Grievance against OPD heard again

Jun 22 2011 - 11:43pm

OGDEN -- A well-traveled complaint against the Ogden Police Department's practice of allowing selected high-ranking officers to "double dip" salary and pension returned Wednesday to the city's Civil Service Commission.

Sgt. Blaine Clifford maintains the department refused to promote him to lieutenant in early 2007 despite his ranking first in an exam for the position and instead appointed returning retiree Lt. Mike Ashment.

Chiefly, the grievance claims the treatment of Clifford was part of a regular practice, that four other sergeants have been passed over in favor of retirees returning to the department to double dip.

It claims the city violated its own policies and state law in holding the position open for six months without recruiting to fill it and not requiring the returning retiree to take the lieutenant's exam.

Complaints from officers triggered a Utah Retirement Systems investigation of the double-dipping in 2009, which resulted in no sanctions but continued monitoring, announced earlier this year by the URS.

Clifford first took his grievance to the Civil Service Commission in September 2007. The grievance was dropped on procedural grounds by the commission and Clifford later turned it into a lawsuit in 2nd District Court.

Earlier this year Judge Ernie Jones directed Clifford to take the suit back to the city and "exhaust administrative remedies" there before refiling the lawsuit.

Wednesday was the first session before the Civil Service Commission on the newly returned grievance. Attorneys argued over the city's motion to dismiss it, which the three-member commission took under advisement until its July 6 meeting.

The city claims the commission only has jurisdiction to hear appeals of city firings and suspensions of police officers and firefighters, not promotions.

"We believe commission policy and state law does require the commission to review promotion practices," Elizabeth Peck, Clifford's lawyer, said after the hearing in summing up their position.

The city's motion is almost identical to one filed to dismiss the grievance in 2007 before the commission, which was essentially put on hold when the grievance became a lawsuit in district court.

"We've been on this merry-go-round for a few years now," Peck said.

Commissioners declined comment after the hearing.

Roy City Attorney Andy Blackburn has been hired to advise the commission on the Clifford grievance, becaue Ogden city attorneys would have a conflict, as they are parties in Clifford's grievance, Assistant City Attorney Mara Brown said. She declined further comment.

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