SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A Spokane police officer fired in 2009 after driving drunk while off duty, hitting a pickup with his truck and leaving the scene of the collision is likely to be rehired and get more than two years of back pay totaling about $275,000.
The Spokesman Review reports that in a settlement mediated by the Washington State Human Rights Commission, Brad Thoma will be rehired March 1 in a demoted position of detective, if the Spokane City Council agrees to the deal on Monday. Prior to his firing in December 2009, Thoma was a sergeant.
Under the agreement, the city will also pay his attorney $15,000. Thoma's attorney, Bob Dunn, argues that job-related stress
led Thoma to alcoholism and should be regarded as a disability.
Spokane Mayor David Condon today is releasing a statement on a proposed settlement that would return Brad Thoma to work at the Spokane Police Department with back pay. Thoma was terminated from his job as a Police Sergeant in December 2009, following an arrest for DUI and failure to leave information at the scene of a collision.
STATEMENT FROM SPOKANE MAYOR DAVID CONDON:
"The City's settlement with Mr. Thoma sends the wrong message to our community; it does not represent our values. This settlement is an example of seemingly special treatment enjoyed by a police officer to the frustration of the citizens who employ him.
"This settlement is a legal solution to a problem of financial risk for the City. We are proposing this settlement to protect taxpayer dollars. Within the state legal constraints we operate under, this is a good legal and financial decision for the City.
"Citizens are rightly upset by this settlement, and I fear that their frustration could impede our ability to help rebuild public confidence in our Police Department. Our citizens' perceptions of our officers are tainted by situations like this."
In part, the settlement addresses a recent change in law. Under a deferred prosecution agreement, Thoma was required to use an ignition interlock device to drive a vehicle. As a result it was determined that he couldn't meet the basic requirements of the job, and he was terminated.
The law changed in January 2011, making an ignition interlock device unnecessary as part of deferred prosecution agreement; additionally, the change was retroactive to include Thoma's deferred prosecution agreement. Thoma's full driving privileges were restored as a result.
Additionally, in the interim, according to the Washington State Human Rights Commission, at least 10 other law enforcement agencies in the state had signed waivers allowing officers to drive government-owned vehicles without the interlock devices required by their deferred prosecution arrangements. The waivers served as reasonable accommodation that kept other officers employed.
The settlement would resolve three pending issues: A grievance by the Police Guild, a civil claim by Mr. Thoma, and a complaint with the state Human Rights Commission, asserting failure to accommodate a disability.