Former Luther Police Sgt. Mike Oliver is fighting for his job. Dismissed from LPD on November 15, Oliver is expected to pursue an appeals process. A Special Town Meeting Tuesday, November 28, will start the appeal in motion. The agenda item calls for the naming of a review board that state law dictates must be made up of town officials, police officers, and professionals.
Luther Mayor Jenni White explains any officer who is part of the police pension system has a “property right” to their job, according to state law. “This means they can only be fired for specific cause or causes related to their duties as a police officer,” she said.
No one in an official capacity is talking about the cause that led Police Chief David Randall to terminate Sgt. Oliver the morning after a Town Board meeting. At that meeting, both Randall and Oliver talked on behalf of the police department on agenda items for additional funding. One item, approved, was to purchase refurbished radar equipment; another item was to earmark $25 per citation directly to the police department. During an extensive discussion on the issue with the Trustees, Chief Randall was asked whether he had read his department’s budget, and he said he had not. The Trustees took no action on that item.
Oliver has confirmed to The Luther Register he will fight for the job he has had for ten years, and also commented on social media, “I am going to fight it cause what they are saying I did are (sic) false and lies.” Oliver has received support from citizens who lauded his community involvement, but as personnel issues dictate in a litigious society, there has been no public word from officials about the action.
“Luther Town Trustees are absolutely committed to providing Town employees their due process rights according to the law. This, of course, includes those employees in the police pension system. While I’m unable to comment on the specifics of any employment action regarding any employee, I can say that should any employee in the police pension system desire to appeal a termination for cause, the Trustees are to convene the Board of Review, as specified by law, to hear that appeal,” said Mayor White.
According to the law, members of the Board of Review shall be the mayor, two Luther police officers (active or retired), an attorney and a physician.
Attorney and a physician? There’s no explanation (yet) as to why that is a stipulation for the Appeals Board but the law includes a go-around.
Whenever persons meeting the qualifications of this subsection are unavailable for appointments, the mayor shall in lieu thereof make the appointments from the governing body of the municipality, except that neither the Chief of Police nor any person having direct appointive authority for police personnel shall be eligible for appointment to said board.
White said once that Board is appointed, it will be used to hear any termination of employment appeal from any officer who is a member of the police pension system – should that be necessary or required.
“If the Town of Luther Board of Review is required to meet, the appointed members will hear any termination of employment appeal brought to them and determine if that termination is to stand, or be overturned and the officer returned to duty. This Board of Review is subject to the Open Meeting Act and would require the posting of an Agenda including the same information as that required for meetings of the Town Trustees. Whether or not the employment appeal is conducted publicly, or in Executive Session, is dependent upon the preference of the appealing officer,” said Mayor White.