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Utah Dept. Wrestles With 'Double-Dipping' by Officers

July 18--OGDEN -- The double-dipping question remains up in the air at the Ogden Police Department.

The city's Civil Service Commission has again ruled it has no jurisdiction over appeals of promotions in dismissing Sgt. Blaine Clifford's grievance over the practice.

"We decided we don't have the authority under our rules," Commissioner Joe Murray said. "I think he's got an argument, but it's just not with the Civil Service Commission."

He noted the decision was unanimous among himself and fellow commissioners Chris Zimmerman and A.K. Greenwood, b o t h f o r m e r high-ranking

OPD administrators. Murray is a retired Ogden fire chief and former legislator.

Clifford maintains the department illegally passed him over for lieutenant in early 2007 even though he ranked first in testing for the position. Instead, a returning retired lieutenant was appointed and he who was then allowed to continue collecting retirement benefits.

The department has repeated the practice several times since, which added some $50,000 in retirement benefits to the returning lieutenants' compensation and drew a Utah Retirement Systems investigation.

The URS probe closed earlier this year with no action taken but further monitoring.

Chiefly, Clifford's grievance claimsthat the way he was treated was part of a regular practice, with four other sergeants passed over in favor of retirees returning to the department to double dip. He seeks the position and back pay at the lieutenant's salary retroactive to 2007.

Clifford's grievance claims the city violated its own policies and state law in holding the position open for six months without recruiting to fill it, and by not requiring the returning retiree to take the lieutenant's exam.

Clifford's attorney, Elizabeth Peck, of Salt Lake City, said she would wait until receiving the written version of the decision from the commission's July 6 meeting before deciding on the next step for the well-traveled complaint. After arguments before the commission on the jurisdiction question at its June 22 meeting, options mentioned by Peck included the Utah Court of Appeals as well as 2nd District Court.

Roy City Attorney Andy Blackburn, who pinch-hits as legal counsel for the commission when Ogden city attorneys are involved in a grievance, said his written analysis on the legal basis for the commission's decision would be finished for Peck's review this week.

He would only say that while the commission does have jurisdiction to oversee promotions of police and firefighters, that does not include the authority to hold appeal hearings, as it does for firings and suspensions.

Complaints from Ogden officers triggered the URS investigation of the doubledipping in 2009. The URS has never commented on the investigation beyond saying no sanctions resulted and the department would be monitored over the next two years.

Double dippers in the department include Chief Jon Greiner, assistant chiefs Wayne Tarwater and Marcy Korgenski, and lieutenants Mike Ashment and Scott Conley, all currently receiving both city salaries and URS benefit payments. Also double dipping is Randy Watt, an assistant chief just returned from the war in Iraq, although his status differs because of his position in the Utah Army National Guard. Lt. Loring Draper, since retired again, also double dipped.

Recently retired lieutenants who have not opted to return and double dip are Mark Acker, Scott Sangberg, John Stubbs and Dave Tarran.

The jurisdiction question over Clifford's grievance was also raised in 2007 by city attorneys who claimed the commission had no authority to hear his appeal of a promotion. The grievance was dropped on procedural grounds by the commission, and Clifford later turned it into a lawsuit in 2nd District Court.

Earlier this year, Judge Ernie Jones directed Clifford to take the suit back to the city and "exhaust administrative remedies" there before refiling the lawsuit.