Elgin officer fired over Facebook posts is back at work, city won't appeal
The city of Elgin will not appeal an arbitrator's ruling that allowed a police officer to come back to work this week, officials said.
An arbitrator ruled last week that Jason Lentz, who was fired Sept. 29, 2014, should have instead received a six-month suspension. City Manager Sean Stegall said the city won't appeal the decision; he declined further comment.
Lentz, 41, is on payroll and back at work as of Tuesday, although he won't be assigned to street duty until he's caught up with all the required police training and certifications, Police Chief Jeff Swoboda said.
It's not clear which patrol shift Lentz will be assigned; shifts are assigned starting in January for the duration of the year. "He'll bid for his shift like everybody else," Swoboda said.
Arbitrator Aaron Wolff ruled Lentz should get back pay and seniority beyond the six-month suspension.
Lentz was terminated after police department officials read more than 10 posts he made on Facebook dating back to August 2013, including one regarding the shooting by a police officer of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
Police union representatives argued, among other things, the posts were protected under Lentz's First Amendment rights, but in his 37-page ruling, Wolff said there was no need to decide on the First Amendment issue.
The city of Elgin released investigation information to the media -- which requested it under the Freedom of Information Act -- while the investigation was pending, which was a violation of the collective bargaining agreement with the police union, Wolff said.