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Evidence Fails to Support Charges of Washington State Employee; Reinstatement Ordered

The Washington State Personnel Appeals Board (PAB) has held the Washington Department of Corrections (WDOC) failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that an employee merited dismissal for failing to report an arrest and for pulling a knife on a co-worker, while on duty.

Before the PAB was the appeal of Charles Tyson, an employee of WDOC since 1991, who was a truck driver 3 at the time of his dismissal, on May 30, 2002.The dismissal came on the heels of a complaint filed by his co-worker, David McCaslin and the subsequent investigation that revealed an arrest of Tyson in September 2000.

While Tyson, McCaslin, and Michael Mc Nair were riding in an agency pick-up on November 27, 2001, Tyson, who was sitting in a rear seat behind McCaslin for a barge schedule. McCaslin responded, “you got five bucks?” According to McCaslin, Tyson used his right hand to reach into his right pocket to pull out a pocket knife, which he unfolded while saying, “I’ve got your five bucks right here.” Mc Caslin then testified that Tyson made a stabbing motion within 1 to 2 (inches) from my side.”

McCaslin reported the incident on December 3, 2001. Mc Nair, who was driving the truck, said the conversation between Tyson and McCaslin did not strike him as anything out of ordinary conversation. He did not hear Tyson threaten McCaslin or see Tyson holding a knife. He further, did not notice any change in McCaslin’s demeanor.

The PAB found that since the incident, there have been inconsistencies in McCaslins retelling of the event. They include whether Tyson used his right or left hand, whether the stabbing movements were towards him or the back of the front seat, and whether McCaslin could see movement towards the right of his body when his head was turned to the left. The PAB viewed the truck, finding Tyson’s fist “could not have fit in the space between the front seat and the side of the truck.”

The WDOC contended McCaslin was credible and consistent in describing the events. The PAB disagreed. It noted the delay in supporting the events and the fact that McCaslin, who was an intermittent at the time, was placed in Tyson’s former position when he was fired as a permanent employee.

During the investigation, learned Tyson had been arrested in September 2000. He was charged with failing to report that arrest with in 24 hours to WDOC as required by the collective bargaining agreement.
Tyson says he called his supervisor and left two messages on his answering machine. The first to alert that he would not be at work for two days, and the second, to advise him of the arrest.

The supervisor acknowledges receiving the first, but not the second. The PAB noted that the supervisor was not the only person with access to his home answering machine. As such the evidence could not establish that Tyson failed to report the arrest.

The PAB granted Tyson’s appeal and reinstated his employment. See: Tyson v. Department of Corrections , PAB No:-02-0040 (2003). The PAB ruling is in the brief bank.

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Related legal case

Tyson v. Department of Corrections