Kendra Miller dismissal from Tulsa police force debated in court
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2013
1/18/13 at 7:32 AM
City officials faced Tulsa's Fraternal Order of Police in court Thursday over an arbitrator's decision that makes the city rehire a former police officer who had been accused of but never charged with tipping off suspected criminals about law enforcement raids.
Former Officer Kendra Miller filed a grievance over her firing in 2009. That grievance led to arguments before an arbitrator, as called for by Tulsa's contract with the FOP, Tulsa's police union.
According to the contract, all decisions made through arbitration are binding and cannot be overturned in court.
After several days of arguments in the case during September 2011, the arbitrator decided last July to reverse Miller's firing, saying any provable misconduct for which she was fired should have resulted in only a 30-day suspension with no back pay.
The city filed a lawsuit in August in Tulsa County District Court challenging the arbitrator's authority in ordering Miller's reinstatement.
Miller was fired by former Police Chief Ron Palmer in December 2009 for seven listed policy and rule violations.
Those policies regard duty to be truthful and obedient, conduct unbecoming an officer, two violations related to use of a department vehicle, personal involvement in quarrels and disputes, official business and information, and confidential informants.
The arbitrator, Gary A. Anderson, said that in his judgment only two of the listed reasons for firing Miller were ever proven, thus the city had just cause for discipline on those two counts but not for the others.
The two reasons for which the arbitrator found just cause for discipline were conduct unbecoming an officer - for admitting to a personal relationship with two men who were suspected of criminal activity - and a violation of rules related to her department vehicle after she was found to have invited one of those two men to ride in her patrol car on several occasions without getting permission.
According to court records, Miller had been the subject of an FBI investigation that was inconclusive, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tulsa determined that the investigation did not reveal enough evidence to merit criminal prosecution.
On Thursday, Tulsa County District Judge Mary Fitzgerald heard arguments from attorneys Scott Wood, who represents the FOP and Miller, and James Connor, who represents the city.
Also at the hearing were Police Chief Chuck Jordan, Police Maj. Dennis Larsen, FOP President Clay Ballenger, FOP Chairman Mark Secrist and city attorney Gerald Bender, with several more staff members from Tulsa's Legal Division.
At issue Thursday was whether the arbitrator overstepped his legal bounds while ruling to overturn Miller's firing, Fitzgerald said.
She ordered the court into recess after instructing attorneys to file briefs regarding whether the arbitrator had answered a core question in his ruling - whether the city had just cause for firing Miller - and whether the court has the power to send the case back to arbitration to answer the question.
Wood argued that the arbitration decision itself answered the question of whether Miller should have been fired.
Original Print Headline: Case on police firing argued
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367