he was passed over for promotions because he revealed sexual escapades involving his superiors, co-workers and their wives during that time.

He contended he was demoted from his position at the Covelo resident post because of his "refusal to partake in sexual activities, refusal to engage in inappropriate and illicit behavior, and his reporting of inappropriate and illegal acts" by his supervising sergeant, Shannon Barney.

Barney and his wife were allegedly at the center of extramarital sexual activities that contributed to several deputies' divorces over the years, according to the lawsuit filed by Cox.

The lawsuit named Barney, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Tom Allman, who at the time was a lieutenant responsible for overseeing the county's northern sector.

Another deputy, Brett White, also sexually harassed Cox, according to the lawsuit. White, who committed suicide in February 2007 while suspended from work, had an affair with Cox's wife and several other women, the lawsuit claims. His family said he'd suffered a breakdown because he was ostracized by his fellow law enforcement officers.

White's suicide was followed 10 months later by the suicide of deputy Eric Gore, who had been assigned to Covelo in 2002, a year before White. He was demoted and transferred to the Ukiah jail in 2006 after he was found intoxicated while on duty.

The lawsuit claimed Cox was passed over for promotions after reporting on alleged sexual and alcohol-related activities.

Personnel issues related to the substation and lawsuit were addressed as part of the settlement, Nadel said. She would not specify what they include.

Both Cox and Barney remain with the Sheriff's Office, but not in Covelo. Barney works with the Office of Emergency Services and Cox is assigned to a separate Ukiah office.

The settlement of the case is "in the best interests of the citizens of the county of Mendocino," Nadel said.

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