Fired deputy returns to work

(WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore.) -- A fired sheriff's deputy who won his job back will return to work Sunday morning, Washington County Sheriff Jim Spinden said Thursday.

An arbitrator ruled Tuesday that Spinden must rehire Donald C. Clayton Jr., 43, nine months after a confessed serial rapist escaped from his custody. Clayton was fired March 6 after an internal investigation into the escape of Richard Dennis Cantu.

Clayton will return to work as a corrections officer, but he will not be reassigned to court security, the job he held before being fired. He has not worked in the county's new jail, which opened in 1998, and will have to be retrained during his first two months back, Spinden said.

Clayton had asked to be reinstated with back pay. He was making nearly $47,000 a year and had worked for the sheriff's office about 16 years.

"We needed to stop any potential for back pay and get him back to work," Spinden said.

However, Senior Deputy Todd Duncan, president of the Washington County Police Officers Association, and Spinden could not agree on Clayton's discipline. That decision appears headed back to the arbitrator, Spinden said.

"The sheriff and I are at two completely different ends of the spectrum," Duncan said.

The arbitrator, Leroy Tornquist, a Willamette University law professor, did not make a specific discipline recommendation, writing that it should be substantially more than a two-month suspension without pay but less than termination. He gave Spinden and Duncan 30 days to reach an agreement.

Spinden said Thursday that he told Duncan: "I'll let him resign," referring to Clayton. Duncan proposed a two-month suspension.

Prisoner escapes Clayton was escorting Cantu, 32, to a holding cell in the old jail on Feb. 15 when the inmate bolted as they left the courthouse. Minutes earlier, Cantu had pleaded guilty to several counts of rape and sex-related charges that stemmed from attacks on three women and a 13-year-old girl in Forest Grove.

Cantu was recaptured the next day by three men who chased him from a MAX train that was leaving Hillsboro. He has since been sentenced to 471/2 years in prison without parole.

Duncan said Clayton declined to comment Thursday but might make a public statement after his discipline is announced.

Spinden, still fuming about the ruling Thursday, said the Oregon State Sheriffs' Association will lobby the Legislature when it convenes in January to change arbitration laws.

Jaime B. Goldberg, the union's Portland attorney, opposes any changes. "If the county disciplines someone in the correct manner, they would not lose arbitration," he said.

In addition to the Clayton ruling, the sheriff's office lost an arbitration ruling that required Spinden to rehire Deputy Paul Cuff, 35, who was fired in March 1999 for failing a drug test and then lying about it.

An arbitrator and administrative law judge have ruled that a union contract requires Cuff to be given a second chance.

Spinden refused to rehire Cuff, and the case was argued before the state Employment Relations Board on Tuesday. A ruling in the Cuff case is expected early next year.

(iSyndicate; The Oregonian Nov. 17, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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