News

Weiss arbitration battle costs city more than $15K

The city's battle to preserve its suspension of Bainbridge Island Police Officer Scott Weiss over his alleged stalking of a city councilwoman has cost the city more than $15,000 in legal and arbitration fees.

City officials were told last week by an outside arbitrator that it wrongly suspended Weiss for 160 hours without pay after Weiss followed a former councilwoman Kim Brackett through Winslow after a council meeting.

Weiss later blogged about Brackett's visit to another council member's home after the October 2010 council meeting, where Brackett had unsuccessfully tried to get the council to pass a 10 percent cut to the city's general fund. Weiss was president of the city's police union at the time and came to the meeting while on duty, followed Brackett immediately after the council meeting and then wrote a post for a newspaper website the next day that said Brackett "went straight to Bill Knobloch’s house after the council meeting no doubt to commiserate and plan the attack to try & sway or undo the council decisions."

Brackett said she felt like she had been stalked and asked for an investigation. The State Patrol investigated Weiss for "intimidating a public servant" and "stalking" but the Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney's office declined to file charges.

Janet L. Gaunt, the arbitrator who reviewed Weiss' suspension, said in a Feb. 14 decision that the city failed to prove its case that Weiss had put Brackett under surveillance after the council meeting and followed her to Knobloch's home.

Gaunt said the city must now pay Weiss for any lost wages or benefits from his 160-hour suspension.

City officials said Tuesday they had not yet estimated the size of the payment award to Weiss, who was hired as a reserve officer in April 1989 and became a full-time police officer for Bainbridge Island in September 1991.

The alleged stalking incident made headlines at the time, and the city said during Weiss' arbitration that it "caused a further erosion in the level of trust by council members in the police department and generated significant public attention and outrage."

Weiss was put on administrative leave in October 2011 and was suspended without pay from Nov. 9, 2011 through Dec. 3, 2011. He filed a grievance through his union, the Bainbridge Island Police Guild, on Nov. 11, 2011 and the dispute has simmered since.

The full cost of the case to the city is still undetermined.

In the past year, however, the city has spent more than $11,000 for legal work on the case, according to invoices paid by the city to Summit Law Group.

Summit Law Group, a Seattle-based firm, handles employment issues on legal matters for the city and represented the city in the Weiss arbitration affair.

The costs for Gaunt, the arbitrator in the case, total $7,080, according to the invoice Gaunt submitted to the city last week.

The cost of arbitrator services will be split between the city and the police union, with each side paying $3,540.

 

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