Chapel Hill, N.C. — A former Chapel Hill police officer who lost his job last year for violating the department sick leave policy should be reinstated with full pay, according to a recommendation by the town's Personnel Appeals Committee.
Cpl. Chris King was fired in August for using sick leave for a family vacation, but the five-member panel said in a memo to Town Manager Roger Stancil that the termination wasn't an appropriate punishment.
A 14-year veteran of the Chapel Hill Police Department, King admitted during a hearing last month that he violated policy but contended that he was punished too harshly. He added that he told his supervisors ahead of time that he was going to Florida but would be calling in sick.
King's supervisors recommended that he be suspended for a day or two, but Chief Chris Blue decided instead to fire him, saying he put his credibility as an officer in jeopardy.
At last month's hearing, a town attorney said King's actions were egregious enough to warrant termination.
The appeals committee disagreed.
It found that King's supervisor "failed to properly advise" him "of the potential consequences of 'calling out' sick" and that, as a result, King was misled to believe it was acceptable.
The committee also found that officers taking sick leave for personal reasons wasn't uncommon and that the policy "has not been so strictly enforced in the past."
It also noted that King had no performance issues or other disciplinary actions against him during his career.
"After considering all the testimony and mitigating facts of this case, the committee does not believe the violation is so egregious that termination is the appropriate action," the memo stated.
It concluded by recommending a lesser punishment but did not say what it should be.