Judge reverses firing of Denver officer accused of having sex on the job

Posted at 2:31 PM, Jul 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-24 15:32:02-04

DENVER -- A Denver District Court judge has reversed the termination of a female Denver Police Department officer fired over allegations she had sex with another officer multiple times while she was on duty.

The order marks the end of a four-year legal battle and could leave taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in backpay and benefits now owed to the officer.

Officer Stephanie Southard was fired on April 14, 2014 for allegedly having sex 25-30 times while on-duty with another Denver police officer, Nathan Sanchez. Southard was also suspended for 15 days for punching Sanchez after he ended their affair.

Judge Ross Buchanan issued the latest order on June 28. Buchanan affirmed the 15-day suspension, but reversed Southard's termination.

The order states: "The simple question in this case is whether Officer Southard had sex with Officer Sanchez, while on duty, and then lied about it. While the commission cataloged, several undisputed facts regarding the relationship between Officers Sanchez and Southard … neither individually nor collectively do they amount to having sex while on duty."

The document goes on to say, "the Director's conclusion was clearly erroneous."

A spokeswoman for the Denver Department of Safety issued the following statement in response:

"We stand by the discipline we issued and are very disappointed in the decision to reverse Officer Southard’s suspension and termination. Further, we are extremely dismayed it has taken almost three years to rule in this matter. We will now confer with the City Attorney’s Office to discuss next steps."

When asked about how much backpay Southard will be owed, the same spokeswoman said they are still working through the specifics.

However, if Southard started another job pending the judicial review, some of the cost could be offset by any earnings she has made from another employer, the spokeswoman said.

Denver7 also reached out to Southard's attorney, but had not heard back as of Monday afternoon.