Spokane slapped with $4 million lawsuit following Thoma settlement rejection



Posted on February 28, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 28 at 7:46 PM

SPOKANE-- The City Council shot down a settlement agreement on Monday night with fired Spokane Police Sergeant Brad Thoma.

Thoma's attorney is firing back with his own harsh words and a $4 million lawsuit.

Spokane City Council voted unanimously to reject a settlement agreement with fired officer Brad Thoma.

Council-member Salvatori said Monday, “Some battles are fought for principle and some battles are fought for dollars. When you fight for principles you fight until hell freezes over and then you fight on the ice."

Thoma's Attorney Bob Dunn said, "That comment to me shows the ignorance of the city council or at least this particular city council person who doesn't know the law or knows the law and doesn't care what the law says and is brave enough to say we'll fight the state law and the federal law with tax payer dollars."   

Dunn says his client was fired after the city refused to accommodate Thoma following a doctor's diagnosis of alcoholism. "Disability law clearly identifies that alcoholism is just that a disability. Washington follows the ADA."

The case started in 2009 when Thoma hit another vehicle while driving drunk then fled the scene.

That portion was a settled criminal case. His current complaint is civil regarding to his termination.

"This is a civil matter having to do with his employment situation,” said Dunn. “Those are two unrelated matters the bottom line was he was punished for drinking and driving and then he was punished again for being an employee that was caught drinking and driving."   

Thoma's lawyer says he was discriminated against when the police department failed to accommodate Thoma’s disability of alcoholism.

They wouldn't allow an interlock device on a patrol vehicle and Thoma refused to take a desk job. Other compromise failed and Thoma was fired

The argument of alcoholism as a disability enflamed the public and council.

The city council says it's a battle worth fighting.

Council member Salvatori said, "I acknowledge there's some financial risk to rejecting this financial settlement it's a risk worth taking I believe it's the right thing to do."

Dunn says the $4 million lawsuit is what Thoma would make in salary and benefits if employed until retirement.

Dunn filled the lawsuit Tuesday afternoon. He says the city has 30 days to respond.

Thoma had filed a grievance with the human rights commission claiming he was discriminated against based on his disability of alcoholism. Their portion of the investigation was not finalized and it's thrown months worth of negotiations into a tail spin.

Fired Spokane Police Sergeant Brad Thoma was scheduled to be rehired March 1st. That came to a halt last week. The three party agreements involved the city, Thoma and the human rights commission.

The HRC is currently investigating Thoma’s complaint that he was discriminated against when he was fired in 2009.

The Spokane HRC office sent their final recommendations to management in Olympia, that's when the settlement stalled.

The HRC office says they have 800 to 1,000 cases open at one time. It's not unusual the Olympia office was unaware of the negotiations.

Late last night Thoma’s attorney filed another settlement proposal withdrawing the HRC complaint and offering to drop the attorney's fees from the total, essentially eliminating the HRC from the agreement.

The second settlement was filed so late Monday night the city has not had time to review it as an option.
At this point the city could choose to fight the lawsuit or reach a new settlement.
The HRC report will not be finalized until late March at the earliest.