A Way the County Board Could Save a Little Cash

Greg Pyle

Friday night my wife and I were discussing the appropriateness of putting employees on administrative leave and still paying them.

This came up because of the apparently discretionary power McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren has to keep employees on the payroll after they have been suspended for having been arrested on felony warrants.

The case in point is Sergeant Greg Pyle, who was put on administrative leave–paid administrative leave–the money after he was arrested on ten counts of Criminal Predatory Sexual Assault.

In answer to my request for “documents explaining why Pyle is still on the payroll,” the FOI Office for the Sheriff’s Department replied,

“We do not have any document(s) that would supply an answer to your question in the second part of your request.”

That seems to mean that McHenry County has no personnel policy that gives direction when a county employee is arrested for a felony.

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After writing this, there were a couple of comments on the original article about Pyle’s still being on the public payroll.  I reprint them below because I think they add to the debate.

Justin says
03/10/2012 at 9:46 am

This is not a Nygren decision or a McHenry Co decision; it is based upon public employee law.

Until PYLE is convicted, and I’m sure he will be, he can not be subject to without pay status which would summarily be punishment.

Like it or not, employee law prevents agencies from yanking the pay of those accused of crimes.

He also can not be interviewed subject to an internal investigation due to his pending criminal case.

Doing such would jeopardize his Fifth Amendment rights and also goes counter to other disciplinary act issues.

Rather than risk the criminal charges being thrown out, he must remain on paid status.

Nygren could ask he be placed on unpaid status, but there are legal precedents which say that doing so prejudices the case and economic award have been issued for denial of pay.

The Chicago cop that beat the snot out of that bartender was on pay status right up to the day he was fired and that was AFTER the guilty plea.

FYI…get a copy of the department flow chart and you’ll see that with the exception of a couple specialty units, there are far more than 2-3 employees per supervisor especially on patrol.

Not all supervisors are scheduled to work on the same days; so if the shift shows THREE Sgt’s, only two would be working and one off.

Add in vacation and personal time off and often it is only ONE supervisor running an entire shift.

You sound sour grapes.

really? says:
03/10/2012 at 4:24 pm (Edit)

Justin,

You are a bit off.

Public employee law does not forbid government from interviewing Pyle.

MCSO is not the investigating body here-I thought ISP was (as it should be to prevent a conflict of interest).

Under public employee law (see Garrity Rights), MCSO can (and I would say should) conduct a separate, administrative internal investigation into Pyle’s conduct.

Pyle could be compelled to testify and ordered to answer each and every question (which would exclude the answers from being used in the criminal case).

There are Due Process considerations because Pyle is employed by a government body and any sanction taken against him must be Constitutionally sound.

Now, I would argue that Pyle’s indictment would be a substantial step towards civilly proving his “guilt”-(since that is the burden for termination-even for a union protected employee) and enough to move him to non-compensated status.

Justin says:
03/10/2012 at 10:59 pm

@ Really…. Correct, Garrity does pertain to compelled statements and on its face seems to be a no brainer.

The Garrity Rights or Garrity Rule states that a department member may be compelled to give statements under threat of discipline or discharge but those statements may not be used in the criminal prosecution of the individual officer however it becomes a very volatile situation in that there is a high risk that anything learned under Garrity could affect the criminal prosecution.

Garrity is good for the employee, bad for the prosecution.

Please go review U.S v Oliver North [United States v. North, 910 F.2d 843 (D.C. Cir. 1990] and then ask if a bifurcated investigation invoking Garrity is really worth the chance of compromising the prosecution of the criminal case.

The US had old Ollie North dead cold in the Iran-Contra affair yet Congress felt fit to make him testify which they legally could do, just as the Sheriff could compel Pyle to give testimony in an internal.

The testimony or transcripts are discoverable plus to fire Pyle would require a Merit Hearing at which point they could become public.

Under North, the burden fell upon the prosecution to prove that none of the testimony was shared, learned or that the potential jury pool was not in any way contaminated. A very slippery slope. (Remember North prevailed)

There is a good deal of controversy about precisely what the limitations are on the use of the statement or the fruits of any Garrity statements.

There are volumes, but mostly rule in favor of the compelled employee, nota good omen for the local prosecution.

The federal court of appeals in the case involving the prosecution of Oliver North held that a prosecutor has an affirmative burden of proving that all testimony must be free of any taint from the immunized statement.

In the words of the court: “The District Court must hold a full hearing that will inquire into the content as well as the sources of the grand jury and trial witnesses’ testimony. That inquiry must proceed witness by witness, line by line and item by item. For each grand jury and trial witness, the [prosecution] must show by a preponderance of the evidence that no use whatsoever was made of any of the immunized testimony.” (Like I said, North prevailed)

The ISP is the lead agency on the criminal case, however if Pyle is ordered to answer at the Sheriff’s IA, he would simply refuse, and then the Sheriff would assert Garrity and compel a statement.

Either way he could be fired for disobeying a direct order or the appropriate violation of departmental conduct.

Sound easy BUT he now later returns alleging his constitutional rights of self incrimination was denied since he was under the duress of the criminal charges.

Okay so he is off the county payroll for the short term but wins a huge award from the county at minimum all back pay to the date of conviction.

His defense attorney will launch the appeal that the testimony was potentially shared with the ISP investigators or that his firing became prejudicial to the jury as a tacit indication of guilt.

Sometimes it is better making a short term payment rather than a huge payment later.

We all know the results of hasty terminations.

I do not have a dog in this fight; I just try to see logical outcomes without emotion.

That said. I think if he is convicted, Pyle should spend a LONG time in prison.

Regarding Merit Commission hearing, I am not too familiar with the workings of the local Merit Commission, but in most Municipal Employee suspensions, without pay is tantamount to firing.

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You can read the other eight comments here.


Comments

A Way the County Board Could Save a Little Cash — 3 Comments

  1. There could be several explanations for the denial of the FOIA request:

    1. Possibly, there is no policy about unpaid suspension of employees after felony charges are filed; or

    2. The Sheriff has been careful not to create any documents saying that Pyle should be kept on the payroll; or

    3. There are no documents referencing Pyle AND “payroll”.

    Top brass at MCSD may have directed that your request be examined under a microscope. Rather than determining how to comply, they found a reason to deny. It might choose to deny based on your word “payroll”.

    In a future request, you might make it so broad that MCSD could not avoid responding by requesting “any and all documentation pertaining to Sgt. Pyle and his compensation and benefits including, but not limited to, reports, records, memoranda, inter-office correspondence, intra-office correspondence, email to or from any MCSD employee, Post-It notes, scratch paper, letters, faxes and any other means of documentation that is related to paid or unpaid status following his arrest in January 2012 on felony charges.”

    No doubt there are numerous reports within the records of MCSD pertaining to Pyle since the date of his arrest. MCSD could claim exemption from FOIA by claiming personnel-file or disciplinary connection.

  2. Gus – you hit the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned.

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