June 15, 2014 in Opinion

Wally Loucks: Kenoyer facts provide clarity

By Wally Loucks
 

There are particular circumstances involved in the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff Scott Kenoyer disciplinary case that should be placed in the appropriate context so the continued denial of facts is eliminated from this point forward. Opinion varies, but the truth does not, nor should anyone in possession of fact stand idly by while the community is being deprived. Therefore, since I have the knowledge to bring clarity and equilibrium to this matter of public concern, I will disclose accurate information for the community’s benefit.

To begin with, Kenoyer was accused of violating three agency policies, including engaging in sexual conduct while on duty, an allegation he readily admitted to during the administrative investigation. At no time during the course of the investigation was Kenoyer accused of lying or falsifying public records. However, those accusations have been launched since the arbitrator ordered Kenoyer’s reinstatement. Please request an official copy of the arbitration decision from the sheriff’s office.

On Page 5 of the decision, arbitrator Starr Knutson summarizes Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich’s testimony: “Further, the sheriff said that because he (Kenoyer) came in and told the truth he would consider a last chance agreement (LCA).” Yes, Kenoyer told the truth! Now, based upon Kenoyer’s honesty, Knezovich offers additional testimony for the arbitrator to consider during her deliberations.

Again on Page 5, Knezovich states, “… ninety seconds of poor judgment should not waste a fifteen year career.” The union agreed! However, because Kenoyer is a represented employee in the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA), Knezovich should have refrained from directly negotiating the LCA terms with him. Despite the interference, I remained hopeful that we could resolve the entire situation without further legal complications. That hope evaporated quickly on Aug. 15, 2013.

On that day, the sheriff presented me and Kenoyer with a version of the LCA. I was extremely disappointed to read that the sheriff once again sequentially incorporated the previously contested terms “terminate” and “reinstate” into the agreement. As in an LCA drafted in a previous disciplinary case, I respectfully reiterated to Knezovich my numerous concerns with including these operative words in the document.

First of all, the termination was a reversal from the sheriff’s previous statement, and the facts of the case had not changed over the course of the investigation. Remember, Kenoyer was honest! Secondly, the sheriff does not have the authority to reinstate employees under county civil service rules, or through the DSA collective bargaining agreement. In response to my concerns, the sheriff said, “Are you going to sign it (the LCA) or not!” I was worried that if I signed the document, I would not be representing Kenoyer’s continued employment because the unsanctioned reinstatement could be contested by anyone and overturned by the Civil Service Commission. To avoid this problem, I proposed language that accomplished the identical result, conformed to industry standards and civil service rules, and eliminated all of the risk for Kenoyer. The sheriff was not having it, so we could not sign the LCA. Kenoyer was terminated for a single policy violation.

Intransigence prevailed, so a competent, neutral and detached arbitrator was chosen. Knutson readily identified the early and enduring confluence of thought between Knezovich and the DSA while simultaneously finding credibility in the DSA’s concerns regarding the illegal reinstatement. With those factors in mind, Knutson modified the unlawful LCA to conform to industry standards and civil service rules, and preserved the sheriff’s belief that Kenoyer’s career was salvageable.

Wally Loucks is the president of the Spokane County Deputy Sheriffs Association.


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