Vancouver police officer’s punishment appealed

He received 28-day suspension after his firing was overturned

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 
photoBrian Billingsley

The Vancouver Police Guild is appealing the unpaid suspension of an officer who was fired and then reinstated in the wake of an internal affairs investigation.

Officer Brian Billingsley, 39, was originally fired by Police Chief Cliff Cook in March on nine counts of department violations uncovered during an ongoing investigation of the relationship between former Vancouver Officer Erik McGarrity and a confidential informant, Tegan Rushworth.

But following a new process under the union-negotiated police contract, Billingsley’s termination was appealed to City Manager Eric Holmes, who reinstated Billingsley last month with a 28-day unpaid suspension. Billingsley’s reinstatement marked the first time the city manager has overturned a police chief’s personnel decision.

Billingsley returned to work June 10; he was paid for all the days between his firing and reinstatement, minus the 28 days. In a reinstatement letter, Holmes said that Billingsley would serve the suspension for his violation of four policies relating to using informants, duty to report, neglect of duty and unbecoming conduct.

The police union notified the city in late June that it will appeal that decision to a state arbitrator. Arbitration — which will be binding for both parties — is set for Oct. 14 to Oct. 21. The arbitrator could overturn the city’s decision, uphold it or potentially determine a lesser punishment.

Police Union President Jeff Kipp said in June that he wasn’t sure if Billingsley’s violations warranted a full 28-day suspension. He did not return a call for comment Friday afternoon.

Billingsley is a nine-year veteran of the VPD force with no prior record of discipline.

Holmes declined to comment on the upcoming arbitration except to note that the union “has a right to appeal this under the terms of their contract.”

Two more officers remain under investigation in connection with McGarrity and Rushworth’s relationship, police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said Friday. That investigation is expected to be complete by early fall.

McGarrity resigned in November. He was investigated by Washington State Patrol for possible criminal violations; it concluded the investigation after it found that any crimes, which would have been committed in 2006 and 2007, were beyond the statute of limitations.

Rushworth was released Jan. 13 from the Mission Creek Correctional Center in Belfair, where she served a 17-month prison sentence for auto theft. In April, she married a man in Idaho who has said he did not know about her past. He is working to get the relationship annulled; parole officers said they are aware that she broke the terms of her post-prison supervision by leaving the state.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall.