Lieutenant Loses Appeal Of Termination Because Inadequate Record Made Of Civil Service Proceedings

Roger L. Skinner was a lieutenant with the Medina, Washington Police Department. Following an internal investigation in February 2006, the City discharged Skinner.

Skinner appealed his termination to the Medina Civil Service Commission. The hearing was electronically recorded. The Commission affirmed the Department’s decision to terminate Skinner, finding that the City had complied with due process and discharged Skinner in good faith for cause.

Skinner challenged the Commission’s decision in court. Almost immediately, a problem developed with the audio recordings of the Commission’s proceedings. A court reporter hired to transcribe the recordings described a significant number of “gaps” in the recordings. The City then took the position that the lack of a complete record meant Skinner could no longer challenge the Commission’s decision.

The Washington Court of Appeals agreed with the City and upheld Skinner’s discharge. The Court found that under Washington’s civil service laws, “a certified transcript of the hearing must be provided before the Court can hear and determine whether discharge was in good faith for cause. Here, the unchallenged findings establish that the certified transcript of the record contains significant gaps in the testimony of critical witnesses, ranging from 36 minutes to 50:30 minutes. The unchallenged Superior Court findings support the conclusion that the record was inadequate for meaningful review.”

Skinner v. Civil Service Com’n, 2011 WL 5555850 (Wash. App. 2011).

This article appears in the February 2012 issue.