SPOKANE-- The Spokane City Council voted on Monday night against a settlement in which a Spokane police officer fired in 2009 after a DUI and hit and run, would have been rehired and received $275,000.
Public testimony on the matter was accepted.
In a settlement mediated by the Washington State Human Rights Commission, Brad Thoma was set to be rehired March 1 in a demoted position of detective, if the Spokane City Council agreed to the deal on Monday.
Councilmember Mike Fagan said during the City Council meeting, "I not only say no, but I say hell no."
Councilwoman Amber Waldref says before the detective was fired the city offered him a desk job where he wouldn’t have to drive.
Thoma will not be rehired; will not receive $275,000 in back pay.
Last week, Mayor David Condon had asked the Council to table the item, while the State Human Rights Commission proceeds with an additional review of the matter that includes a claim of disability discrimination. The Executive Direction of the state commission asked for an additional 30 days for that review.
Thoma’s lawyer Bob Dunn says his client plans to sue the City of Spokane and Anne Kirkpatrick for $4 million, if the settlement is rejected.
The council stands by its vote, but it also acknowledges the unanimous decision leaves the city open to a lawsuit.
Spokane mayor David Condon said the settlement sends the wrong message about drinking and driving. “This isn't something that I stand by, but also I am a person living within the law and I have to uphold the law, live within the law of the state.”
Condon says a settlement in this case saves taxpayer dollars rather than going through a costly trial. “If the human rights commission says there was discrimination, you better believe I’m going to look at that recommendation.”
Prior to his firing in December 2009, Thoma was a sergeant.
Under the agreement, the city would 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.
The Spokane Police Department posted these comments on their Facebook page:
City of Spokane Police Department: Thoma received a deferred prosecution agreement after his 2009 arrest for DUI. As a result, it was determined that he couldn't meet the basic requirements of the job and was terminated. State law changed, restoring his full driving privileges in January 2011. The City of Spokane worked with Thoma to negotiate his return to work. Thoma was never convicted of a felony.
City of Spokane Police Department: RCW 46.61.502 is the Washington State Law regarding DUI. Determining a felony vs. a misdemeanor hit and run depends on extent of injuries during the crash. The change in state law was in regards to the ignition interlock device and driving privileges. Sadly, our community has experienced several alcohol related crashes lately.
The police department says it has been receiving a lot of comments from the community about the disapproval over the settlement.