A Spokane sheriff’s deputy fired for having sex on duty has been reinstated by a state arbitrator.
Deputy Scott Kenoyer will have to sign a last-chance disciplinary agreement to get his job back along with back pay. The agreement will essentially put him on probation for two years, during which time he could be fired if he has any new disciplinary problems.
The discipline includes a 60-day suspension without pay.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich dismissed Kenoyer in August 2013 after he admitted having sex with a woman while on duty earlier that year. He initially told Knezovich that he was on break, but the sheriff later discovered that Kenoyer had told dispatchers he was on a citizen contact.
Knezovich offered Kenoyer a last-chance agreement that called for his termination and then immediate reinstatement on a five-year probationary period.
Kenoyer declined the offer from Knezovich and was fired. He appealed to the state Public Employment Relations Commission, which sent an arbitrator based in Hawaii to Spokane for the grievance hearing.
Arbitrator Starr Knutson said Kenoyer had a clean record in his 15 years on the force and was truthful when confronted about the incident.
“The grievant expressed remorse over his actions several times,” Knutson said in her decision.
“Contrary to the employer’s assertions, I believe that the grievant’s clean record and the sheriff’s willingness to offer the grievant an opportunity to correct his behavior indicate that the grievant is capable of being rehabilitated,” Knutson said.
The arbitrator also rejected as flawed the county’s offer of a last-chance agreement following termination and reinstatement.
The arbitrator acknowledged two other Spokane cases in which deputies were fired for sex on duty. One involved a minor and another involved exposure of genitalia at a drive-up coffee stand in Airway Heights.
“I do not believe this case involved misconduct of a similar level; this instance took place in a private residence with a woman who admitted dating the grievant,” Knutson wrote.
The decision was issued May 15.
On Friday, Knezovich said that having sex on duty is a serious violation. Deputies must be available during their shifts to respond to life-threatening emergencies at a moment’s notice, he said.
“I find it very disturbing that sex on duty is OK as long as no one sees it,” Knezovich said.
The incident came to light during an investigation of a Spokane police officer suspected of stalking and harassing the same woman. The police officer, Jeff Graves, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing, but he subsequently resigned. The woman told investigators in the Graves case that Kenoyer went to her home and solicited oral sex. She also said that they had a dating relationship and that Kenoyer would get her drunk and then they would have sex.
Knezovich is facing fellow Republican Douglas Orr in this fall’s election.
Orr noted that the sheriff had initially sought a 60-day suspension and last-chance agreement, which was the appropriate discipline for the case.
“I agree with the sheriff,” Orr said.
Knezovich said Friday he believes firing is the appropriate discipline.
Knezovich has lost two other grievances that resulted in a deputy and a jailer getting their jobs back after being fired despite evidence they had violated the law. The sheriff has unsuccessfully sought legislation to limit arbitrators’ ability to reinstate officers.
Deputy Walter Loucks, president of the Spokane County Deputy Sheriffs Association, said he had expected Kenoyer to win his appeal to the Public Employment Relations Commission. Loucks pointed out that the woman involved in the incident declined to be interviewed by investigators, leaving the sheriff without a strong case.
The county was charged $3,600 for the arbitrator’s work and travel expenses in the Kenoyer case.