Author Topic: California gay rancher denied volunteer sheriff position with Calaveras County  (Read 2869 times)

Offline ptannen

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From San Francisco Bay Area Reporter (gay newspaper):



http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=930

Former SF cop sues Calaveras County sheriff   
by Matthew S. Bajko
[email protected]
    
Two years ago Woodside resident and private investigator Ken Cantamout turned his wrangler dreams into reality by buying a cattle ranch in the Sierra Foothills. On his 21-acre Copper Canyon Ranch in Copperopolis, 50 miles east of Stockton, the former San Francisco police officer spends weekends tending to his herd of 49 heifers.

"It's beautiful out there. The countryside is spectacular," said Cantamout. "I fell in love with it when I saw it. I always wanted to be a cowboy."

With his handlebar mustache, cowboy hat, and denim jeans, Cantamout certainly fits the part. Yet the rancher never gave up his love for the law. Retired from the city's force since 2003, Cantamout decided to apply for a volunteer sheriff position with Calaveras County.

"I want to give back to the community. The best way for me to do it is to keep my hands in law enforcement," said the 53-year-old Cantamout.
To his surprise, his application was denied. Calaveras County Sheriff Dennis Downum never gave him a reason, but Cantamout suspects it has to do with his being gay. Not one to back down from a fight, Cantamout struck back, filing a claim with the county last September alleging discrimination based on his sexual orientation and requesting a $95,000 settlement. After the county Board of Supervisors rejected his claim in November, Cantamout filed suit in federal court in San Francisco in March. The lawsuit has since been transferred to Fresno's federal court, which usually hears cases against Calaveras County.

"We want the county to tell us why they didn't give him a job," said Cantamout's attorney Joel Siegal.

County officials have refused to comment publicly, citing both the ongoing lawsuit and Cantamout's rejection being a personnel matter. But Downum did tell the local paper, the Union Democrat , when the suit was filed that Cantamout's sexual orientation had nothing to do with why he was rejected.
"We found some things that made us not want to deal with him," Downum told the paper in March.

According to the article, the sheriff said Cantamout's involvement in a 1997 lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department "could very well have" played a part in why he was rejected. In that case, the department had tried to force Cantamout to shave off his signature mustache, but Cantamout sued and eventually won in court.

Cantamout and his attorney suspect the real reason is because he listed his being a teacher of a Finally a Gay Traffic School class in his application for the sheriff position.

"We can't really tell because we cannot read his mind," said Cantamout.
His tangle with the sheriff's department hasn't dampened his love for the state's Gold Country, nor has it made him want to abandon his ranch. Instead, he sees his legal tussle as opening residents' eyes to the discrimination the gay community faces.

"The good part about it is a lot of people have come out in support. People I would have never expected," he said. "It hasn't soured me on the community. It is changing with the migration of people from San Francisco and the Bay Area over there. As it changes, the perceptions and thoughts of the area's elected officials will too."

06/22/2006

Is there anything interesting up there in heaven?