City Council supports mayor in taking Frashour case to court

PORTLAND, Ore. - Every member of the City Council now supports Mayor Sam Adams' court appeal to keep a fired Portland police officer from getting his job back. The issue is set to go before the council Thursday.

Officer Ron Frashour was fired after the shooting death of Aaron Campbell outside a Northeast Portland apartment complex in January 2010. An arbitrator and the state Employment Labor Relations Board both ruled Frashour should get his job back.

Portland city commissioners said Tuesday they feel the arbitration and state labor board systems are both biased in favor of public employees, and they want to turn the firing of Frashour into a test case for managing these kinds of disputes.

The mayor and other city council members feel Frashour's actions in January of 2010 actually violated his training, despite the rulings.

They maintain he doesn't belong on Portland's police force and that the review process unfairly ties the city's hands by ordering reinstatement.

"I think there are other public policy reasons that make it worthwhile to seek a higher court's ruling on this and not to rely solely on the Employee Relations Board which, as I said in my opinion, is stacked," said City Commissioner Dan Saltzman who was police commissioner when the shooting happened. "It's been my experience that a lot of times these things enter the topsy-turvy world or Alice In Wonderland world of arbitrators and the ERB and it just doesn't come out looking like it makes any common sense."

Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she's supporting the mayor's court appeal in the Frashour case for two reasons.

"It's partly who's in charge of the police force and when is use of force appropriate? For me, it's also - it's necessary for Aaron Campbell's family, for his mother to feel that every avenue to justice has been pursued," she said.

Other commissioners want the state Court of Appeals to rule on legal issues tied to the rulings that support giving officer Frashour his job back.

And even the employment board's ruling in Frashour's favor noted Oregon's courts have not answered one critical question that Portland's appeal would raise:

"When do public policy concerns override, or give, local government the ability not to implement an arbitrator's decision," said Saltzman.

Adams will take the appeal before City Council Thursday at 2 p.m. Since a final court ruling may take years, Fritz is also exploring ways for the state Legislature to clarify state labor law as well.

Meanwhile, Frashour remains off the job and his reinstatement remains in the hands of the mayor's office.