A mishandled investigation of Christopher Klemp, a key figure in an alleged administrative cover-up within the Clark County School District Police Department, has resulted in Klemp keeping his job after he won a grievance against the district.
Klemp, a former internal investigator, will remain with the department as an officer at Peterson Behavior school, according to documents obtained by the Review-Journal. The investigation was dismissed last month after Klemp challenged the district’s failure to extend the probe by its 30-day deadline.
Meanwhile, two other officers who were fired — former Lt. Dan Burgess and Sgt. Anthony Russo — have won their arbitration cases in seeking to reclaim their jobs.
Russo, who was charged with a DUI in 2015, rejoined the force last week. Burgess said last week he’s awaiting more clarification on his arbitration decision.
Burgess was among at least four school police officers who cooperated with the FBI following a 2009 party attended by department employees that allowed underage drinking. A young drunken driver who left the party struck and killed UNLV honors student Angela Peterson.
Burgess and other officers confirmed to the Review-Journal in June that they provided information to FBI agents in an attempt to uncover corruption within the department, stemming in part from retaliation they claim Klemp took against them.
The whistleblowers included former officer Mike Thomas, who lost a federal lawsuit against the department last week. Arbitration for Thomas, who claims he was fired in retaliation for his relationship with the FBI, is still ongoing.
Further complicating the matter is a federal lawsuit — filed on March 17 by Russo and Burgess against Klemp and the district — that claims they were not given a proper hearing.
Some of those officers claimed Klemp launched improper investigations into them as retaliation for cooperating with the FBI.
The district launched its own investigation into Klemp after he was heard on tape revealing a confidential internal investigation to another officer. On the tape, Klemp suggests that the officer should blame the leak on a police union member — and suggests he will lie about the matter if it’s ever traced back to him.
But Associate Superintendent Edward Goldman dismissed the investigation into Klemp last month, after Klemp filed a grievance on the matter, documents obtained by the Review-Journal show.
Goldman cited the district’s failure to extend the investigation by a 30-day deadline, as required in the police union’s contract.
Klemp declined to comment on the grievance that he won, saying only that there was a “great amount of dishonesty” being reported.
“I know the truth, and I know what’s going on,” he said of the federal lawsuit against him and others. “I can’t comment, it wouldn’t be appropriate to say something.”
A district spokeswoman said the investigation of Klemp was ongoing for six months. “We are not at liberty to make any statements concerning the internal investigation, it’s a personnel matter,” spokeswoman Melinda Malone said in an email.
Thomas and Burgess were critical of the decision.
“Anybody else in Klemp’s position would’ve been gone,” Thomas said. “No question. Officers have been fired for far, far less.”
Burgess and Russo, who was not among the whistleblowing officers, filed their lawsuit in Nevada’s U.S. District Court against the district, Goldman, Klemp and district Police Chief James Ketsaa over their termination. The lawsuit, which seeks over $225,000 in damages, argues that both Russo and Burgess were not given a fair hearing.
“Due process required that Plaintiffs Burgess and Russo receive a pre-deprivation hearing whereby they were provided notice of the charges, an explanation of the evidence upon which it was based, and an opportunity to invoke the discretion of the decision maker prior to being deprived of their pay and employment,” the filing states.
The lawsuit also argues that the district improperly terminated Burgess after he exposed attempts to cover up police involvement in the 2009 party.
“Burgess’ reporting of CCSD’s illegal conduct was not private or proprietary, but instead was sought to further the public good and expose the illegal and pervasive conduct of defendants,” the lawsuit states.
Burgess fought back against his termination, and in October an arbitrator ruled that he was wrongfully fired.
But the arbitrator is working on clarifying aspects of that decision, including Burgess’ back-pay and rank, Burgess said.
The district, he said, has argued that he was working on a probationary status at the time and had no right to employment.
“My bottom line is that I just want to get back to work,” he said. “From the employment side, I just want to get back to work and do what I did for 12 years impeccably.”
Russo was charged with a DUI and battery in 2015, when he crashed into another car and punched one passenger in the face three times, according to arrest records.
When bystanders tried to pull Russo away from the passenger, he punched one and pulled out his gun, according to records.
After the district recommended his termination, Russo fought to keep his job through arbitration and won.
Russo declined to comment on his reinstatement.
THOMAS LAWSUIT CLOSED
Thomas’ lawsuit, filed in 2013, claimed in part that the department retaliated against him after he openly complained about the cover-up of the 2009 party.
“There’s no doubt in my mind I was terminated in retaliation,” he said.
Thomas, who said he gave information to the FBI, said that Klemp investigated him over filing a false report against a police dispatcher who was at the 2009 party.
Although his lawsuit was dismissed last week, Thomas is still awaiting his arbitration hearing to win his job back.
Adam Levine, an attorney who represents Thomas, said they are expecting him to be reinstated with back-pay and benefits.
Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at 702-383-4630 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.