PARIS, Ill. (WTHI) - Justified termination or wrongful firing is a decision looming in Edgar County, Illinois. This month an independent ruling said that two Edgar County sheriff's deputies must be re-instated on the force. But, the sheriff's department feels it was the wrong decision and they plan to appeal it.
A career in law enforcement bound Dee Burgin and Roger Hopper together. But it's a decision by the sheriff's department of Edgar County that has made them closer.
Burgin and Hopper said the sheriff's department told them both had been hired without going through the merit system.
The merit system is a process involving a test, an appointment by a commission and ultimately a hiring of a sheriff's deputy. Both had been hired by the previous sheriff.
When current Edgar County sheriff Ed Motley told them he looked for their merit records he found none.
"He advised me that I wasn't and that I basically had 48 hours to prove that I was merited," Hopper explained.
Hopper claims he found the papers to prove he had been through the merit system. But the Sheriff's Department said otherwise.
The Hopper and Burgin filed a grievance with the union and two years later, an independent arbitrator sided with them.
"We have been awarded the arbitration decision stating full re-instatement with full back pay," Burgin told News 10.
However, the Edgar County Sheriff's Department maintains that in both cases neither followed the merit system law properly to be appointed; citing a lack of evidence of proper documentation.
We spoke to the Edgar County Sheriff's Department's attorney over the phone
"One of those guys did not go through the merit system what-so ever," Attorney Thomas McGuire said. "The second guy when he found out he should have gone through the merit system went through the merit system."
"But then he was on probation and as a result of improper conduct while on probation he was terminated from employment."
McGuire told us the merit system gives deputies their legal powers to carry out law enforcement. Without that legal backing, any case that either Deputy worked on could fall into disarray according to McGuire.
This legal backing was the key point that the arbitrator disagreed with in his ruling. The arbitrator claimed according to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act both men were rightfully hired.
That's the point is what the sheriff's department will focus on in their upcoming appeal. Merit System hiring or Labor Relations Act.
"We are going to go to court saying the decision of the arbitrator is basically going against the public policy of the state of Illinois," McGuire said.
Even as the legal battle draws on, the two former deputies feel they will be back at work with no hard feelings.
"I just wish we could sit this down and put this all behind us and move forward," Roger Hopper said.
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