Chad Atkeson alleges that police chief Terry Timeus stacked the deck against his promotion to sergeant after he blew the whistle on overtime compensation

A former West Linn police officer has filed a formal unfair labor practice complaint against the city of West Linn.

In the complaint, Chad Atkeson accuses Police Chief Terry Timeus of preventing him from obtaining a promotion to sergeant by stacking the hiring board with friends and negatively influencing the peer evaluation process after Atkeson blew the whistle on uncompensated overtime hours.

The complaint, which was filed March 22, remains in an investigatory stage as the Employee Relations Board determines whether the case warrants a hearing.

Atkeson’s representative, Barbara Diamond of Diamond Law, said she expects the case to see a hearing due to “substantial disagreements between the two parties.”

“When someone gets denied a promotion to the point that they feel their career is over at the department, that’s really serious,” Diamond said. “That’s something we need to look into.”

Reached for comment, city representative Kathy Peck of Williams, Zografos & Peck, P.C., said, “The city respects the right of the Clackamas County Peace Officers Association to raise legal claims, and feels it’s appropriate to let the legal proceedings run their course without further comment.”

According to the complaint, Atkeson — who served as the department’s alternate union shop steward — left the West Linn Police Department shortly after he was denied the sergeant promotion back in late January, citing a “hostile work environment, which was exacerbated by the lost promotional opportunities.”

He now works as a patrol deputy with Clackamas County, and claims his income has lessened by $600 per month as a result of the transfer.

Atkeson’s complaint seeks compensation for those lost wages, as well as reimbursement to the Clackamas County Peace Officers Association for its representation costs and filing fees, a $1,000 civil penalty paid by the city to the CCPOA for “egregious and knowing unfair labor practices,” and an order that the city comply with the standard detective hiring process going forward.

“I’m confident they’ll come out with a fair outcome, based on the evidence,” Diamond said.

The matter under investigation began in the fall of 2012, when Atkeson was reportedly informed of West Linn police officers being ordered to work prior to their shift start times and not being compensated for that extra time — a violation of Article 20(B) of the CCPOA’s union contract.

On Nov. 30, according to the complaint, Atkeson submitted a letter to Timeus, stating in part that “an employer cannot sit back and accept the benefits of an employee’s work without considering the time spent to be hours worked.”

In response, Timeus allegedly sent a department-wide email directing all officers to cease work-related activities such as preparing patrol cars and checking email until after the beginning of a shift, in compliance with the law. The lack of any follow through or educational briefs to supervisors on the law, Atkeson claims, left him and the union as targets of blame.

He alleges being told he “had a target on his back” for raising the issue with Timeus, and some officers expressed frustration that they could no longer volunteer their time outside of scheduled shifts. According to the complaint, “management was aware of the actions and statements of specific sergeants and did nothing to stop its supervisors ... from speaking negatively about the union and encouraging a hostile environment against WLPD stewards.”

When the sergeant vacancy came up in January, Atkeson applied. The complaint states that he had also applied in 2011, and though he hadn’t been selected, Timeus told him that “he had done very well in the process” and should apply again.

The hiring process was “substantially” different this time according to Atkeson. He claims Timeus failed to obtain a written recommendation from the candidate’s supervisor and “stacked” the oral board with two close friends: Lake Oswego Lt. Darryl Wrisley and Oregon State Police Lt. Jeff Hershman.

There were two candidates for the sergeant vacancy, and the vote was unanimous against Atkeson. According to the complaint, the successful candidate was not required to obtain a positive recommendation from his supervisor or pass a psychological evaluation before being promoted — both standard practices in the past.

Timeus also told Atkeson that “he needs to take care of himself and if it means quitting the union involvement, he should, because it probably affected the oral board.” Atkeson thinks this statement indicated a violation of state stature, which states that it is unfair labor practice to discriminate against a public employee up for promotion because of union activity.

“Chad stood up for the law,” Diamond said. “And all of a sudden he goes from being a guy on the fast track to the guy basically being persona non grata over there.”

Though both the informal complaint and the city’s informal response have been submitted, a formal complaint has yet to surface. Only after that will a hearing be scheduled.

Peck said the Employment Relations Board is short staffed right now, and she does not expect a decision from them until late in the calendar year. Diamond concurred and doesn’t anticipate a hearing until the fall.

Contract Publishing

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