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Arbitrator rules in favor of Oliver; City issues statement

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021 - An official arbitrator in the termination of Sallisaw Police Lt. Billy Oliver has issued their ruling and concluded that Oliver should be reinstated.

Oliver was placed on leave after a June 2020 incident and terminated in November 2020. During the incident Oliver allegedly placed Charles Day in an unauthorized chokehold. Oliver did not have his body camera on at the time but another law enforcement officer captured the incident.

In his findings, arbitrator Charles R. Greer stated that the city's position was that they had terminated Oliver after an "accumulation of misconduct." Greer said that City Manager Keith Skelton had demonstrated "patience and deliberation" in his handling of the situation but "the City's rationale for terminating the Grievant is weakened by the fact that some charges of misconduct were not substantiated or were not serious infractions."

According to the report Oliver "has served as a police officer for the City for almost 14 years without substantive discipline and has risen in the chain of command to the rank of lieutenant. Some of his actions in incidents from May 27, 2020 through July 4- 5, 2020, violated Police Department policy. But some of these violations could have been dealt with by the application of relatively mild forms of progressive discipline."

Greer did add that Oliver's "multiple rule violations in a short time period of five or six weeks were a cause for serious concern."

According to the ruling conclusion, "The City violated the CBA when it terminated the Grievant. Because the severity of the Grievant's misconduct did not provide just cause sufficient to warrant termination, the award that follows will provide for reinstatement. The violations were not egregious enough to preclude the requirement for progressive discipline before resorting to termination, particularly for an officer with almost 14 years of service and no previous discipline of a substantive nature. The award provides for no back pay as a message to the Grievant that he needs to change his behavior. During a short period of time the Grievant displayed poor judgment that needs to be corrected in the future."

The City was directed to reinstate Oliver to his previous position but without back pay, benefits, or accumulated seniority.

However, Oliver currently has a protective order judgement against him in an alleged rape case which prohibits him from carrying a firearm. The ruling goes on to state that this will have to be modified before he can be reinstated. If this is not done in a timely manner, Oliver's termination will be upheld.

After receiving the ruling, City Manager Keith Skelton issued the following statement:

"The City has received the award issued by Arbitrator Greer regarding Billy Oliver. The City does not agree with portions of the award including the directive of potential reinstatement of Oliver. As the award currently stands, the discipline imposed by the Arbitrator includes up to 11 months without pay, no benefits and no seniority rights. The award recognized that Mr. Oliver is currently the subject of a permanent protective order issued by the District Court. The award provides that reinstatement is conditioned on modification or removal of the protective order so that Mr. Oliver may carry a firearm and ammunition. It further states that should this condition not be met within a reasonable period of time, the Arbitrator's directive regarding reinstatement will be withdrawn and the City's termination upheld. A hearing on the Protective Order is set for October 26, 2021."

Oliver’s attorney, Patrick Hunt, stated, “The long and short of it is that Lt. Oliver did make some mistakes, which he admitted, but he did not deserve termination. He’s a 14-year officer with no other official discipline action against him.”

Hunt said, “It’s a win for us but I don’t believe either side is ecstatic about the ruling. The termination wasn’t upheld but Billy will not be receiving backpay or benefits.”

“It’s a win though and we are ready to comply,” Hunt said. “Billy is ready to get back to work.”

KXMX News Staff

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