Former Enumclaw Police Lt. Eric Sortland isn't giving up without a fight.
Though the Civil Service Commission did this week by the city of Enumclaw in October 2011 for his alleged misconduct within the department, he has the right to and will be appealing the Commission's decision in King County Superior Court, his attorney Brett Purtzer said Friday.
"He was disappointed [by the decision]," Purtzer said, "and he wants to continue on."
Sortland's appeal would not bring about a new hearing but would ask the court to rule on whether the Commission's decision was "arbitrary and capricious," Purtzer said.
The court would need review transcripts of all interviews conducted during the hearing and Purtzer said the action could move forward before the end of the year. John Kugler, the attorney who represented the city said earlier this week that the 12-page decision lays out the causes for the city's action pretty well.
Purtzer disagrees. "I think that while respecting the Commission, I don't think the evidence presented supports either the suspension or termination," he said.
The most questionable aspect of the accusations of discrimination and harassment against Sortland lies in that they date back quite a few years but complaints were never made to the police chief and Sortland never knew about them, Purtzer said. "Nothing was brought to his attention," he said. "All of a sudden it appeared there was a concerted effort brought up ... to take some action against Lt. Sortland. It's pretty disappointing in that they...as opposed to taking it up directly with him, they didn't take it up with anybody."
In fact, it was only after Sortland filed a complaint of hostile work environment against Chief Jim Zoll in December 2010 that various officers in the department began to reveal their dissension in working with him. This was while the city hired an independent investigator to look into Sortland's complaint against Zoll.
In that respect, Sortland opened the flood of complaints himself. However, according to Purtzer, that still doesn't discount that "if it was something that was so troubling for all these various officers, you'd expect it was brought to someone's attention at some point in time," he said. "It was curious to me how this happened. It's a small department with wide dissension and no one knew."
The appeal has yet to be filed but Sortland intends to have it completed within the 30-day window, said Purtzer. "I'm not aware of anyone being able to control a department that was subordinant to a chief," he said. Of Sortland, "I think he can weather any storm."