MONROE — The Department of Corrections must reinstate the jobs of three Monroe corrections officers and one sergeant after a ruling from an arbitrator.
Former Superintendent Scott Frakes, who was promoted to deputy director of prisons, made the decision after investigations revealed a two-hour gap from the time Scherf attacked Biendl to the time her body was found.
The officers were accused of not searching the prison chapel thoroughly when Scherf went missing, not being in their proper positions during that night’s inmate movement period, and giving conflicting statements to investigators.
Ultimately, this arbitrator found that these officers did not have a clear directive on DOC policies, what their expectations were and that they should not take the fall for behavior that was common among other staff members.
“The department accused the three officers and the sergeant of misconduct, of intentionally disregarding the rules and putting people at risk and lying and the arbitrator said, ‘No, the evidence does not support any of that’,” said Tracey Thompson with Teamsters Local 117.
Rather than being fired after one of their own was killed on the job, the arbitrator felt written reprimands, combined with more training, would have been sufficient. He ordered the employees’ jobs reinstated and that they receive back pay.
DOC defends the firings in a statement issued Tuesday: “We are reviewing the arbitrator’s decision and will determine what actions to take. We took disciplinary action because of the serious nature of the staff members’ actions – including falsifying documents and lying to police investigators – which does not accurately represent the professionalism of our staff. We can only be an effective agency if we hold ourselves accountable for our actions, which we did in this case.
“We carefully reviewed the actions of staff members at every level of the agency and asked the National Institute of Corrections to conduct a security review of operations at Monroe Correctional Complex. While the National Institute determined that Monroe Correctional Complex is not unique in overcoming complacency in a work environment where the work is inherently repetitive, it does not excuse inappropriate behavior by our staff.
“We have taken every action recommended by the National Institute of Corrections as well as more than one thousand recommendations we received from staff members who work on the front lines. We will continue to build on our success and will continue to hold ourselves accountable for our actions because that is how we earn the public’s trust.”