Tulelake Chief Wins Arbitration

Posted on Saturday, April 01, 2000 at 12:00PM

Harold Holmes was the chief of a small police force in Tulelake, a small town near the Oregon border. His first year on the job was fine, but with the election in November 1998, a new group took over the city council. In just about three months, the new city council was placing Holmes on administrative leave and moving to terminate him. Unfortunately, for this new council, under Tulelake’s personnel ordinance, they had to have cause to discipline even the chief. Nonetheless, the new council moved ahead with the termination, citing some 27 allegations of misconduct and poor performance, even though just several months before the previous council had no problems with Holmes’ work.

The case was heard by arbitrator Catherine Harris. By the time the hearing had concluded, only 5 of the original 27 allegations even remained to be decided, the others having been dropped by the city during the course of the hearing. After examining the evidence of the remaining charges, the arbitrator stated:

“The appeal is granted in its entirety. The city has failed to establish cause for the Appellant’s [Holmes’] termination from his position as chief of police. The evidence is insufficient to support any of the charges.”

Holmes’ attorney, LDF panel attorney, Bill Williams, of Sacramento, stated:

“The fact that they dropped over 80 percent of the allegations before the end of the hearing says a lot about what was going on here. We believe that the charges were really just a smoke screen for a political agenda emphasizing a lax enforcement posture and the new council’s desire to directly control law enforcement in the town. It’s the second time I’ve been involved in a case up there where enforcement of the law seemed to be the root of the problem. As can be seen from the arbitrator’s decision, I just don’t think they understand what ‘cause’ for discipline means. The problem is that even though there was no ‘cause’ for discipline, they were still able to put Chief Holmes’ law enforcement career in jeopardy just by making the charges. I’m very glad the arbitrator gave us such a strong and clear decision, because that dispels any notion that the city had a legitimate basis for discipline.”

Holmes is happy the ordeal is over so that he can get on with his career. He expressed his sincere appreciation for the strong defense provided by Williams, stating: “Without LDF, I would have been at their mercy.”

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