There are two versions to the story of how Clark County employee Jadon Davis lost his job and won an arbitration case.
One has all the details, and the other doesn’t.
Clark County officials released a 47-page copy of the arbitrator’s written report in the Jadon Davis case in response to a Review-Journal public records request, but editing removed some information that didn’t support the county’s view.
The newspaper requested the report and other documents on Oct. 28, and received it on Nov. 13. A comparison of that heavily redacted document against an uncut version obtained from another source shows that editing went well beyond what the law requires.
For example, the arbitrator flatly found that Davis wasn’t to blame for the death of 7-year-old Roderick “RJ” Arrington Jr.
“It is entirely clear, however, that the Grievant (Davis) was not directly responsible for the child’s death,” Colorado-based arbitrator Kathy Eisenmenger wrote.
Clark County government attorneys trimmed that line out of the version it provided the Review-Journal.
Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, said the public has the right to know whether there was a critical flaw in the hotline system. He said that if the county purposely redacted the arbitrator’s finding that the employee was not at fault, then it goes against the grain of what an arbitration is all about. The public is entitled to know what happened because the arbitration was funded by public monies, he said.
County lawyers didn’t have any legal qualms with providing this portion of the county’s opinion of the worker’s actions: “The County further opines that the Grievant’s conduct was life-threatening because it placed the child in harm’s way.”
On Friday afternoon, county spokesman Erik Pappa said he was unable to answer questions about specific redactions, as county attorneys were unavailable. He said he would look into the matter in the upcoming week.
The complete version of the arbitrator’s decision leaves out identifying information about the boy, such as his name, address and school. It only gives his age and gender. The county also failed to provide a two-page supplemental arbitration award detailing legal reasons for returning Davis to work.
“The evidence of record failed to support the County’s contentions that the Grievant acted with negligence and, therefore, the County’s action to terminate the Grievant for the asserted offenses was without just cause,” the arbitrator wrote. “The public policy defense has no application in this particular case under the circumstances and findings of fact here.”
Deemed appropriate for public consumption was testimony from Paula Hammack, an assistant director for the Department of Family Services, that Davis’ firing was “based on his inability to recognize the errors and not understanding safety. And one of the core missions within our department is safety, permanency and well-being of the children within Clark County. And if he doesn’t recognize those key issues … we had an unsafe child here, and we should have been out there. I don’t have anybody I can work with. I can’t retrain them.”
The only thing the county attorneys took out was Hammack’s name.
The complete document has two places noting Davis had an employment record with no prior discipline issues. Yet county lawyers blacked out one of them, where the arbitrator notes that supervisors made “laudatory comments” about Davis’ performance. The deleted portion says Davis’ supervisors, in performance reports, found he turned to senior workers and a supervisor for guidance, coaching and direction.
The county did, however, keep in place an argument from the Service Employees International Union Local 1107, which represented the employee. That statement was that Davis had a “perfect employment record,” that references positive performance reports.
In its response to the Review-Journal’s public records request, the county noted the redactions are allowed under exemptions to the records law for confidentiality of public employee personnel records and the state law for child welfare cases.
However, in many instances information that is normally part of any public record was removed. For example, the county redacted Davis’ Aug. 11, 2008, employment start date with the Department of Family Services and a list of the training sessions he underwent.
Also removed from the report was a 4½-page narrative describing that the hotline where Davis works received two calls in one hour from the same unidentified school worker who relayed concerns.
In the first call, the worker relayed concerns from the boy’s neighbor about noises from Arrington’s home at 4 a.m., and reported that the boy appeared to be in pain and barely able to talk. The first call was handled by a different, unidentified hotline worker who wasn’t called to testify at Davis’ arbitration hearing.
That deleted narrative also shows the school worker called the hotline a second time to report that the boy showed her extensive scarring on his back and said he was beaten on the back and buttocks with TV cords, broom handles, spatulas and a belt. He also had difficulty walking.
That narrative also shows the boy told the school employee he was hit the night before and, when he is beaten, his skin breaks, bleeds and falls off. The employee didn’t examine the child’s buttocks, but asked for an investigator.
Also redacted was Davis’ testimony about his reason for assigning the call a priority level requiring only a response within 24 hours. Davis told the arbitrator the caller was reporting only old scars and alleging ongoing physical discipline, provided no information about current injuries and was “unwilling to look for any current injuries.”