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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Town reinstates dismissed officer

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A former Cloverdale police officer, who was terminated in late December, was reinstated late last week after appealing his case.

Upon a recommendation by the police department, officer Nick Eastham was fired after a 5-0 vote by the town council on Dec. 19.

Eastham told the BannerGraphic he filed an appeal with the council, and on Friday he, along with his attorney, met with the council and its attorney to discuss his appeal.

Due to procedural errors with Eastham's termination, his appeal was granted by a 5-0 vote from the council, and he was reinstated to full duty and paid all his backdues, comp time and benefits.

Eastham explained that Chief Charlie Hallam attempted to say that Eastham was in violation of the rules located in the department's employee manual, or its standard operating procedures.

Calls to Hallam have not been returned, but in a previous BannerGraphic article, Hallam cited Indiana Code 36-8-3-4 during Eastham's termination hearing.

This code is for the discipline, demotion and dismissal for police officers and firefighters, along with hearings, appeals and administrative leave for those in these departments.

According to the code, a member of the police or fire department may be disciplined by the safety board if he or she is guilty of "neglect of duty, violation of rules, neglect or disobedience of orders, incapacity and absence without leave," along with other disciplinary infractions.

The code also states that before a member is suspended for five days, the safety board shall offer the member the opportunity for a hearing. "If a member desires a hearing, the member must request the hearing not more than five (5) days after the notice of the suspension, demotion, or dismissal."

Town Council President Don Sublett said the town of Cloverdale has no rules or procedures to conduct a safety board meeting. It is also believed that this was the first disciplinary appeal hearing of its kind the council has conducted.

Darrell Felling, Eastham's attorney, said the police department's SOPs informs a employee about the rules and regulations he or she must follow and the procedures for when that employee is either terminated or suspended for disciplinary infractions.

The only problem with the violation Eastham was alleged to have committed was that he had never received a copy of his SOPs. So Eastham did not know what exactly he was in violation of nor did he know why he was being terminated.

During the appeal hearing, Felling made it clear to the council that there were procedural errors with Eastham's termination. He also made it clear that this would continue onto judicial review if nothing was done.

After the council voted to reinstate Eastham, Felling said he was quite pleased with the vote and the fact that the council acknowledged the errors in procedure.

"I didn't know it was going to go that way," Felling sad about the vote. "I'm very pleased for Nick both personally and professionally."

To make sure something like Eastham's case does not happen again, the council, along with Felling, are working together to create a committee to update and revise the police department's SOPs.

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