The Edmond Sun

April 4, 2013

Mediator continues city vs. firefighter arbitration hearing

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — A hearing that will determine whether or not a terminated Edmond fire official gets his job back has been continued until May 21.

On Oct. 7, 2011, then-Assistant Fire Chief Tim Wheeler was placed on paid administrative leave after a city employee alleged that he pointed a small-caliber pistol at another employee.

The reporting party said he had information that Wheeler had allegedly pulled a small-caliber pistol out of his back pocket and pointed it in the direction of a fellow employee, according to the city.

Wheeler has denied the allegations.

“His termination was totally unjust,” Wheeler’s attorney James Moore said in a previous report.

On Oct. 1, 2012, Wheeler was terminated for just cause, according to the city. While he was on leave, he received a total of $106,375.82 in gross pay. Later that month, he filed a grievance with the city seeking reinstatement and to be compensated for financial loss.

After the city denied the request, the parties chose an arbitrator from a list provided by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

On Tuesday, proceedings began with the arbitrator in a closed hearing. Two full days of testimony were held Tuesday and Wednesday, but the process was not completed, said City Manager Larry Stevens. As a result, the hearing will reconvene May 21, Stevens said.

Moore said the process is much like a trial without a jury before a judge. Both sides get to have opening and closing statements, present witnesses and cross examine witnesses. Moore said the city has been presenting its case to this point, which included hearing from Wheeler.

Moore said arbitration is a fair process and it is good that an impartial mediator hears the facts. He said he expects it will take one more day to complete the hearing. Moore plans on calling witnesses to testify on Wheeler’s behalf.

Cost for the arbitrator is evenly divided between both sides, Moore said. | 341-2121, ext. 108