Arbitrator: Two Santa Fe cops wrongfully fired, get back pay

Posted: December 20, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,

An arbitrator on Tuesday ruled two fired Santa Fe Police Officers were wrongfully terminated by City Manager Robert Romero in July, which was a firing recommended by Police Chief Ray Rael.

The firing came after the arrest of a man at Walmart in March 2010, a man who later threatened to sue the city saying the officers used excessive force.

Rael’s recommendation for firing Sgt. Troy Baker and Officer Steven Cosban, in addition to the suspensions of two other officers, was highly controversial within the department and especially with the Santa Fe Police Officer’s Association.

Long story short, the biggest problem the rank and file, which has long complained City Hall micromanages the department, had with the decision was that Lt. Dale Lettenberger conducted a lengthy, in-depth internal affairs investigation into the matter and ruled the officers did nothing wrong. Rael, who at the time had been on the job all of 2-3 days after coming over from his previous job at City hall, didn’t like the ruling and basically reassigned the internal investigation to someone else (Deputy Chief Gillian Alessio) who gave him a different finding Rael agreed with.

I heard a couple descriptions on Tuesday of the ruling of Arbitrator Philip B. Davis. One was that it is a “mixed bag” and one said “it’s down the middle.” But while the suspensions of several cops were upheld and disappointing to some officers, I think the big picture is that two officers who had their jobs taken away now have them back after an independent arbitrator ruled the City of Santa Fe was, simply put, wrong in taking their jobs away in the first place.

Here are some highlights (broken down by officer) of Tuesday’s ruling by the arbitrator:

Sgt. Troy Baker

  • Davis ruled there was “no cause” for the city’s policy violation finding charging Baker falsified documents. That was the charge that got him fired so that ruling was reversed and Baker gets his job back.
  • Two violations upheld, resulting in a three-week suspension being upheld.
  • He gets back pay to July 7, less three weeks of unpaid suspension.
  • The City must pay him $4,137.50 in damages resulting in penalties he incurred by taking money out of his deferred compensation plan after the firing.

Officer Steve Cosban

  • Davis ruled there was “no cause” for the city’s policy violation finding charging Baker falsified documents. That was the charge that got him fired so that ruling was reversed and Baker gets his job back.
  • Three violations upheld, resulting in a four-week suspension being upheld.
  • He gets back pay to July 7, less three weeks of unpaid suspension.
  • The City must pay him $2,975 in damages resulting in penalties he incurred by taking money out of his deferred compensation plan and from his PERA account after the firing.

Officer Matthew Champlin

  • One policy violation (illegal search and seizure) was reversed meaning one week of unpaid suspension will have to be repaid to Champlin.
  • Two other policy violations were upheld, resulting in three weeks of suspension remaining.

Officer Dan Parsons

  • Two policy violations upheld, resulting in his three-suspension remaining in place.

Here is a recent article from the arbitration proceedings a couple weeks ago:

Comments
  1. Damn the man! says:

    Aren’t these the cops who got canned for beating the shit out of some guy? And they got their jobs back for it? Figures in this state

    • geoffgrammer says:

      The memos I read through about their firing was based on their alleged falsifying of documents (that’s what arbitrator said there wasn’t evidence of). No officers were fired due to a finding of any excessive force violations in this case.


      Geoff Grammer
      ggrammer@sfnewmexican.com
      On Twitter: @GeoffGrammer

  2. Why no story? says:

    You guys seriously didnt even do an article in the newspaper on this after covering it all year.Explain that one Grammer!!!

    • geoffgrammer says:

      I am off until Thursday and not in the office. I forwarded in an e-mail the ruling to my editors on Tuesday and they got in a short summary on page A6 of today’s paper… certainly not the page 1 treatment the Journal gave it nor the page 1 treatment we’ve given the story in the past, but we did cover it. With me not being in the office, I can’t say for sure why there wasn’t more.

      What I wrote in the blog post above on Tuesday evening I did on my own time not on the newspaper’s dime (pretty much nothing on this blog is actually really on the newspaper’s dime). After the coverage in the past I thought letting readers of this blog know of the ruling was appropriate.


      Geoff Grammer
      ggrammer@sfnewmexican.com
      On Twitter: @GeoffGrammer

  3. charles mackentosh says:

    I am very pleased with the final outcome of this story. In the first place, the City Manager role in this entire mess was inappropriate and unprofessional. The Mayor and the City Manager should both know better not to mix thier city politics in trying to run a law enforcement operations that is out of thier field of expertise, period! The City Police Chief should also know better not to cater to the city hall politics and fall to thier whims. Good for the final ruling from an outside enitity that would allow for those good police officer’s to return back to duty. I wonder what the city attorney is thinking after being slammed by this final ruling for conducting a shoddy legal representation on behalf of the city interests? Shame on them for thinking they had it in the bag. City elections is around the corner and it is time to replace the Mayor, the City Manager, the City Attorney, and definitely, the City Police Chief in this final outcome of this story.

  4. Walter says:

    Since Chief Eric Johnson took office, A lot of officers were getting fired as this is what Mark Allen wanted to ensured that was conducted. All decisions were played as that was standard practice at the time, they wanted and a lot of officers to be ruined and successful. All the Arbitrations were (inside) meaning they were on a list to be used. If Arbitrators on the (inside) didn’t agree with the City, they wouldn’t be used again. Wouldn’t make sense to use any Arbitrator if they wouldn’t be on your side to begine with. Sgt. Baker and Officer Cosban knew from previous experiences from these officer’s who were blackballed, that they had to hire their own attorney and use an (outside) Arbitrator. It was the only way and “just” way to show how the City and the politics ruin them. Kinda crazy during that time, as the Johnsons were under the microscope themselves for missing money and video by the FBI. Filing a false report especially for any police officer, would be a fourth degree felony. I would think as common sense does, the District Attorney or District Court would charge accordingly. Wanna know why they don’t? Because they didn’t!!! If the City said you did, then its stays that way. Not because of evidence or a court of Law stating they did.

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