Witnesses not called for Rist hearing

Published 11:29 am Friday, November 21, 2008

Ironton officials conducted a grievance hearing for a fired police officer, but her attorney said the hearing did not go as he had planned.

Warren Morford, who represents Beth Rist, said he had given Mayor Rich Blankenship a list of people he had wanted subpoenaed to testify on Rist’s behalf at the hearing and none of them were called.

Mor-ford said Bob Cross, a local organized labor negotiator who represented the city, indicated this was not the way such hearings were conducted. Morford disagreed.

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“This deprived us of the opportunity to have a full and fair hearing,” Morford said.

Mayor Rich Blankenship declined to comment on the matter. He said the union contract would require him to call Rist and Morford ahead of time to let them know he would be making a public statement about the matter.

Once the hearing was completed, the clock began ticking: Blankenship has 10 days from that time to make a decision on the grievance.

Bob Cross did not return a message at his office.

Morford said he had asked the city to subpoena Dolly Newcomb, the driver who was initially accused of running a stop sign, and Jamie Sparks, the daughter who was given the citation in place of her mother.

Also on his list, Morford said, were Police Chief Jim Carey, Capt. Mark Wilson, Capt. Joe Ross, Capt. Dan Johnson, Capt. Chris Bowman, Detective Jim Akers, dispatcher Kenton Jordan, Sgt. Pam Neal Wagner, officers Brian Pauley, Chad Gue and Ashley Porter. Also on the list were Phyllis Washburn, Keisha Dyer and Crystal Porter. Morford said Jordan, Gue, Pauley and Porter would have had some knowledge of Rist reporting the traffic incident involving Sparks and Newcomb to Capt. Wilson, who was her commanding officer. He declined to say why he wanted any of the others to testify.

Some of the potential witnesses have an obvious connection to Rist’s case: Akers conducted the investigation into the incident on behalf of the police department, Carey is the police chief and Wagner is the local Fraternal Order of Police representative.

Bowman said he did not know why he would have been asked to testify on Rist’s behalf, and Washburn declined comment on the matter.

“I’d rather not say,” Washburn replied, when asked what role she played in Rist’s defense.

Neither Dyer nor Porter could be reached for comment.

Morford said he is hopeful the mayor will reverse his decision and restore Rist to her rank and duty “and make her whole.”

If Blankenship does not do so, Morford said the next course of action is to take the matter to arbitration.

“If we go to arbitration I can subpoena witnesses and take depositions,” Morford said.