Civil service affirms police officer's firing in Hillview

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By The Staff

HILLVIEW - A four-member civil service board has affirmed the mayor’s firing of a long-time police officer in the city of Hillview.

In its written findings secured through an open records request, the firing of Connie Rausch for violation of standards of a Hillview police officer by Mayor Jim Eadens in January 2009 were affirmed.

However, attorney Joseph Wantland said his client will take the matter to Bullitt Circuit Court to reclaim the position she has held for the past 13 years.

The civil service board held a hearing at the request of Rausch on March 11.

According to Hillview police chief Aaron Yates, two complaints were filed by residents who saw Rausch pass a stopped school bus that was unloading children on Dec. 4, 2008.

Yates told the commission that he instructed assistant chief Glenn Caple to perform the investigation on the complaints.

Caple was not called upon to testify but Yates said Rausch gave conflicting statements about the complaints during the internal investigation.

The complaints said that the bus had gone up South Skyline and turned onto Crestwood Lane to unload students. With the bus stopped, the complaints said that Rausch drove her cruiser behind the bus on South Skyline.

Yates said the officer was familiar with the operating procedures of the department and that is was said that she had to swerve off the pavement to get around the bus.

During cross-examination by Wantland, Yates said that Rausch was fired without a hearing. The chief said that he received his information from the investigation.

Wantland presented several witnesses during the two-hour hearing.

The bus driver said she did not see a police officer pass the rear of the bus that day. The six youngsters who get off at that bus stop cross the street in front of the bus and she pulled around the corner to block off traffic.

She felt that a part of the bus remained on South Skyline when she turned the corner.

Eadens testified that the civil service hearing was the first opportunity for Rausch to state her case. He refused to talk about her work performance in the past and said he had no role in the investigation.

In the personnel file, there was one documented notation over the past 13 years.

Bryan Whittaker, Rausch’s supervisor, said he felt she had done a good job. He wasn’t aware of an Oct. 14, 2008, discipline report written up by Yates and Caple.

Officer Michael Murdoch said he heard the mayor say last summer that he would fire all the police officers and deal with the lawsuits. He admitted not hearing the conversation before or after the mayor allegedly made the comment.

In its findings, the commission - made up of Anissa Timm, John Hunt, Harold Raymer and Robert Fust - found that the decision to affirm the mayor’s dismissal was due to conflicting testimonies from the internal affairs investigation and the hearing.

Wantland said he couldn’t believe the city would not follow the ordinance and provide Rausch with a hearing before she was fired.

The attorney said the matter would be taken to circuit court and he is confident Rausch will receive her job back.

He said is was an odd consequence that when the officer filed an equal opportunity complaint, the bus incident occurred.

“This is not over yet,” said Wantland. “She had 13 years of service to the city and then they do this.”