Texas cop wins appeal of firing; IA criticized for bias
The officer argued that his firing was due to his flawed past and not because an alleged argument laced with racial slurs
By Michelle Mondo
San Antonio Express-News
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — San Antonio police Lt. Lee Rakun won an appeal of his termination and will return to work as soon as the paperwork is complete.
Rakun had been placed on indefinite suspension, tantamount to being fired, last year — the 15th disciplinary action taken against him in his 19-year career and the third time he faced termination.
An arbitrator ruled last week that Police Chief William McManus shouldn't have fired Rakun on July 10 after allegations he got into a drunken argument and spewed racial slurs at a Bexar County deputy constable working security at an Alamo Heights restaurant and bar.
Also, for the second time in a high-profile case, the ruling criticized the internal affairs investigation as being biased against the officer.
Rakun has always denied using ethnic or racial slurs and at the time of the firing his lawyers said the firing was undeserved and based on a bias against him because of his checkered past.
The arbitrator agreed, partially. He upheld two of the four violations for which Rakun was fired, deciding instead on a 45-day suspension. "No two cases are alike, but ... I detect a general tendency for the Chief of Police to award suspensions ranging from 30 to 45 days to officers who make serious but non-career ending violations," arbitrator William L. McKee wrote.
Rakun will get back pay for everything but the 45 days.
McManus said in an emailed statement that they will abide by the most recent ruling, adding, "We conduct a thorough disciplinary process which includes both sworn and civilian input."
Rakun did not return a call for comment Monday. He has previously referred comments to his attorney.
His attorney Karl Brehm said the decision produced mixed feelings.
"While we're glad he gets his job back, he completely, unequivocally denies that," Brehm said about the offensive comments. "He never said anything like that."
Like the majority of his other suspensions, the latest stemmed from his personal life. On Jan. 14, 2012, Rakun along with a few family members and friends rented a limo and were taking part in a scavenger hunt sponsored by Silo. No one can agree on what occurred.
Deputy Constable Christopher Ahumada, the security guard that night, accused Rakun of becoming belligerent when Ahumada refused to let him into Silo because he was carrying a bottle of liquor. Ahumada alleged Rakun tried to use his position at SAPD to get into the bar, threatened to get him fired and called him offensive names like "Beaner," the ruling said.
Not so, Rakun said, adding he was only taking in the bottle because the label was part of the scavenger hunt, the ruling said. He took the bottle back to the limo and tried to get back inside; Ahumada was the one being confrontational.
"The facts of this case are highly disputed," the ruling said, adding the city's witness statements were riddled with inconsistencies. "There are credibility concerns with respect to every single fact witness."
McKee's ruling also said the lead investigator on the case wasn't as objective or as "open-minded" as he should have been.
Rakun's 14th suspension in 2010 — and his second firing — involved allegations of abuse by his then-ex-girlfriend. That case also involved a lot of he-said, she-said and in the end the chief worked out a deal that Rakun could come back.
All of his other disciplinary issues were dealt with before McManus became chief.
Copyright 2013 the San Antonio Express-News
McClatchy-Tribune News Service