Columbia's attorney says city will push to open Sanders' personnel record

Monday, February 10, 2014 | 3:46 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The city attorney for Columbia said she'll fight to keep former Columbia Police Officer Rob Sanders' personnel record open and to get the case moved back to Boone County from Cole County.

Sanders was fired in September 2011 after shoving a prisoner, Kenneth Baker, into the wall of a holding cell, injuring Baker's back and head. An Internal Affairs Division review of the incident, which was caught on camera, concluded that Sanders did not violate Columbia Police policy. Police Chief Ken Burton took a different view of the incident and fired Sanders. 

Sanders also faced a criminal charge but was found not guilty of third-degree assault  by Judge Carol England in October 2013.

Two months later, City Manager Mike Matthes upheld Sanders' firing after a personnel advisory board hearing.

Continuing his fight to get his job back, Sanders filed for judicial review of his firing, which he submitted to the Cole County Circuit Court on Jan. 24. In addition, his attorney, Scott Jansen, submitted a motion to keep Sanders' personnel record redacted, citing the lack of specifics used in the personnel advisory board hearing.  

Nancy Thompson, the attorney for the city, said that she will first fight that motion before submitting a brief of the city's argument to the Cole County judge. The brief will include transcripts from the personnel advisory board hearing as well as Sanders' personnel records, if they are deemed admissible. 

Jansen's initial filing alleges that Burton made a unilateral decision in his client's firing and that Matthes' backing of Burton was unsubstantiated.

Thompson disagreed. "We will have an opportunity to file a brief, and we'll have a real argument in support of the Manager's decision (to uphold the firing)," she said.

The petition in Cole County from Sanders is aimed at getting his termination from Columbia Police overturned, "the next step in the administrative appeal process," Thompson said. The city was not expecting Sanders to file for review in Cole County rather than Boone County.

"To us, it's just important that (Sanders' appeal) be disposed of and that we can get back to business," she said.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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