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Spokane City Council rejects Thoma settlement

UPDATED: Mon., Feb. 27, 2012, 6:42 p.m.

The Spokane City Council voted 6-0 to reject a proposed settlement with fired Spokane Police Sgt. Brad Thoma.

Meanwhile, the attorney who represents Thoma, Bob Dunn, said Monday that Thoma has requested that his complaint with the state Human Rights Commission about his firing be withdrawn.

Council members said they have been slammed by complaints from citizens angered that Thoma could be rehired.

“From my perspective, it sends a bad message to give him his job back and back pay at the same time we’re trying to restore trust back in the police department,” said Council President Ben Stuckart.

Councilman Mike Fagan said the potential of hiring back Thoma is a sign that the state’s labor laws are out-of-whack.

“I not only say no, but I say hell no,” Fagan said.

Dunn noted that the deal already was signed by Mayor David Condon. He said if the council doesn’t approve the settlement by noon Wednesday, he will file a lawsuit. Soon after Thoma was fired he filed a claim with the city that set his damages at $4 million.

“The message from Stuckart is: ‘We don’t care what federal law is. We don’t care what state law is. We’re going to make Spokane law.’ Well, Spokane law is going to get him sued,” Dunn said. “They don’t need to get sued. We have an agreement.”

Thoma was driving a pickup in September 2009 when he hit another pickup near the intersection of Farwell Road and U.S. Highway 2, then drove away.

The rejected settlement was mediated by the Washington State Human Rights Commission. If it had been approved Brad Thoma would have be rehired March 1 in a demoted position of detective. Prior to his firing in December 2009, Thoma was a sergeant.

Thoma also would have been paid about $275,000 for back pay and benefits, and the city would have paid Dunn $15,000. The back pay is based on the amount Thoma earned as a sergeant.

Thoma, whose blood alcohol level was measured 0.171 after the crash, avoided criminal prosecution under an agreement approved in Spokane County District Court.

He was fired by the city in December 2009 after he declined an offer for an opportunity for other city work during the time he would have been required to have a breath test installed in his car in order to start it. The Spokane Police Guild filed a grievance over his firing, and Thoma filed a civil claim and complaint over his firing with the state Human Rights Commission.

The Human Rights Commission later backed away from the agreement, and last week Mayor David Condon said he wanted the City Council to delay a vote on it until the commission finished a new review of the case.

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