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Fired Sunnyside jailer wants his job back

A former Sunnyside corrections officer fired last January is fighting to get his job back by taking the city to a scheduled union arbitration hearing this coming December.

Remedios Campos was fired in January by then interim city manager Mark Kunkler, who said he terminated Campos due to off-duty conduct that he said raised a concern about Campos' ability to perform his job.

Kunkler said Campos' off-duty behavior came to a head in the early hours of Nov. 11, 2007, when Campos discharged a handgun in what Kunkler described as a domestic disturbance.

According to a Yakima County Sheriff's report, Campos had been drinking in the Tri-Cities with his wife, family and friends. The report details that when his wife left with some of her friends, Campos became upset and started making threats against himself.

On the way home to Sunnyside Campos' family became concerned for him when they arrived at his residence. The report alleges Campos went into his bedroom, grabbed a 9mm handgun and advised everyone he wanted to be left alone.

While everyone left the residence, Campos' younger brother stayed behind to talk. It was then, according to the report, that Campos fired a shot from the weapon into the headboard of a bed.

Campos never threatened anyone in the house, but Sheriff deputies were called. Since there had been a shot fired and activities inside the house were unclear, additional police units from Granger, Mabton and Sunnyside were called in to secure a perimeter.

After surrounding the house, a Sunnyside police sergeant Campos was on good terms with was able to convince him to come out.

Campos was placed in protective custody and released to Yakima Mental Health.

"At the time it was viewed as a pretty serious incident," Kunkler said.

Campos doesn't usually carry a gun for his duties as a corrections officer but will be armed if he transfers a prisoner.

Taken from Campos' residence were a 9mm Glock handgun, an AR-15 assault weapon and some ammunition.

According to the incident report, Campos claimed he and his wife were having marital problems and she was mentally abusing him. He stated it had all gotten to be too much for him and he had just wanted to be left alone.

The Yakima County Sheriff's Office has been called before to investigate domestic issues between Campos and his wife and the November incident proved to be the final straw for Sunnyside officials.

In September of 2005 Campos called the sheriff's office to complain about his wife's brother threatening him. Campos asked sheriff deputies to tell his brother-in-law to leave him alone.

After going to the brother-in-law's house, deputies were unable to locate him.

A little later that evening deputies made contact with Campos' wife, who told deputies she was in the process of getting a divorce from Campos. She also claimed Campos had come to her apartment in Sunnyside the previous month and kicked in her door and put a gun to her head, but never reported it. She also claimed she was concerned for her safety.

Deputies informed the Sunnyside Police Department of the allegations and it was decided that the Yakima County Sheriff's Office would handle the investigation to comply with Sunnyside police policy, which dictates when one of their employees is involved in a complaint of a criminal nature, another law enforcement agency investigates.

Campos was put on paid administrative leave pending the September 2005 investigation.

According to the incident report, a sheriff's detective made contact with Campos' wife on the phone and asked her about the incident.

She told the detective the door that had been kicked in had been fixed and that the couples' children had never witnessed their fighting. When the deputy asked if he could interview the children, Campos' wife refused, saying she didn't want them traumatized.

An appointment was made for Mrs. Campos to be interviewed but a jury trial forced the sheriff's detective to cancel. When trying to reschedule the meeting, Mrs. Campos was hard to reach.

This led the detective to attempt to contact Mrs. Campos at her place of work. The detective said she became upset, stating she couldn't believe he came to her place of work.

The detective told Mrs. Campos that since she wouldn't return his calls he had no choice but to come to her work to complete the investigation. According to the police report, Mrs. Campos yelled at the detective to drop the case.

The detective went on to say he investigated the door at the apartment that was alleged to have been kicked in. In the report he could find no evidence to support that claim.

After speaking with several neighbors, they were unaware of any disturbances.

Due to the lack of cooperation from Mrs. Campos and the lack of any evidence, the incident was listed as unfounded.

Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder said Campos had worked for the Sunnyside Police Department since 1996 and had been a good employee. During the course of his employment Campos has been recognized as an outstanding corrections officer on numerous occasions.

"Seven times I believe," Radder said.

With the arbitration hearing coming up in December, Campos is seeking to be reinstated as a corrections officer.

"Our position is the decision to terminate him was correct," Kunkler said.

He did admit that if the arbitrator rules in favor of Campos, the city would have to reinstate him.

"We're discussing a wide-range of options but right now we're in the position to go to arbitration," Kunkler added.

When Kunkler was asked if there were talks to bring Campos back and avoid an arbitration hearing he had no comment.

Sunnyside does have policies that give employees a second opportunity through 'last chance' agreements in certain situations. In some cases, where alcohol or drugs might be involved, if a treatment and compliance regime can be worked out, coupled with testing, a last chance agreement could be entered into.

Radder said the incident this past November was a serious situation. Barring being directed to take him back, Radder said he would need assurances Campos' return wouldn't create a dangerous environment at work or in the community.

"That is my primary concern," he said.

Neither Campos nor Sunnyside City Manager Eric Swansen would comment for this article.

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