It was a one-day victory.
A North Las Vegas police officer who was fired in 2007 won his job back in September, along with back pay and attorney’s fees estimated at $500,000.
Then in November, the city fired Timothy Frabbiele the day after they reinstated him.
It’s a move that Adam Levine, Frabbiele’s attorney, contends is a direct violation of an order from the Local Government Employee Management Relations Board, a government entity that handles disagreements between employers and employees.
That’s not how the city sees it.
“We maintain that the integrity of our department rests with the actions of its members and when officers are found to have violated the public’s trust, they need to be held accountable,” said Sgt. Chrissie Coon in a statement, noting that the city couldn’t comment on the specifics of the case.
“We will continue to fight for the right to terminate officers who do not perform to the quality of service that North Las Vegas residents deserve.”
The board didn’t weigh in on whether Frabbiele should have been punished. This issue was how the city went about it.
The city attempted to cherry-pick its disciplinary process to block Frabbiele from contesting his firing, according to the order.
As such, the board ordered he be put back where he was when the city veered from policy: on paid administrative leave.
North Las Vegas argued Frabbiele at that time was still in the 18-month probationary period all new-hires go through as stated in municipal code. Frabbiele started in July 2006 and was placed on administrative leave for the investigation on July 5, 2007.
Levine argues Frabbiele wasn’t probationary and even if he was a probationary employee, that doesn’t mean he was an at-will worker.
The board ruled Frabbiele had a right to grieve his firing and that doesn’t make sense if the board views him as at-will, Levine said.
“The city of North Las Vegas and the chief of police just never seem to learn,” Levine said. “This is why the city of North Las Vegas is in financial distress, dumb decisions like this.”
So, what’s all the fuss about?
It all goes back to a parking ticket. There’s no question the vehicle was illegally parked. What’s in question is whether the owner was being targeted by Frabbiele because of his relationship with the man’s estranged wife.
A man filed a complaint with the city that he had been given a parking ticket for parking the way he’d done for four years without a problem. The ticket was because he’d had his tires against the curb. The man said he’d been parking that way because his cul-de-sac had limited space.
“My wife and I are going through a divorce right now. It’s very nasty and there have been threats made by her that I should watch my back because she knows a lot of North Las Vegas police officers,” the man wrote in the complaint.
He went on to write that he believed his wife was dating a police officer named Tim.
Frabbiele wrote a ticket and had another officer sign it, according to city court filings.
The city also alleged in court filings that Frabbiele used the Police Department’s record search system to investigate his female friend’s husband.
Brent Carter, the officer who signed the ticket, lost his job, too.
Carter said he was eating breakfast with Frabbiele one day when Frabbiele mentioned there was a truck blocking the sidewalk in Carter’s area; it belonged to the ex-husband of a woman he was seeing.
Carter said he didn’t think anything of it. Suddenly, there was an internal affairs investigation and his more than nine-year career in law enforcement was gone, he said.
“There was no malicious intent behind the whole thing. It’s just a crazy story,” said Carter, who now works for a building supply company in California.
“It was devastating. I was a police officer for nine and a half years so I didn’t know what to do. I loved being a cop.”
Carter chalked it up to “backdoor politics” and said he didn’t pursue his firing as Frabbiele did because he didn’t have the money to retain an attorney.
Accusations that police are using their badge to settle personal scores look bad, said Mike Yarter, president of the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association. Frabbiele hired Levine after the union stopped pursuing his case after he was fired the first time.
“You don’t want to lose the confidence of the public,” Yarter said. “I think that’s probably why the city made the decision that they did in this case.”
Yarter said he couldn’t give an opinion about the legitimacy of the case or how the city has chosen to respond. The union has filed Frabbiele’s grievance on his behalf, as the union is required to do. If litigation happens, though, Frabbiele will continue to be represented by Levine, as is the situation for those members that have their own counsel.
Levine estimates the back pay combined with attorney’s fees for Frabbiele’s original improper firing claim will be in the ballpark of $500,000.
The city is asking for judicial review to evaluate if the board made the wrong decision in that case.
Timothy Frabbiele is hired July 2006
A parking ticket is written May 31, 2007, on a vehicle that has its tires against the curb in a cul-de-sac.
According to the man who got the ticket:
My wife and I are going through a divorce right now. It’s very nasty and there have been threats made by her that I should watch my back because she knows a lot of North Las Vegas police officers.
The man says he believes his wife is dating an officer named Tim.
A complaint by the vehicle owner is filed June 6, 2007. Internal affairs gets involved.
Click to read a copy of an internal affairs memo.
Officer Brent Carter is fired after a nine-year career. He signed the ticket.
Frabbiele is placed on paid administrative leave July 5, 2007
Frabbiele is fired Sept. 11, 2007