Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Civil service board rejects city move to re-hire, demote chief


June 6, 2019

A Colfax city move to reinstate Rick McNanny as police chief, issue him back pay since the date he was terminated Jan. 17 and then demote him was rejected by the Colfax Civil Service Commission in a session Tuesday afternoon. The commission session on their normal first Tuesday meeting day featured arguments from attorneys for both sides, with McNanny and Mayor Todd Vanek seated at opposite tables before the three-member commission.

Leslie Cloaninger, retired Colfax lawyer who chairs the commission, said she didn't believe the city could take the action because it would remove McNanny's appeal of his firing and the opportunity for a hearing on the city's action.

She said once the appeal was filed by McNannay after his Jan. 17 dismissal, the city could not take the appeal out of the hands of the commission.

Commissioners John Kehne and Rob Aucutt agreed with the decision.

Cloaninger also said she believes one of the two contentions listed by the city for the firing, perjury, has been removed by the city's letter to McNannay.

She said the appeal hearing should now consider only the city's contention that McNannay was dishonest.

During the meeting , board members and both sides referred to deposition accounts which have been made by potential witnesses for the actual hearing which jas been scheduled to begin July 29.

Cloaninger said Tuesday she believes the "big question" before the civil service board will be to determine whether or not "this was a political firing."

Cloaninger at the outset of Tuesday's civil service session also discounted the role of Clear Risk Solutions, the Ephrata firm which conducted the review of McNannay's actions and was cited by the city in the January termination. She said Clear Risk was associated with an insurance pool and basically working for the city and not as an independent investigator.

All three commissioners questioned the city's failure to conduct progressive discipline sessions with McNannay in the weeks leading up to the dismissal. Aucutt noted the procedure should require a written statement of what needs to be improved and a subsequent check that the employee had made the required adjustments.

McNannay was actually placed on administrative leave Oct. 16 of last year and then officially fired by the mayor Jan. 10 and then fired again on Jan. 17.

Accounts Tuesday indicated McNannay received a letter May 29 notifying him that he was restored to the chief's position and would be paid at that level for four-plus months he had been fired.

It added, he would subsequently be demoted for the alleged shortcomings and required him to return to work June 10.

Spokane Attorney Ronald Van Wirt, who represented the city, argued the city's notice effectively ends McNannay's appeal on being fired as chief because it returned him to the chief's position.

He added McNannay would have the option to file an appeal on the demotion with the city's civil service panel.

Cloaniger in her opening statement Tuesday said the letter sent to McNannay goes "a long way to prove the basis of the firing was wrong."

She added parts of the letter, including addressing McNannay as "Rick" were disturbing.


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