Spokane Mayor David Condon today defended a plan to rehire an alcoholic police sergeant fired after an off-duty drunken driving crash, and to give him back pay.
“This settlement is a legal solution to a problem of financial risk for the City,” Condon said in a news release regarding a settlement with former Spokane police Sergeant Brad Thoma. “We are proposing this settlement to protect taxpayer dollars. Within the state legal constraints we operate under, this is a good legal and financial decision for the City.”
However, Condon said the settlement is “an example of seemingly special treatment enjoyed by a police officer to the frustration of the citizens who employ him.”
“The City’s settlement with Mr. Thoma sends the wrong message,” Condon said. “It does not represent our values.”
Thoma was fired in December 2009 following an arrest for driving under the influence and failure to leave information at the scene of a collision when he hit a pickup truck with his own truck and left the scene. If the Spokane City Council agrees on the deal Monday, Thoma will be rehired in the demoted position of detective and be paid about $275,000 for more than two years back pay and benefits. The city would have to pay his attorney, Bob Dunn, $15,000.
Dunn argued alcoholism is a disability that resulted from the stress of Thoma’s job and that his employer neglected to provide treatment. City officials contended they were unaware of evidence of his alcoholism until he claimed to be one after the crash.
“Citizens are rightly upset by this settlement, and I fear that their frustration could impede our ability to help rebuild confidence in our police department,” Condon said. “Our citizens’ perceptions of our officers are tainted by situations like this.”