SPOKANE, Wash.-- A Superior Court Judge has ruled that members of the Spokane County Civil Service Commission were within their lawful authority when they decided not to immediately terminate Detective Joe Mastel. Instead the commission placed Mastel on unpaid administrative leave.
Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich fired Mastel, a 13-year year sheriff's office veteran, after he was accused of exposing himself to an Airway Heights barista in 2006.
The offense occurred while the detective was off-duty; however Knezovich felt the nature of the criminal act made it inappropriate for him to remain a sheriff's office employee.
Superior Court Judge Rebecca M. Baker ruled that the commission's decision to substitute a form of removal rather than Mastel's termination was not arbitrary and capricious, since it was based upon well-explained reasons, which took into consideration his thirteen years of previously exemplary service as well as his admittedly serious and alarming misconduct at the espresso stand.
Baker said the commission was acting within its authority by electing to "remove" Mastel by means of a combination of suspension and forced retirement, rather than to "discharge" him outright.
The court's decision ends Sheriff Knezovich's ability to challenge the civil service commission's decision to overturn Mastel's firing, but he remains steadfast in his belief that the detective's actions were a serious breach of public trust that warranted his firing.