Friday, July 21, 2006

Strike 2: Clarke's demotion of deputy illegal

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has a real loser on his hands.

We wrote recently about a circuit court decision saying Clarke had violated state law, specifically the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, in demoting a sergeant who had the nerve to disagree with him publicly -- on his own time and out of uniform.

Now the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC) has ruled against Clarke on the same issue.

Hearing Examiner David Shaw has ordered that Clarke;

-- Reinstate Deputy Rollan Parish to the rank of sergeant, with back pay and 12% interest from May 2005, when Clarke illegally demoted him.

-- Quit discriminating against Parish or any other members of the Milwaukee County Deputy Sheriff' Association for exercising their legal rights.

-- Post a notice, signed by the sheriff, for 30 days saying that Parish has been reinstated and that Clarke will not "interfere with, restrain of coerce" Parish or other deputies in the exercise of their rights, nor discriminate against them.

Here's a recap of the case from my previous post:
Parish was "temporarily" promoted to sergeant by Clarke in April 2004. "Temporary" promotions are one more way Clarke has tried to bend the civil service rules. Parish took a civil service test for the promotion, and scored fifth out of more than 100 who took the test.

A year later, Parish was still a "temporary" sergeant, when Clarke asked the Civil Service Commission in May 2005 to change its rules. They specify that when there is a vacancy, the promotion should come from the top 10 names on the eligibility list. Clarke wanted a change to allow him to hire anyone on the eligible list, basically bypassing the civil service ranking and letting him promote whomever he wanted.

At a hearing on Clarke's request, Clarke's right-hand man, Inspector Kevin Carr, made the case for the change. The Milwaukee Deputy Sheriff's Assn. opposed the change and also objected to Clarke's uses of "temporary" promotions to circumvent civil service rules. In defending the practice, Carr cited Parish, who was present, as an example of someone Clarke had given a temporary promotion but intended to give a permanent position in the future.

That put Parish in the uncomfortable position of having to speak out against the rule change and the temporary promotions. Parish did get up and state for the record that he opposed the change. Parish was at the hearing on his own time, in plain clothes.

The next day, Carr told Parish that as a result of his comments he "could no longer be trusted, was disloyal, and had to either resign his new rank or he was going to be demoted."

Parish refused to resign and was stripped of his promotion the same day. Clarke and Carr did not dispute that he lost his rank because of his actions at the hearing.
Circuit Judge M. Joseph Donald, who ruled in favor of Parish last month, has scheduled a hearing on July 26 to decide the proper remedy for violation of the state law. UPDATE: The hearing has been postponed to Sept. 19.

The WERC finding can be appealed to the courts as well, but given that the sheriff already has lost in circuit court on the same issue, Milwaukee County should think hard about whether to throw good money after bad and invest more taxpayer dollars in defending Clarke in a case that seems like a sure loser.

I wonder if we'll ever read about either of these decisions in the local newspaper?

UPDATE: It did finally make the paper today. And it sounds like the county is going to waste more time and taxpayer money appealing it.


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