Arbitrator rules county had cause to fire highway worker
A Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission arbitrator ruled earlier this month Pierce County had just cause to fire a Highway Department employee.
In an eight-page ruling dated Nov. 10, arbitrator Matthew Greer said because of Roger Billeter's intentional misconduct, as well as the lengthy period of time during which the misconduct occurred and the large number of those instances, the county wasn't required to "follow progressive discipline" before terminating him.
Billeter, Beldenville, was a foreman for the Highway Department when he was fired in January 2010.
As foreman, one of his duties was to transport diesel fuel, in his assigned truck, to the job site and fuel equipment that couldn't be driven back to Ellsworth.
Highway employees are required to document correct fuel amounts.
Coworkers reported seeing Billeter fill out fuel slips that had higher numbers than the actual amount deposited.
Billeter admitted in interviews to falsifying nearly 200 slips over a two-year period, stating he did that to cover the excess fuel used on smaller projects and machines he forgot to charge fuel to.
The local highway employee AFSCME union had filed a grievance stating the firing was excessive.
The county denied the grievance, and a two-day hearing was held last April in front of Greer.
The union argued "[s]ome discipline can be understood on these facts, and for these stated offenses, but termination for same cannot be upheld."
Billeter was charged last year in Pierce County Court with misconduct and theft. He was acquitted of misconduct in a jury trial and had the theft charge dismissed during the trial.
Union attorneys argued that because the county was unable to prove theft, it bloated the recordkeeping violations to justify not following progressive discipline policies while firing Billeter.