Although the Spokane Police Guild filed a grievance in Sgt. Brad Thoma’s defense, the union on Friday called Thoma’s behavior when he drove drunk and fled from the scene of a collision “reprehensible.”
Attempts made Friday to reach Detective Ernie Wuthrich, the president of the guild, were unsuccessful, but he said in a statement provided by Quinn Group Advertising that dues-paying members deserve the guild’s support.
“What Brad Thoma did that night was reprehensible. The former chief and former mayor took the action they deemed necessary and Brad Thoma took the action he deemed necessary,” the statement said. “The Police Guild gave Thoma the support that our charter guarantees every member. From there the final decision lies in the legal process and any settlements that come between the two parties in conflict.”
The guild has been facing increasing public criticism for blocking police reform measures. Last year the City Council was forced to repeal its more stringent police ombudsman law after it was successfully challenged by the guild, which argued that their membership must approve the change as a matter of working conditions. Wuthrich has said the guild isn’t necessarily opposed to proposed reforms as long as they are properly negotiated.
The guild also is facing pressure from within its ranks, according to former Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick.
In her application for Phoenix police chief, which was recently made public, Kirkpatrick accused the guild of promoting a “deep seated culture that has not kept up with community values and expectations.”
“I understand that some members of the Guild have approached the president and have asked him to step down,” Kirkpatrick wrote. “The sergeants have now petitioned to separate from the guild.”
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.
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. The guild filed a grievance over his firing, and Thoma filed a civil claim and complaint over his firing with the state Human Rights Commission.
Thoma has argued that the city discriminated against him because he is an alcoholic, according to the complaint filed with the state commission.
He said the city “became aware of my need for accommodation” in November 2009, which was after his collision but before he was fired.
The commission helped broker a settlement that would have allowed Thoma to be rehired in the demoted position of detective on March 1, plus receive back pay of $275,000 based on his pay as a sergeant. His attorney would have received $15,000.
But the director of the Human Rights Commission delayed approval of the settlement and requested a new review of the case, and Mayor David Condon said Thursday that he would delay a decision on the deal until the commission’s new examination is complete.
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