A psychiatrist who the U.S. Forest Service says admitted to sabotaging Ashland mountain biking trails will continue to be employed by Jackson County at least until the legal process is concluded, County Administrator Danny Jordan said Tuesday.
Jordan said the allegations against Mental Health Department psychiatrist Jackson Tyler Dempsey do not label him as unfit for his job, and as of Tuesday he still had a license with the state to practice psychiatry.
"He's afforded due process," said Jordan. "At this point, he's still a licensed psychiatrist."
A Forest Service law enforcement officer said Dempsey, 57, admitted in July to stringing nylon cord across mountain biking trails and placing nails, fallen trees and other debris on the same trails in the Ashland watershed on numerous occasions. According to a Forest Service report, Dempsey said he did it because he "did not like downhill mountain bikers."
He was charged with fourth-degree assault and three counts of reckless endangerment and is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 29.
Because Dempsey's alleged crimes weren't committed while he was at work for the county, he will continue to work for the Mental Health Department until the case is completed, Jordan said.
"He's not allegedly charged with something that happened during the course of work," said Jordan.
But local members of the mountain biking community find it hard to believe that Dempsey is a practicing psychiatrist.
"You would think a psychiatrist would be able to control his actions," said Rob Cain, president of the Ashland Woodland and Trails Association. "I think this guy was clearly delusional in his thinking. The irony is cruel."
Cain said that it's still difficult to use some of the trails because of vegetation that someone has pulled into them.
Dempsey was arrested on July 22 after a group of mountain bikers encountered a man matching his description on a trail and shortly after that came across numerous small trees that had been placed on the trail. They contacted a Forest Service officer, who later arrested Dempsey.
While bikers, equestrians and hikers sometimes run into each other on areas of the trail and conflicts do arise, Cain said he believes all trail users would disapprove of the kind of sabotage for which Dempsey stands accused.
"I think all of us, regardless of the type of user, recognized the potential severity of this," said Cain. "He could have easily created a quadriplegic, in the most severe case. It's a crazy story."
Dempsey will remain in his position as a psychiatrist while the case is open, although the county had the option to put him on administrative leave, Jordan said.
"At this point, these are allegations," said Jordan. "There are people that get charges all the time."
Jordan said the allegations don't conflict with Dempsey's ability to do his job.
"If he's able to perform the duties of his job, and he's able to be licensed, those are the job requirements," said Jordan.
Jordan said he couldn't comment any further on discipline issues against a specific employee, including when the county became aware of the allegations against Dempsey.
Depending on the outcome of the investigation, Jordan said, the county could take disciplinary action against Dempsey, but would also pay attention to whether the state medical board reprimands Dempsey or suspends his license.
If an Oregon doctor is convicted of a crime, he must report his actions to the Oregon Medical Board, which will then conduct its own investigation, according to OMB investigator Dave Lilly.
"It would really depend on the circumstances of the charge," said Lilly.
Lilly said he couldn't speculate on how the board might proceed if Dempsey were convicted, but he said the board would consider the relationship between Dempsey's role as a psychiatrist and his alleged criminal behavior.
"We would do our own investigation," said Lilly. "It can go anywhere, it really depends on the case."
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or firstname.lastname@example.org.