Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Board Won't Hear Complaint against Sheriff ; Civil Service Board Ruling Appears to Give Sheriff Unchecked Authority over Promotions

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Board Won't Hear Complaint against Sheriff ; Civil Service Board Ruling Appears to Give Sheriff Unchecked Authority over Promotions

Article excerpt

Shawnee County's sheriff appeared to have unchecked authority regarding promotions to upper-level positions in his office in the wake of a ruling made Tuesday by the Shawnee County Civil Service Board.

Board members voted to approve a motion concluding they lack jurisdiction to investigate complaints about promotions in the sheriff's office, though they suggested they would push to change the system.

Board members Darren Root and Gary Ross voted in favor of the motion while John Lamb abstained.

Tuesday's vote meant the board won't investigate a complaint filed by sheriff's office Capts. Michael Kolbek and Shane Hoobler.

Kolbek and Hoobler contended Sheriff Herman Jones disregarded Civil Service Board promotions processes the county has in place as he decided to promote Jay Simecka, who was previously a lieutenant, into a vacant major's position over Kolbek and Hoobler, who as captains had held a higher rank than Simecka.

Board members reached their conclusion after county counselor Rich Eckert told them in a memorandum dated Friday that Kansas Statute 19-4311(h) authorizes their board to "conduct hearings and hear complaints by or against personnel for the purpose of demotion, suspensions or removal of personnel."

Eckert added: "Had the legislature intended to grant the Board jurisdiction to hear complaints related to promotions, the word 'promotions' would have been in the statutory language. It was not."

County commissioners appoint members of the Civil Service Board, which received Kolbek and Hoobler's complaint on April 2.

Kolbek, a captain for 7 1/2 years, and Hoobler, a captain for eight years, submitted their notices of interest for promotion to the major's rank vacated by Phil Blume when Jones appointed Blume as undersheriff on Jan. 16.

A third sheriff's office captain, Philip Higdon, also submitted his notice but then withdrew it Feb. 25.

Jones sought to expand the pool of applicants by notifying all of his office's lieutenants with four or more years at that rank that they would be able to apply for the major's position. …

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