Here is a summary of the first hearing regarding former Public Safety Director John Calkins appeal of his firing by Mayor Cy Sun. The civil service hearing was held on Tuesday and will continue tonight at 6pm at city hall. The proceedings are open to the public.
The mayor allowed the city attorney, Ken Luce to accompany him this time but would not allow Luce to question him. A second attorney, Elizabeth Thompson, asked the questions for the city. The civil service attorney, Gary McLean ran the meeting, explaining that the commission acts like a jury under similar rules. McLean noted that some records had not been provided in a timely manner and therefore were not admitted. Under civil service rules, two issues were important; 1) was the discipline for cause and 2) were procedural requirements followed. The burden of proof is on the mayor. The commission is not allowed to consider any information not presented previously to the employee. If something is brought up post-action, it cannot be considered. Calkins' attorney felt the RCW listed in the termination letter as reason for the discharge did not apply. The city attorney agreed, it only applies to cities without a civil service commission. The other reasons for the termination still stand.
Thompson outlined the situation: Sun was elected on a campaign of fiscal responsibility and put a hold on the purchase of five new police cars because of that promise. When the issue came up at the January 17th council meeting, Director Calkins responded with inappropriate anger. The mayor placed Calkins on administrative leave and took steps in a deliberate and thoughtful process over four months before firing Calkins under civil service rules. That codes says discharge may occur for insubordination or acts injuring the public.
Calkins' attorney stated that this has nothing to do with the mayor managing a budget. It is about the law that says employees cannot be discharged except for cause. Mayor Sun intended to fire Calkins before this incident. He ordered his staff not to talk to Calkins about his plans to cancel the car order. Reasonable minds would conclude Calkins was set up. In hindsight, it was a bad choice to loose his temper but it is not cause for termination.
Testimony For The City:
Barbara Sun, the mayor's wife: Testified that she witnessed Calkins get into a heated argument with the finance director after the council recessed into executive session on January 17th. He was very close to her face and very angry. It was clear the finance director was very upset and looked like she was ready to cry. The city clerk tried to intervene and eventually took Calkins into the hallway. Sun heard Calkins tell the clerk to shut up.
Under cross examination by Calkins' attorney, Mrs. Sun confirmed this was only a verbal confrontation, no gun or threats of any kind, no physical touching. Only Calkins had his voice raised, not the clerk or finance director.
Mayor Cy Sun: Thompson asked him about his decision about the police cars. After a 10-second delay, Sun responded saying he only canceled the purchase of one car to save money, but he had told the council that night he wanted to hold the purchase of all five cars to study the issue. He did not witness the argument but the clerk told him about it later. The finance director was "in-cohesive". He felt the clerk and finance director were too upset to talk that night; "I heard gobbldygook. They just wasn't themselves."
When he interviewed them the next day, they wanted some dispilinary action against Calkins. All he could think of was to put Calkins on leave so he could have more time to think. Both women advised him and participated in this action.
He said he carefully read the civil service rules and the RCW's so he would have a lawful point to establish his claims. Calkins had intimidated personel in front of the public. The mayor felt that violated the law and was unbecoming for the positon Calkins held. "You just don't go up to a person and tell that person to shut up and drive your point home. You just don't do that. If you got a problem, its best to talk it out respectfully."
The mayor said he took a long time to think about his next step. He was concerned about firing Calkins since he had a family to support. It was a hard decision and it took him all that time to think about it (the four months of adminstrative leave before termination).
Exhibit 3, the Loudermill letter lists the reasons for termination: 1) dis-temperance, 2) immoral conduct, 3) willful failure to properly conduct himself, and 4) bringing negative publicity to the city. Sun felt that Calkins exhibited dis-temperance and immoral conduct when he lost his temper and was abusive and disrespectful.
When asked what he meant by negaitive publicity, the mayor said he negated any past rumors or publicty because it was in the past. But when he wrote the Loudermill letter, he could see there was trail to his character. Calkins' attorney objected and it was sustained, so the mayor restated that he was refering to negative, unsatifactory, damaging publicity based on news and blogs. He was not trying to set up Calkins and felt the discharge was in the best interest of the city.
Under cross examination, Mayor Sun denied ever telling anyone he intended to fire Calkins before this incident. He never told anyone he intended to cancel the order for all five cars, nor did he instruct anyone to withold his decision from Calkins.
Calkins' attorney (Mr. Vick) asked Sun if he planned on firing Calkins before issuing the Loudermill letter, which the mayor denied. Sun said he hoped Calkins would come up with some constructive rebuttal at the Loudermill hearing. Sun denied that Calkins requested to meet with him the next day or that Calkins came by his office attempting to meet with him but was denied access.
Vick notes the Loudermill letter states Calkins should be fired for the KOMO News investigative story and a blog story by Robert Smith. Sun denies that he used that as an instrument to fire Calkins, but it was included to augment his decision. Vick asked if the argument on January 17th had not happened, would the reason listed in the Loudermill letter of bad publicity have come up? Sun responded that he did not say that, but that it fits hand and glove with the other reasons listed. Vick asked Sun if he was testifying that everything the press says is true. The mayor felt they would not write what they did if it didn't happen.
Testimony For Calkins
Police Lt. Massey stated he had a friendly relationship with Sun before the election and that Sun had told him he planned on firing Calkins because of the news stories and making Massey chief. Massey explained how police cars are used and their costs.
City attorney Thompson asked if Massey had ever seen Calkins angry, but Vick objected stating this is about one specific incident, not a pattern. Massey stated he had seen Calkiins angry and Calkins had seen him angry over their 12 years working together. He never felt threatened.
Council member Clint Steiger chairs the council's public safety committee, which invesitigated the allegations outlined in the KOMO News story. Steiger said Calkins was not displinined for anything out of that story after the council's investigation. Steiger noted that prior to Calkins becoming director, there was no policy about purchasing police cars and they were always breaking down. Calkins resolved that problem. He never felt bullied by Calkins. Calkins had worked with the council for this purchase of five new cars and the council had approved the purchase. The mayor had never notified the council of his plans to cancel the order.
Steinger noted there were no witnesses to the allegations of anger in the KOMO story. He knew that the clerk had met with Sun on December 7th to tell her about h is plans for the city; which included firing five people including Calkins. Steinger reiterated that the mayor had told staff not to tell Calkins about canceling the cars order, even though by January 17th they were already at the local car lot.
Steinger testified he had never seen anyone fired for having an argument and never heard staff request that Calkins be fired for this incident. He had heard Sun discuss firing Calkins but the mayor was not sure how to go about it. Sun, Steinger, the clerk had discussions with the insurance company about progressive disipline and that this offense was not enough for termination.
Under cross examination, Steinger noted there was discussion about Calkins salary after the fire department was removed from his scope of work.
Massey was recalled to the stand and stated he was called to the mayor's office prior to the termination decision. The mayor stated he planned on firing Calkins and this agument made it happen quicker. The mayor stated that anyone who didn't support him would be fired.
Calkins then took the stand. He outlined his background and that he had never been displined in Pacific prior to this, but had recieved several commendations. He outlined his five-year policy of new car purchases using criminal justice funds, not general city funds.
Calkins expressed regret over the argument, but the first he knew of the car purchase being canceled was when the finance director announced it to the council in the meeting. He had apoligized to both of them that night when they told him the mayor had ordered them not to tell him.
Under cross examination, he stated he had been investigated but never for anger issues. He agreed the argument was inapproprate. He attempted to contact the mayor the next day to apologize and ask why the mayor chose to blindside him. When he went to see the mayor, Sun told him to leave and shut the door. Calkins then went to speak with the clerk. Sun banged loudly on the door, then told the clerk she was never to speak to Calkins again.
The former finance director did not appear to testify due to childcare issues. The hearing will continue on Friday at 6pm.