Citizens Police Review Board won't review fired officer Sanders' appeal

Wednesday, November 9, 2011 | 10:53 p.m. CST; updated 9:21 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 10, 2011

COLUMBIA – The Citizens Police Review Board decided Wednesday night that it did not have the authority to review an appeal regarding the termination of former Columbia police officer Rob Sanders.

The appeal to the review board was filed on Sanders' behalf by his attorney, Scott Jansen. The appeal was regarding Sanders' termination from the police department in September for using excessive force against a prisoner in a holding cell in August.

Discussion of whether the appeal could be heard by the board revolved around contradicting interpretations of the city ordinances.

Jansen, speaking on behalf of his client, said the board is authorized to hear the appeal according to chapter 21 of the ordinances.

"The ordinance specifically allows, after (the board's) review, that a police officer may appeal their discharge to the Personnel Advisory Board," Jansen said. "That clearly contemplates that an officer can be fired, can specifically appeal to you, and then depending whatever happens after that, then they can go to the personnel review board."

But Columbia Assistant City Counselor Rose Wibbenmeyer said the Personnel Advisory Board is the appropriate board to hear the appeal — not the review board, because Sanders had already been fired.

"Mr. Sanders has filed a grievance and is appealing his termination to the Personnel Advisory Board, which under chapter 19 (of the Columbia code of ordinances) is the proper board to hear it," Wibbenmeyer said.

If Sanders wishes to appeal his case after the personnel advisory board, it will be appealed to the city manager. The next stage would be an appeal to the circuit court.

The Personnel Advisory Board is responsible for hearing appeals concerning disciplinary action against city employees which result in demotion, suspension or dismissal of the individual, according to ordinances posted online. After a few minutes of open discussion, the review board deferred to Wibbenmeyer's interpretation and moved on to other business.

The review board members also discussed the possibility of introducing themselves to new Columbia police officers while they are undergoing training. In addition, the board discussed scheduling potential training dates for its members, who include the newly appointed Mitchell Richards and Jerry Kennett, who filled vacancies for former members Susan Smith and Carroll Highbarger.

The next meeting of the review board is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 14 at the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway.

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