Arbitrator modifies police officer's disciplinary action - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Arbitrator modifies police officer's disciplinary action

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- An arbitrator says the City of Yakima demoted police officer Rod Light too much last year when disciplining him for having intimate relationships with two female co-workers.

Light was knocked down from Captain to Sergeant. He also admitted to making a copy of some paperwork he shouldn't have had access to. The arbitrator says punishment should only be a 30 day suspension. The city still thinks that's a slap on the wrist and may appeal. Below is their response:

The City of Yakima has received an arbitrator's decision which modifies disciplinary action taken last fall against Yakima Police Department ("YPD") employee Rod Light and orders the City to reinstate Light to the rank of captain.

In October 2010, City Manager Dick Zais demoted Light from captain to sergeant based on Light's admission that he had intimate sexual relationships with two subordinate female YPD sergeants between 2006 and 2008 and based on Light's admission that he took a draft performance evaluation of his off of a supervisor's desk and copied it.

Arbitrator David Beauvais decided that the City "…did not have just cause to demote (Light) two pay grades…" because the City did not show that Light's intimate relationships with the two female YPD sergeants "…violated policy, or created a hostile work relationship." Beauvais did agree that when Light took and copied the draft performance evaluation he demonstrated "…a serious lapse in judgment, which merits some form of discipline."

Beauvais determined that a 30-day suspension for Light having taken and copied the draft performance evaluation is sufficient discipline.

Beauvais said that because the City did not demonstrate that Light violated policy by having intimate sexual relationships with the two female sergeants, his demotion was not warranted and ordered the City to reinstate Light to the rank of captain and to provide him with lost pay and benefits resulting from his demotion last fall.

"The City is very dismayed with the arbitrator's decision," said Zais. "Rod Light's intimate sexual relationships with two subordinate sergeants represents conduct that is inexcusable and simply cannot and should not be tolerated in the workplace, whether it violates a specific policy on the books or not. He also eroded the bond of trust with City management when he was not immediately forthcoming about the nature of those relationships."

"In our view, a 30-day suspension is a slap on the wrist," said Zais. "Rod Light's poor decision making, disgraceful behavior, and lack of truthfulness demonstrated significant deficiencies in his leadership and judgment. He has proven to us that he is untrustworthy and unsuited for a senior command role," said Zais.

Zais said that the City will further evaluate Beauvais' opinion within the next several days and weigh its options, including potentially appealing the arbitrator's decision in court.

"The arbitrator's decision is, in our opinion, seriously flawed and misguided," said Zais "The arbitration process didn't work in this instance, as it sometimes doesn't. Now we will have to consider the pros and cons of whether to appeal the decision to superior court."

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