Rist grievance hearing slated for today

Published 10:57 am Thursday, May 14, 2009

An arbitrator will be in Ironton today to consider a grievance filed against the city of Ironton by a former police officer who was fired last year but wants her job back.

Beth Rist was fired in October after an internal and external investigation determined she wrote a bogus traffic ticket.

Rist’s attorney, Warren Morford, said he plans to argue that the discipline meted out to Rist — termination — was not administered within 10 days, which is required under the city’s collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police, that she was not afforded the opportunity to confront her accusers, there was no just cause to fire her and that Rist was the victim of disparate treatment— she was punished more severely than other officers who have also committed infractions.

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“This is a personal vendetta against Sgt. Rist,” Morford said.

But Mayor Rich Blankenship contends the termination was just given what Rist did.

“We are proceeding in a manner we think is right,” Blankenship said. He said he would comment further after the hearing.

Morford said he planned to call 16 witnesses, including the mayor, Police Chief Jim Carey, several members of the police department, Dolly Newcomb, the woman Rist pulled over for a traffic violation and Jamie Sparks, Newcomb’s daughter who agreed to take the ticket in place of her mother even though she was not in the vehicle at the time Rist made the traffic stop.

Morford said he also planned to call a manager of a local Speedway convenience, to corroborate allegations of misconduct by another police officer.

Blankenship said the city would be represented by Bob Cross, of the Portsmouth-based Cross Management Consulting Services although he will also be in attendance.

He said the city would also call witnesses but he did not say how many or who.

On Aug. 27, Rist was on road patrol and pulled over a Newcomb, who had run a stop sign.

It was determined Newcomb also had no insurance, was driving under a suspension because she had no insurance and had expired vehicle tags. Sparks came to the scene and was given the traffic ticket in place of her mother.

Roughly a month later, Sparks appeared in Ironton Municipal Court and was told because there was no insurance on that vehicle, she would lose her driver’s license.

Sparks then called Rist about the matter and then later called Carey, who asked for both an internal investigation and an external one conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification (BCI&I)

Rist was later indicted on one count of tampering with evidence, a felony.

She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of falsification and was placed on probation.