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Washington Community Correction Officer’s Failure to Manage Caseload Merits Dismissal

The State of Washington Personnel Appeals Board (PAB) has held that dismissal is the proper sanction for a Community Correctional Officer who demonstrated a continued pattern of being unable to demonstrate she had the necessary skills or judgment to perform the duties of her position.

The PAB’s decision came in the appeal of Norma Cote, an employee at the Washington Department of Corrections since 1981. Over the course of her employment, Cote never received formal disciplinary action, but she did receive 16 prior letters of counseling or corrective action. Each of these related to her inability to fulfill her duties or for exhibiting poor judgment.

While Community Corrections Officers carry a workload of over 100 offenders, Cote’s was lowered to 70 to 80 because of her performance and inability to manage a normal caseload. After Cote failed to follow her supervisor’s instructions on a particular offender case, an audit of Cote’s caseload was conducted.

That audit revealed serious issues in six cases. They ranged from allowing sex offenders to live in or work in unauthorized areas around children, not acting on information an offender had a drug lab in his house, and to not violating an offender’s supervision when he admitted to having contact with minors and viewing pornography.

Cote was found to be negligent of her duties by failing to properly manage cases under her supervision, comply with department policies to violate offenders upon non-compliance of supervision or to complete classification of offenders, and was insubordinate when she failed to follow her supervisor’s instructions.

Based upon her length of service, the depth of her training, and the facts o9f her disciplinary record, the PAB said the newest conduct violations demonstrated dismissal is proper “to prevent recurrence, to deter others in similar misconduct, and to maintain integrity of the program.” See: Cote v. Department of Corrections, PAB No:-Dism-0200055 (2003). The PAB ruling is in the brief bank.

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Related legal case

Cote v. Department of Corrections