Rist fires back with grievance

Published 11:34 am Thursday, November 6, 2008

An Ironton police officer who was fired last week has filed a grievance seeking to be reinstated to her job.

Warren Morford, attorney for Beth Rist, said the grievance was filed Wednesday afternoon with the office of Mayor Rich Blankenship.

“We are alleging there is not just cause to fire her,” Morford said. “And we are alleging the city did not comply with the provisions in the collective bargaining agreement.”

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Morford said the city failed to issue disciplinary action within 10 days of the incident for which Rist was terminated and failed to allow Rist the opportunity to confront her accusers. Morford said there were problems with the way the investigation into the incident was conducted.

“We think it was incomplete,” he said. “The statement of people with first-hand knowledge were not included,” he said.

Further, the grievance states Rist was not afforded any representation at her meeting with the mayor Oct. 14, a meeting during which Detective Jim Akers took her statement about the incident for which she was fired. Rist later waived her F.O.P. representation in order to hire Morford.

The grievance also alleges the city’s decision to terminate Rist was “arbitrary and capricious” and discriminates against her, because other officers have done similar or same things and did not get such a severe punishment for their infractions.

Morford declined to cite any examples.

“Really, she did nothing wrong and certainly nothing that warrants being fired,” Morford said.

The mayor has 30 days to schedule a hearing on the grievance. If he rules against Rist, the matter could go to arbitration and “ultimately to the court if we don’t get relief through the grievance system,” Morford said.

Blankenship, who is on vactation and was unavailable for comment, fired Rist last week after an internal investigation into an incident that occurred Aug. 27. Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey said Rist pulled over a woman who had run a stop sign. The woman had no insurance, was driving under a suspension because she had no insurance and had expired vehicle tags.

Carey said Rist summoned a family member to the scene and indicated she would give the family member the option of taking a citation herself or having the relative originally pulled over taken to jail. The family member who was summoned to the scene took a citation.

Roughly a month later, the family member who took the citation appeared in Ironton Municipal Court and was told because she had no insurance, she would lose her driver’s license.

The internal investigation into the incident is complete, but the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification is also conducting an investigation and will turn over to the Lawrence County Prosecutor’s Office any recommendations that agency may have for criminal charges.