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State yanks Vernonia police officers certification

Judge's letter tips decision in case of Sgt. Michael Kay

The Oregon agency that oversees the licensing of all state law enforcement officials and investigators has voted to revoke the certification of a Vernonia police officer, concluding that he no longer has credibility as an officer.

A committee of Oregon's Department of Public Safety Standards and Training voted unanimously May 19 to revoke the police certification of Sgt. Michael Kay, accused of misstating the truth to his city employers, while also lying to judges and state investigators regarding everything from his K-9 certification and incident reports, to his own probation history for domestic abuse.

Though the investigation resulted in a 900-page file on Kay, the committee's opinion was swung by a letter written by Columbia County Municipal Judge Wally Thompson. In the letter, Thompson states that he no longer believes Kay or wants him in his courtroom.

'That's a pretty big thing for a judge to write a letter like this,' said Eriks Gabliks, deputy director for DPSST. 'That's pretty significant.'

Gabliks has never seen a judge request DPSST decertify an officer.

The revocation process itself is not uncommon. The same day the subcommittee made its decision on Kay, it made 14 similar decisions to revoke certifications statewide.

Kay will remain on paid leave from the Vernonia Police Department for the immediate future, according to the city's administrative consultant Jim Johnson.

That decision comes even though the city has the ability to terminate his employment independent of a DPSST decision.

The city will hold an executive session meeting on June 13 to discuss the case against Kay with his lawyer. It's unlikely that the city will make a decision after that meeting, Johnson said.

The state committee's decision will then go before a full DPSST committee in July, at which point Kay could appeal the preliminary decision. It will take a two-thirds majority to overturn the committee's decision, however.