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District 3 employee termination trial delayed

After about 19 months of administrative leave and 10 months without pay, former Clallam County Fire District 3 Capt. Peter Craig is no longer employed by the district, for a second time.

District 3 Chief Steve Vogel terminated Craig's employment in August 2006 for "horseplay on the job" according to Clallam County Superior Court documents.

Craig appealed the decision through the International Association of Firefighters labor union and at an arbitration hearing arbitrator Michael Beck ruled Vogel and the District 3 commissioners were right to reprimand Craig but incorrect in punished him with termination.

Beck ordered Craig's reinstatement with back pay, excluding the 10 days that he said Beck should have been suspended without pay for the reported misconduct.

District 3 appealed that decision in Clallam County Superior Court, where the matter still sits today. The case was scheduled to go to trial Dec. 8 but due to an overcrowded criminal calendar, the judge was unable to hear the case, pushing it into 2009.

"A date has not been established as of yet for a new trial," said Vogel. "We hope sooner than later in order to get this resolved."

Craig was placed on paid leave while the district investigated his actions, from June 2006 through August 2006. He then was without pay until the arbitrator ordered his reinstatement in June 2007, at which time the district put him on paid leave again while its lawyer Thomas Burke tried to get the termination approved in the courts.

If the court sides with Beck's decision, the district will be forced to pay for the 10 months between the termination and reinstatement.

Craig, however, is no longer receiving a paycheck from the district as Vogel terminated his employment for a second time in late October.

Vogel had no comment regarding the second termination and Burke had only a general description of the allegation.

"We're in the early stages of getting this worked out so all I can say is that there were additional allegations of misconduct," Burke said.

Several calls placed to Craig's Seattle attorney were not returned.

Craig, of Sequim, has a 15-year career in fire fighting as a shift captain.

The first alleged "horseplay incident" took place on May 31, 2006.

Clallam County Superior Court documents state Craig took control of an aerial bucket on a fire engine after a training exercise, elevated another firefighter to the maximum height of the mechanical arm and bounced the bucket in an up-and-down motion. The firefighter in the bucket reportedly spilled some water onto Craig and other personnel.

The report indicates firefighters at the scene requested Craig report the alleged safety violation and requested a structural analysis for the fire truck to determine if any damage resulted from the actions.

"Capt. Craig failed to report the incident that took place during the training drill May 31 to his superiors as a safety violation," the report reads. "Also, Capt. Craig did not report the possible structural damage that may have occurred to truck No. 344."

As a consequence, other fire personnel filed complaints regarding the alleged violations.

Burke asserts the arbitrator overstepped legal jurisdiction by determining what level of discipline the incident required.

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