published Friday, November 30th, 2012

Hamilton County board upholds firing of jailer

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Civil Service Board unanimously ruled Thursday night to uphold Sheriff Jim Hammond's decision to fire a corrections officer who flunked a psychological evaluation.

Former Corrections Officer Robert Koscinski, 58, was terminated June 4 after an evaluation determined he was unfit for duty.

Board members, John K. "Bucky" McCulley, William Pippin and Jack Benson Jr. ruled that the sheriff was justified to let Koscinski go.

The civil service board, which rules on personnel issues, is made of civilians who serve three-year terms appointed by the county mayor.

"This case comes down to the failed evaluation," McCulley said.

The evaluation was ordered after a March 16 incident in which Koscinski had to search a shackled inmate, Darrius Sneed.

Koscinski, who is a former New York City police housing officer, tried to take Sneed down after he says Sneed was noncompliant with orders. However, other accounts of other jailers stated Koscinski was the aggressor and provoked Sneed.

Administrators said there was a general consensus that other jailers did not feel comfortable working with Koscinski and an evaluation was ordered after he already visited a counselor through the Employment Assistance Program.

Hammond said Koscinski, who worked at the sheriff's office for seven years, could be a liability.

"At that point I had to evaluate ... safety and security," said Hammond, noting Koscinski would have to be cleared.

Employees may be asked at any time to undergo psychological evaluations at the sheriff's office if their behavior is questionable.

Koscinski's attorney, Jerry Tidwell, argued an alternative position should have been provided for Koscinski for several weeks until he received professional help. A complaint has been filed through the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

Deputy Chief Allen Branum said there were no civilian job openings available at the time where Koscinski would not have to carry a handgun.

Koscinski, who said he plans to appeal decision, still has not found work and receives unemployment. He tried to get a carry permit to work a security job, but the sheriff's office said he was unfit to carry a weapon when a background check was done.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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