Arbitrator Upholds Termination of Former Deputy
Late last week, an Arbitrator’s Opinion and Award letter was received regarding the termination of Travis Smith, a former Deputy. In the letter, Arbitrator Martin Henner found Travis Smith violated Washington statute and that he was untruthful during the investigation into his actions, denying Smith’s grievance of his termination of employment as a Deputy in May 2018.
On May 10, 2019, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office received Arbitrator Henner’s Opinion and Award letter, dated May 7, 2019, regarding the grievance of discipline in the termination of former Deputy Travis Smith. Smith was terminated on May 7, 2018, by Sheriff Knezovich following an internal investigation which found Smith, while investigating a complaint of a violation of a domestic violence no-contact order, recorded telephone calls without all parties’ consent in violation of Washington law and had been dishonest in his responses during a Sheriff’s Office internal investigation.
After his termination, Smith requested the Spokane County Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA) file a grievance on his behalf against Spokane County Sheriff Knezovich under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the DSA and Spokane County.
The grievance asserted the discipline, specifically Smith’s termination, violated the CBA stating Smith’s discipline exceeded the standards of ‘just cause’.
In Arbitrator Henner’s ultimate finding he states, “Because of the seriousness of the Grievant’s [Smith’s] conduct in violating the Washington statute, and, more importantly, the finding that he was untruthful during the investigation of this violation, I have concluded that the Sheriff’s decision to terminate his employment was not unreasonable and satisfies the standard of just cause.” and the grievance was denied.
Smith was previously terminated from employment with the Sheriff’s Office in January of 2011 for misconduct and several policy violations to include a criminal violation of Washington statute (Malicious Mischief 3rd Degree).
At that time, Arbitrator, Shelly C. Shapiro, wrote, “The Sheriff’s conclusion that Grievant [Smith] violated RCW 9A.48.090 was established by clear and convincing evidence.” and she also concluded Smith was guilty of violating several Sheriff’s Office policies noted in the investigations.
Arbitrator Shapiro went on to say, “Despite the serious nature of Grievant’s [Smith] conduct, there are mitigating factors undermining just cause for his termination.” Those factors included the fact that “the criminal acts committed … did not put anyone’s physical safety at risk” and that the “acts were done out of the public view.” She also considered Smith’s youth, his short law enforcement career and his pursuit of an advanced degree after becoming a deputy among additional factors.
Desirous of giving him a chance to correct his behavior, she found ‘just cause’ for a lengthy suspension without pay until his reinstatement in November 2011.
Due to this decision in 2011, the Sheriff’s Office was forced to reinstate Smith as a Deputy in November 2011.