If volume is what counts, McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren’s attorney John Kelly won.
I was wishing for a microphone for Judge Thomas Meyer and Zane Seipler’s attorney Heidi Parker. It would have made it possible for those in the room to hear what was going on more clearly.
As usual, the Judge Meyer had done his homework.
“The arbitrator (Martin Matlin) ruled there was no just cause of dismissal,” Judge Meyer said at the beginning of the hearing, adding that the arbitrator had said there was just cause for discipline.
The question at hand was whether the judge should uphold the arbitrator’s reinstatement of Seipler as a Sheriff’s Deputy.
Nygren’s attorney disagreed that the arbitrator had interpreted “just cause” properly.
Meyer said that the arbitrator’s decision on whether Seipler would “re-offend was critical.”
“Aren’t you asking me to replace (the arbitrator’s) authority with my authority? I think that goes beyond my (authority),” Meyer told Nygren’s lawyer at one point.
“The issue is whether that decision is contrary to public policy,” he continued.
After the Sheriff had dismissed Seipler, the question went to an arbitrator, pursuant to the FOP union contract, and the arbitrator ruled that Seipler’s infraction merited a weekend off without pay, not outright dismissal.
From the arguments made by Seipler’s attorney, I gather than another deputy, a woman, had done pretty much the same thing Seipler had, but had not been fired.
Nygren’s lawyer was arguing that public policy should override the rather narrow administrative review role typically applied by judges in cases where facts had been determined by a hearing officer.
That public policy was that a police department should not have to keep a person on the payroll who had falsely issued a ticket.
Seipler’s attorney countered that, if that were to be the standard, Nygren was being selective in applying it, especially, in view of the woman who was still on the force.
“That’s where the other officer’s discipline gets involved,” Judge Meyer interjected. “I’m wondering why” (the same standard was not applied for both deputies).
“Public policy was not raised in that case because it didn’t go anywhere,” Kelly said.
“She (the other deputy) was charged with falsification. That is exactly the same charge that Deputy Zane Seipler has,” his attorney explained. “She intentionally wrote tickets for people who were not offenders.”
In Seipler’s situation, “He gave people a choice.”
He saw the driver was unlicensed and gave the people a choice whether (the other person in the car) should move over to the other seat and take the ticket (for something else or not).”
Zeroing in on the FOP argument, Judge Meyer asked, “Does that prohibit them from ever terminating anyone for writing false tickets?”
“No,” was Seipler’s attorney’s response.
“Both (cases) involved giving the driver a choice of taking the ticket or not,” she continued.
“He didn’t give people a choice,” Nygren’s attorney said.
‘It’s not my job to determine what the facts are in this case,” Judge Meyer reminded the litigants.
No remediation or progressive discipline was called for by the arbitrator, he also pointed out.
“(In) what (situation) can a sheriff fire someone?” Kelly asked. “Now, we’ve got two cases. Alright, do we have to keep all these people on the department?”
Meyer agreed that “we don’t want deputies writing tickets (to people who don’t deserve them),” but wonder, “How is this a public policy case?”
The judge will issue his decision in open court on September 10th.
Sheriff Keith Nygren, attired in business suit, and his new Chief Deputy Andy Zinke were in the courtroom.