DALLAS -- LaVay Jeffries, the former DMV worker who was fired last summer after he called Dallas police and flagged the file of a woman he thought was providing false information to get a driver's license, has won his wrongful termination battle.
On May 4, 2005 Jeffries became suspicious of a woman, Jimenez Mesa, who was attempting to get an Oregon learner's driving permit.
The woman failed her test and Jeffries flagged her file, then contacted Police about his suspicions. DMV reacted by reprimanding Jeffries and giving him a last chance agreement, which he refused to sign. He was then fired, with the reason reported as "racial profiling."
In January 2006, Administrative Law Judge Jonathan F. Micheletti said that because Jeffries was terminated for refusing to sign a last-chance agreement, not for misconduct, he qualified for unemployment benefits.
Jeffries was awarded retroactive unemployment compensation.
Then, on Feb. 1, eight months after his termination, Jefferies was awarded back pay from DMV, minus any money he had made since his termination and unemployment benefits.
He was also told that he could return to work, but not in Dallas. Instead, he was told to report to the North Salem DMV office.
The pre-dimissal and dismissal notices were removed from his permanent record. In essence, his name was cleared.
Jefferies retired without working a day in the Salem office.
"I feel that I could no longer work for an organization that treated its employees so poorly for only doing what I thought was right," Jeffries said.
Jeffries, a retired military officer, worked for the DMV for 15 years before the March incident. For DMV's rescinding of the termination and paying his back wages, Jefferies agreed not to pursue legal action -- which he feels he would have won.
He has said from the beginning that he only wanted to clear his name. Now, having done that, he says he is happy to leave the bureaucracy and spend time driving a school bus.
"I believe that what I did in calling the police was the right thing to do and in the best interest of the public. Some of the DMV hierarchy did not see it that way, so it is best that we go our separate ways. I could no longer work for them in good conscience," Jeffries said.
Jimenez Mesa, the woman who set the whole controversy in motion, remains a mystery. It is known that she returned a week later to the North Salem DMV office and passed her test.
The resolution of Jeffries' case comes right on the heels of a major fraud trial in the Hillsboro area. Members of the Robleto family were accused of running a fraud ring that enabled thousands of illegal immigrants to get Oregon driver's licenses. One of the cousins, Miguel Robleto, worked for a number of years at the DMV and ran a driver training school that was used to front the illegal operations.
Two of the main defendants in the case, brothers, Sergio and Fabio Robleto, and Miguel were all found not guilty last month.
However, Judge Michael McElligott opined that "Clearly, crimes had been committed."
The Robleto family was accused of providing people from out of state with envelopes for proof of residency in Oregon. According to the testimony of undercover detective Victor Castro, the Robleto ring would take empty envelopes by the hundreds and write their own address in pencil on the front, and then mail them to themselves.
When the envelopes arrived, they would erase their penciled writing and sell the postmarked envelopes for $25 apiece. People interested in acquiring false proof of residency could write whatever addresses they desired on them.
The first people to alert officials were local postal carriers who noticed all the empty envelops going through their system. They were told not to concern themselves.
Then DMV workers, like Jefferies, started noticing odd envelopes being used as residency ID. Most had Hillsboro postmarks. Some came from as far away as Ontario.
The DMV workers, too, were told by supervisors that they weren't law enforcement officials and it was none of their concern.
Jeffries said he remembered hearing rumors about this sort of thing and had been following the Robleto case. He said that was part of what caused an initial red flag in his head.
"I had heard this sort of thing was going on, and with the odd behavior of her driver, something just didn't add up," Jeffries said.
The Robleto case and by association, the Jeffries case, have become rallying tools for immigration reform groups -- as well as groups concerned with voter fraud. Many of the people accused of using forged envelopes also used false voter registration cards to get their driver's licenses.
Members of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service) have taken an interest in this peculiar loophole in Oregon's DMV requirements. A few months ago an illegal immigrant from Asia was picked up in Brooklyn with an Oregon driver's license. He had never lived in the Oregon.