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Ex-officer to stay on probation

Visiting Judge Fred Crow has denied fired Ironton police officer Beth Rist’s request to have her probation terminated and has granted the city’s motion to set aside an arbitrator’s earlier ruling that favored Rist.

Rist’s attorney, Warren Morford, said both he and Rist were extremely disappointed with the ruling. Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said he was relieved the issues have been settled.

Rist was fired from her job last year after she admitted she wrote a traffic ticket to someone who wasn’t driving.

She was placed on three years probation after she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of falsification in connection with the ticket.

Late last year, she asked Crow to end her probation ahead of schedule in order for her to return to work as a police officer.

Under the terms of her probation, she is not permitted to carry a gun, be in the company of criminals and break curfew, all of which are elements of an officer’s job.

Her attorney, Warren Morford, argued during a court hearing Rist had been a model probationer and was remorseful for what she had done.

But Lawrence County Prosecutor J.B. Collier Jr., had argued Rist had served less than half the probation time she was given and had already been given one break when the felony charge she was indicted on was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Rist had filed a union grievance shortly after she was fired and arbitrator Harry Graham ruled she should be returned to work.

But city officials responded by filing a motion asking Crow to set aside Graham’s ruling.

Alan Lemons, attorney for the city, contended Graham went outside the scope of the city/police union contract when he took into consideration Rist’s job tenure and personnel record when determining the merits of her case.

But Morford argued the arbitrator’s decision was supposed to be legal and binding and that the city was refusing to live up to its agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police.

Morford said Friday he and Rist were both “very sad and dejected” over Crow’s decisions.

“This throws the arbitration process right out the window,” Morford said.

“This puts severe restrictions on my ability to work and make a living,” Rist said.

Rist said she does plan to appeal Crow’s rulings.

Blankenship said he is by no means boastful about Crow’s rulings but is pleased the battle is over.

“I did what I thought was right and went through the proper process,” Blankenship said. “But now, I’ve got the city to run and will move on and run the city, glad this is behind us.”

Rist was elected to Ironton City Council in November.

The judge’s decisions do not affect her council seat.

Rist said it is odd that she is now a part of the governing body who sided with the mayor in his decision to fight her return to work after the arbitrator ruled in her favor.

“How ironic is it that I now sit among the very men who voted to give the mayor permission to do this?” Rist said.