Appeals court rules in fired CPD officer's case for reinstatement
COLUMBIA - In an opinion announced early Tuesday, the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals ruled the city of Columbia's appeal in the Rob Sanders case will need to be reviewed again.
Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton fired Sanders, a former Columbia police officer, in 2011 after the city said Sanders used excessive force. Sanders was seen in a video shoving an inmate in a jail cell. During a 2013 personnel board hearing, City Manager Mike Matthes chose not to reinstate Sanders. In January 2015, Sanders filed legal action to get reinstated and Cole County Judge Patricia Joyce ruled in his favor. Following that ruling, the city of Columbia appealed to the Western District.
In Tuesday's opinion, Judge Mark Pfeiffer says the Cole County Circuit Court did not have the statutory authority to review the case for reinstatement as a "contested" case, meaning in part, the person making the decision [Mike Matthes] about Sanders reinstatement should have been present during Sanders' 2013 personnel board hearing. The opinion also said the decision maker [Matthes] did not hear all the evidence presented in the case and thus the case was reviewed informally and should have been considered "uncontested."
Columbia Police Officers' Association Executive Director, Dale Roberts told KOMU 8 News Tuesday Judge Joyce will now likely have to rewrite her intial judge's order for reinstatement as an "uncontested" case and the city could then appeal again. That would send the case back to the Western District Court of Appeals.
"It's yet another delay in a case that has gone on for five years now," Roberts said on Sanders' behalf. "One of the biggest takeaways is that the court of appeals said the city's personnel board hearing was 'nothing more than window dressing.'"
City manager Mike Matthes did not immediately return our request for comment Tuesday morning. A secretary said Matthes was in meetings most of the day.