February 6, 2010 in City

Tucker places Stevens on leave

Deputy who is running for county prosecuter in trouble with his boss
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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A Spokane County deputy prosecutor who announced this week that he’s running for his boss’s job has been placed on paid leave and faces possible discipline.

Prosecutor Steve Tucker said his complaints against David Stevens are “obviously” connected to Stevens’ decision to challenge him in the August primary, but he declined to specify further, citing contract rules.

Stevens has until Wednesday to respond to a letter sent to him Friday by Tucker.

Stevens declined to release a copy of the letter but said Tucker wrote in it that Stevens had “violated behavioral standards by not effectively communicating with other county employees and not getting along with other co-workers and managers.”

The move comes one day after Stevens announced his candidacy and blasted Tucker’s leadership in the prosecutor’s office, calling him an “absent administrator.”

Tucker questioned Thursday why “the public should be paying somebody to run against his boss” and noted that he resigned as a deputy prosecutor before challenging the incumbent, Jim Sweetser, in 1998.

Stevens has been with the prosecutor’s office since 2002. He concentrates on prosecuting career criminals.

Tucker said Friday that he couldn’t comment on his complaints against Stevens while the allegations are pending.

“He’s not being punished, (but) there’s punishment possible,” Tucker said. “If he can explain everything we’ve given him there may not be any discipline.”

Union contracts allow deputy prosecutors to contest complaints before being disciplined.

“He has time to respond, and I’m not to make any determination until after that,” Tucker said. “It’s due process rights that are in the contract.”

Stevens said he still plans to run. He said he’s discussing his options with union representatives and might ask for more time to respond to Tucker’s letter.

He declined to comment on the allegations or the decision to place him on leave.

“I’m not going to speculate as to what their motives are,” he said.

This week, Stevens, 47, won an endorsement from the Spokane County Republican Party.

Party Chairwoman Cindy Zapotocky said Thursday that Tucker hasn’t yet asked for an endorsement but she doesn’t foresee any obstacles to him also receiving the party’s stamp of approval.

Tucker was elected prosecutor in 1998, 2002 and 2006. One of his initial acts as prosecutor after the first election was to fire five employees, including his former supervisor, who suspended Tucker from his deputy prosecutor position for five days in 1997.

Tucker had been punished for regularly missing meetings and other performance issues. Tucker argued the suspension was politically motivated and said Friday that unlike Stevens, he wasn’t allowed a chance to contest the allegations against him.


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