The Fort Smith Civil Service Commission decided in favor of two Fort Smith Police officers at a grievance hearing Thursday (Jan. 10).
Two officers, Brandon Djordjevic and Tim Koenigseder, filed a grievance with the commission in regards to a promotion available for a sergeant vacancy that came open Sept. 8.
At the time the officers, along with Officer Kelley Colton, were the next three names of those eligible for promotion to sergeant on a list certified by the commission on Sept. 29, 2017. The certified list was valid for one year.
The grievants argued that list must be the list used to fill the position.
Colby Roe with Daily and Woods Law in Fort Smith, representing the Fort Smith Police Department at the hearing, said there was an issue with the list when it came to using it to fill the vacancy.
The commission’s code states that “promotions shall be made from the eligibility list in effect on the date the vacancy occurs, unless such list has been exhausted.” But it goes on to say that the chief has 60 days from the time of vacancy to make a promotion.
State statutes require that no promotions can be made from a list that has expired, Roe said. The certified list in effect at the time of the vacancy expired before the 60 days Chief Nathanial Clark had to make the decision for promotion. Roe argued that meant the list was invalid and could not be used without violating state law.
The commission sided 5-1 with the officers stating that the list that was valid at the time of the vacancy had to be used.
Commissioner Charlotte Tidwell voted against the list being used, stating she did not want the chief to be forced to do something that would put the chief or the police department afoul of state law.
“I think in order to be fair to these officers and fair to all parties, we have to use this list. I don’t want to do anything to put the chief, who is doing an excellent job, if I may say, in an illegal position, but our policy states we have to use the list available at the time of the vacancy,” said commission member Marty Shell.
Shell also said the commission needs to reword the policy so a similar situation would not arise in the future.