Arbitrator again fails to deliver decision
City attorney Candace Haines said that arbitrators, like judges, have wide latitude in when they issue a decision. "We're waiting, just like everybody else," she said.
Arbitrator Kenneth Fitzsimon told the News-Register the decision, originally promised for June 2, then for July 18, would be released "in the next several days." He said that he had no comment on why he missed both the orginal deadline and his self-imposed replacement.
The arbitration proceedings have apparently been ill-fated.
The case was originally heard last October. It was scheduled for decision by Dec. 15.
However, arbitrator Nancy Brown fell gravely ill, and was unable to complete the process. So the case was set for re-hearing by a new appoinee, Fitzsimon, in March.
The decision was due June 2, but the first word from Fitzsimon came June 27, when he notified the city and union he needed more time. He asked them to give him until July 18, and they agreed.
But July 18 came and went without note.
The arbitration concerns the June 2013 termination of McMinnville police officer Tim Heidt. He was accused of lying about his use of force in a 2010 incident in which he severely beat a bystander in a drunk driving stop, breaking the man's elbow and two of his ribs.
The victim had been riding with a woman accused of driving under the influence. He was standing beside the vehicle when Heidt threw him to the ground and began pummeling him.
Heidt claimed he had to resort to force to subdue the man because he had become combative. The victim was charged with resisting arrest as a result, but was acquitted in a jury trial.
The major fallout from the case — an adverse internal affairs ruling, a successful suit for damages, an avalanche of bad publicity and an investigatory finding that Heidt had been untruthful — came three years later when a video from a car-mounted video camera surfaced and proved highly damaging.
The original conclusion was that the camera had malfunctioned, rendering the video unplayable, but that ultimately proved erroneous. And the video did not support Heidt's account.
Then-Chief Ron Noble fired Heidt, not for use of excessive force in the original incident, but for lying about his actions and conduct. Noble has since retired.
Heidt filed a tort claim notice with the city in which he argued that in reality, he was fired in retaliation for a tort claim notice filed earlier by his wife, Nicole.
The notice gives him two years from the date he was fired in which to file a lawsuit.
In the arbitration appeal, Heidt is seeking reinstatement to the force. In a lawsuit, he would also be free to seek damages.
Nicole Heidt was fired in May of 2012 for trying to rally union support for her husband after he was demoted for engaging in a drunken off-duty brawl. She held a management position at the time, and ignored a specific warning not to engage in such conduct.
The deadline for her to file suit in her case passed in May.