Jun 1, 2022 - Politics

City says it can't fight reinstatement of fired Seattle parking officer

Illustration of a spotlight shaped like a police badge.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A Seattle parking enforcement officer who was fired for making a comment endorsing lynching recently got his job back — and city officials say there's nothing they can do about it.

Why it matters: Last month in an interview with Axios, Seattle interim police chief Adrian Diaz pointed to the case of Jonathan Skeie as an example of how it can be hard to fire unwanted employees.

  • Although Diaz fired Skeie in January 2021, a private arbitrator gave Skeie his job back earlier this year, saying the chief didn't have just cause to terminate him.

The latest: Ethan Bergerson, a spokesperson for the city transportation department, told Axios the city's contract with the Seattle Parking Enforcement Officers' Guild doesn't allow city officials to go to court to try to overturn the arbitrator's decision.

  • "Under state law, the city is required to abide by the collective bargaining agreement and follow the arbitrator's ruling," Bergerson wrote in an email to Axios.
  • A spokesperson for the city attorney's office didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

Details: While working in the office in June 2020, Skeie told another parking enforcement officer, "I don't understand why we can't just bring back lynching," according to a copy of the arbitrator's decision.

  • Skeie made the comment during the height of the racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd.
  • After Skeie filed a union grievance appealing his firing, an arbitrator sided with Skeie in January, forcing the city to hire him back.

Of note: Skeie was a civilian employee within the police department at the time of his firing, but parking enforcement has since been moved to the transportation department.

Go deeper: Seattle parking officer fired over lynching comment gets his job back

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