Arbitrator Rules In Favor of Fired Champaign Police Officer, With Second Charge Pending
Once again, an arbitrator acting under terms of the Champaign police union contract has ruled in favor of fired police officer Matt Rush.
Independent arbitrator Micheal Falvo determined that the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s refusal to use Rush as a courtroom witness was not valid grounds for firing Rush last April --- and that State’s Attorney Julia Rietz overstepped her bounds in doing so. The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police announced the arbitrator’s ruling on Monday.
“While the law invests prosecutors with enormous powers, it does not license prosecutors to usurp the authority and prerogatives of other government officials”, said the arbitrator, as quoted by Tamara L. Cummings, the IFOP attorney representing Rush.
The city of Champaign had no immediate comment on the arbitrator’s ruling. Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Bannon said that city officials were reviewing the decision and discussing their options internally.
Speaking for the IFOP, Cummings says the arbitrator concluded that Reitz’ choice to reject Rush as a courtroom witness “was not well founded, not reasonable and inconsistent with the law”.
WDWS and the News-Gazette report that Rietz is standing by her decision. According to the newspaper, Rietz said she disagreed with the arbitrator’s conclusions and has “concerns about Matt Rush’s ability to be a credible witness and about his judgment as an officer.”
But the arbitrator has yet to rule on the city’s second reason for firing Rush --- his alleged misconduct at Fat City Bar and Grill in Champaign on February 20th, 2016.
Rush was placed on unpaid leave following the incident. A letter of discipline signed by Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb stated that Rush was “highly intoxicated” at the bar, and showed his badge and off-duty weapon while representing himself as an officer.
That charge is to be taken up at a closed-door hearing before the arbitrator in Champaign on January 18th.
Matt Rush has been the subject of multiple excessive force lawsuits, and was fired by Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb once before in 2014 --- only to be reinstated in 2015 after an arbitrator ruled in his favor and reduced his termination to a short suspension.
A judge dismissed a civil lawsuit filed by Rush accusing Chief Cobb and Champaign County NAACP President Patricia Avery of conspiring to fire him.