A day after Randy Leonard said pugnacious comments by the Portland Police Association had nudged him into supporting Mayor Sam Adams' call for a court fight challenging the reinstatement of the Portland cop fired for killing Aaron Campbell in 2010, Commissioner Nick Fish announced this afternoon that he'd be the third vote supporting an appeal.
Fish was still circumspect when I spoke to him after Adams' issued his call to go the Oregon Court of Appeals on Monday—just after the Oregon Employment Relations Board told the city it had to abide by an arbitrator's order putting Ron Frashour back to work. He said he wanted to sit down with the city attorney and ensure there was, as he put it, a "plausible legal strategy" in play before committing the city to spend more money on a case it may yet lose.
He's since been assured the city has a decent enough case, even if it's still a "long shot."
I was saddened and outraged by the death of Aaron Campbell. Earlier this year I supported appealing the arbitrator’s decision to reinstate Officer Ron Frashour to the state Employment Relations Board.
After being briefed by the City Attorney and Mayor Adams, it is clear to me that there is merit in taking this case to the Court of Appeals. While the appeal may be a long shot, there are important legal issues which should be decided by an appellate court.
I will therefore vote to support Mayor Adams’ recommendation that we appeal the ERB’s decision to the Court of Appeals.
Update 4:40 PM: Amanda Fritz tweeted her support for an appeal about the same time Fish sent out his statement. It's a departure for Fritz, announcing a stance early, because she usually waits for a public hearing before showing her cards. The only other commissioner yet to weigh in, Dan Saltzman, is out of the office today for Yom Kippur, his staff says.
Fritz also sent out a long statement:
Aaron Campbell's family deserves that the City Council pushes for justice in every arena. The Employment Relations Board made clear in their decision that they are limited by court precedent in their interpretation of state statutes. While I am not surprised by the decision ordering the reinstatement of Officer Frashour, I am deeply disappointed.
Unless I hear new reasoning at the public hearing to decide whether the City should appeal, I believe we must take the next step to ask the Court of Appeals to look at the unique facts of the Frashour case, and ask the Court to overturn the decision of the ERB. I have also suggested to Mayor Adams that we ask the 2013 Legislature to amend any statutes that are not clear and reasonable, so everyone understands the lines of accountability and responsibility.
When will a vote happen authorizing a challenge? Not sure yet. I also don't know how an appeal will stay the employment board's order that Frashour return to work, with back pay, at the end of October—just weeks from the two-year anniversary of his dismissal.