Reserve Officer Cruz asks for back pay
TONASKET — Tonasket Police Chief Darin Odegaard was fired for the second time in less than a week after a special meeting of the Tonasket City Council held on Thursday, Dec. 20 to evaluate his performance.
The purpose of the meeting was to hold a closed door executive session pursuant to RCW 42.30.110(g) to review the performance of a public employee and pursuant to RCW 30.110 1(i) to discuss with legal counsel representing the agency.
On Monday, Dec 17, 2018, Chief Odegaard and Reserve Officer John J. Cruz were each served with a notice of termination by Mayor Dennis Brown. Within hours of that termination, the mayor reversed his decision and reinstated Odegaard along with a Notice of Discipline which consisted of two weeks off duty without pay and the condition that Chief Odegaard’s six month probation be extended for 12 months.
After further deliberation, Mayor Brown reversed the reinstatement and dismissed Odegaard again.
The mayor also served Reserve Officer Cruz, who was reinstated by Odegaard on Dec. 20, with a Notice of Dismissal. Cruz then submitted a notice of resignation, according to a press release from the city.
“The above dismissals and separation from service are based upon, but not limited to, the fact that John. J. Cruz who is a Limited Commission Officer in the State of Washington, was serving on a full time basis with the Tonasket Police Department without proper commission or proper training in violation of RCW 10.93.020(5), RCW 43.101.095, RCW 43.101.200 and WAC 193-05-810,” reads the press release.
In an interview with Mayor Brown, he said, he hopes the community is able to move forward together in unity.
“We have one officer right now. The Safety Committee will set up his hours and the Sheriff’s Department will take care of the rest,” said Brown.
Mayor Brown added that the city’s lone remaining police officer, José Perez, a recent graduate of the Police Academy, is able to work without a chief as he will come under the supervision of the mayor.
“We will be putting out for a new police chief job and a new lateral officer job as soon as possible” said Brown.
The mayor had a positive outlook about the future of the Tonasket Police Department.
“We will get through this, we’ll pick up, and we will have to start over again, but we will get through this,” said Brown.
The Tonasket Civil Service board held a special meeting on Saturday, Dec. 22 to discuss and review civil service rules and current city police matters. At that meeting a written request for back pay made by Cruz was discussed.
“Under the Policy and Procedures manual, I request that I recieve all of my on-call hours from July, August, September, October and for the partial month of November be paid at the minimum wage rate cited. This has been paid to all former law enforcement employees historically,” said Cruz.
Timesheets and calculated hours were also attached to his letter. The hours totaled 568. Cruz also stated in the letter that he paid $3158.38 into a retirement fund that he said he did not qualify for according to Washington Administrative Code (WAC 415-104-0111) retirement standards for law enforcement employees.
Cruz is also requesting all money paid in to that fund be returned to him without penalty.
See www.gazette-tribune to read a full copy of the press release concerning the Odegaard and Cruz dismissal.