Captain’s Termination Overturned

Posted on Tuesday, April 01, 1997 at 12:00PM

Tehama County Sheriff’s Captain Clay Parker was reinstated to the Sheriff’s Department following the decision of Arbitrator Donald Wollett that just cause did not exist for Parker’s termination. Parker was represented by Paul Q. Goyette of Olson, Goyette & Adams.

Parker was terminated from the Sheriff’s Department on August 23, 1996, for his role in the operation of an undercover high school narcotics program in Red Bluff. Parker served as the project director of the Tehama County Narcotics Task Force. He and other task force agents planned and implemented an undercover operation in the Red Bluff High School. The undercover operation lasted approximately three months. At the conclusion of the operation over fifty arrests were made and large amounts of narcotics and property were seized. By all accounts the undercover operation was flawlessly planned and executed.

Problems began for Parker when, following the conclusion of the program, Sheriff Robert Heard initiated an investigation as to why he was not informed of the program during its operation. The undercover program required absolute confidentiality to be successful. Parker and the task force agents specifically excluded Heard from information about the program because there was no operational need for Heard to know.

Following a lengthy investigation, Parker was terminated for his failure to keep the Sheriff informed of a task force undercover operation and because Parker facilitated the swearing in of the undercover agent as a reserve sheriff’s deputy. Neither the task force manual or the Department general orders required Parker to involve Heard of the undercover operation or the swearing in of the undercover agent as a reserve deputy.

Parker appealed and an arbitration was scheduled before Donald Wollett. The Department presented its case over the course of approximately four days. At the conclusion of the Department’s case, Goyette made a Motion to Dismiss for insufficiency of evidence and on the grounds that Parker’s termination was in effect a double jeopardy in that Parker had been given a letter of reprimand on the very same subject matter just two weeks prior to the Sheriff commencing the investigation that led to Parker’s termination. Wollett denied the Motion to Dismiss but issued a bench decision whereby he found that just cause did not exist for termination. Wollett further ruled that in light of Parker’s current employment situation, he should suffer a demotion. Parker was employed by the City of Red Bluff Police Department shortly after his termination, and is likely to continue to work there.

Parker stated, “I am happy to have the termination overturned and have my name cleared. However, I simply cannot work in a department that is run by Rob Heard. He was not told of the high school undercover operation because there was no need for him to know and we wanted to ensure the security and success of the program. Apparently that hurt his feelings and his reaction was to try to terminate me.”

PORAC Legal Defense Administrator Ed Fishman Testimony: Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras.