Friday, December 14, 2012

Termination of Deputy for release of law enforcement information upheld

Grievant was employed as a Deputy by Wright County Minnesota Sheriff's Office. Her employment was terminated for allegedly sharing private law enforcement information with a cousin and lying about it during an investigation of the issue.

Grievant was alleged to have provided her cousin, who was in a custody dispute with the mother of his child, with law enforcement information concerning the mother's release from the hospital and the possible existence of outstanding warrants. The mother had previously complained to the Sheriff's Office about a claimed improper disclosure. An investigation of that incident was inconclusive, but the Sheriff counseled Grievant about improperly sharing law enforcement information. When the mother again complained about the release of confidential information the Sheriff questioned Grievant about the allegation. She initially denied having released information, but when confronted with a recording of a voice mail message she had left for her cousin acknowledged sharing information with him. Her employment was terminated and the Wright County Deputies Association filed a grievance on her behalf and pursued the matter to arbitration.

Arbitrator Stephen Befort denied the grievance. He overruled a challenge to the admissibility of the recorded voice mail message and concluded that Grievant had engaged in the conduct alleged. He also found Grievant's claim that she had not recalled leaving the message not credible.

Rejecting the Union's argument that termination was too severe for the offenses alleged, the Arbitrator noted:

Law enforcement officers are held to a high standard of conduct because they serve as society’s thin blue line of security and safety. As Sheriff Hagerty aptly summarized, [Grievant's] conduct
falls short of this norm in that it undermines the integrity of the Wright County Sheriff’s Office and violates the public trust in fair and unbiased law enforcement. Under these circumstances, the Employer’s discharge decision constitutes an appropriate remedy.

Arbitrator Befort's award can be found

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