September 19, 2021
WINCHESTER — A Winchester Circuit Court judge has ruled against a former city police officer who claimed he was unfairly disciplined and subsequently fired over his job performance.
In a ruling filed this week, Judge Bruce D. Albertson said the Winchester Police Department was within its rights to discipline Capt. Leonard M. Bauserman, who was fired from his job on Aug. 3 after three decades of service.
"I found each of the respondent's witnesses to be credible and found petitioner to be less credible," Albertson wrote in a ruling filed this week in the Winchester Circuit Court Clerk's Office. "I rule for respondent for the reasons cited by respondent."
Bauserman had contended the city botched the way it addressed a series of alleged on-the-job shortcomings and failed to give him a promotion because of his age.
During an Aug. 27 hearing in Winchester Circuit Court, Bauserman said he was assigned to the administrative unit of the Winchester Police Department and, in 2013, placed in charge of its evidence and property storage rooms.
"I made leaps and bounds improving the way evidence, confiscated items, surplus property, permit applications and case files were processed and stored," Bauserman testified. "I never had a negative performance evaluation."
When Lt. Wally Stotlemyer was assigned to Bauserman's unit last year, he testified that he was startled to see the condition of the evidence and property storage rooms. He referred to it as "a hoarder's paradise."
Deputy Police Chief Kelly S. Rice, who was Bauserman's direct supervisor, testified that she spoke to Bauserman on at least four occasions about the condition of his department, and he consistently assured her he was making improvements and never asked for assistance.
However, Bauserman reportedly did little to restore order to the evidence and property storage rooms, so Stotlemyer sent a memo to Rice and Police Chief John Piper to apprise them of the situation.
On Dec. 19, Bauserman was transferred to a desk job in the chief's office but retained his rank and salary. Stotlemyer was put in charge of the evidence and property storage rooms and promoted to captain.
On April 6, as Stotlemyer continued to reportedly uncover more disarray in the evidence room, Piper issued Bauserman a written reprimand for the way he had handled his prior assignment. He then told Bauserman he considered the matter closed and the officer could, if he wanted, apply for a promotion to the newly created position of deputy chief of operations.
Meanwhile, Rice testified that Bauserman was having difficulties with his new job in the chief's office. She said he was disorganized, came to work late and failed to complete assignments on time. On April 13, she placed him on an Employee Improvement Plan (EIP) that detailed areas needing improvement and established goals and deadlines he would have to meet to avoid further disciplinary action.
Two days later, Capt. Amanda Behan was promoted to deputy chief of operations.
Bauserman, citing the fact he had eight more years of experience with the Winchester Police Department than Behan, claimed he was passed over for the promotion due to him being in his 50s. Piper denied that accusation during his Aug. 27 testimony and stated that all four candidates for the job, including Behan and Stotlemyer, were over the age of 40.
Bauserman also sought to file a grievance in April over the two disciplinary actions that had been taken against him by Piper and Rice. Winchester Human Resources Director Paula Nofsinger said they could not be appealed because the two disciplinary actions addressed two separate matters and did not result in Bauserman being demoted, having his pay reduced or any other punitive measure.
Bauserman objected and filed a lawsuit against the city in an attempt to earn the right to protest the written reprimand and EIP.
Meanwhile, Stotlemyer made an alarming discovery in the evidence and property rooms formerly managed by Bauserman. Tucked inside a box that was supposed to be empty was a file tied to the unsolved murder of Kimberly Dawn Alexander, a Winchester woman who disappeared after leaving her home early on June 12, 1999, to go to work at the Wendy's fast-food restaurant at 1100 Berryville Ave. Six weeks later, on July 25, 1999, her partially decomposed body was found in a wooded area off U.S. 340 near Charles Town, West Virginia.
While it doesn't appear the misplaced file was critical to the investigation, Piper fired Bauserman on Aug. 2 for mishandling evidence.
If the court had ruled in Bauserman's favor, it was not clear how much success the former police officer would have had appealing the disciplinary actions taken against him in April because he was subsequently dismissed by the department for mishandling evidence.
Bauserman was with the Winchester Police Department for 29 years and testified last month that he had hoped to retire sometime after celebrating his 30th anniversary. At the time of his dismissal, he was earning $92,622.40 a year.