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Washington DOC Guard's Termination For Marijuana Possession Reduced To Suspension

Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) guard Kenneth Wilson appealed his termination for lying about marijuana possession. The termination was overturned and a six month suspension without pay was implemented.

Wilson worked as a recreation specialist at the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) for almost twelve years. In 1999, he and his wife were at a night club where he, as a musician, had a chance to play with the band. He stepped outside where a band member handed him a pipe containing marijuana and a lighter. At that very moment, a Walla Walla policeman drove into the parking lot and Wilson placed the paraphernalia on the bumper of a van. A band member and Wilson received citations for possession. The incident was subsequently reported to the WSP and Wilson denied the possession in an attempt to keep his job. He admitted the possession at a second interview with WSP officials, but denied smoking from the pipe. He was terminated despite his perfect work record and he appealed.

The Washington State Personnel Appeals Board held that, although he violated policy and procedure and lied, he "mitigated the severity of his misconduct by coming forward and admitting his wrongdoing" and "was truly remorseful." It was held that "In light of his unblemished history.. .dismissal is too severe a sanction." See: Wilson v. Department of Corrections, Wash. Personnel Appeals Board, Case No. DISM 99 0026 (Nov. 17, 1999).

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