Walla Walla County ssheriff’s Patrol Sgt. Tom Cooper, who opposed Sheriff John Turner in the 2014 race for the office, has been dismissed from his job.
“I can confirm that Mr. Cooper is no longer employed by the sheriff’s office,” Turner said Saturday. He said the “separation” occurred April 15.
Turner said he could not comment on the reason for the separation, but said it did not have anything to do with Cooper running against him last year.
“Of course not,” Turner said when asked if that were the cause.
Cooper said Saturday, that “under advice of legal counsel, I have to decline to discuss the specifics of the termination letter.”
However, Cooper said the documents he was given by Turner on April 15 did not use the word “terminate.” The concluding language, Cooper said, was “as a result there is no option other than to separate you from the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office.”
Cooper said he has worked for the sheriff’s office for 26 years. He had been on medical leave because of a knee injury when he ran against Turner in 2014, losing in the general election.
Earlier this year, Cooper said his own doctors, and one specified by the county, had cleared him to return to duty. He sent that information to Lucy Schwallie, the county human resources-risk management director, and she had relayed that information to Turner.
On April 10, Cooper said he received an email from Turner that said the sheriff wanted to meet him April 15 to discuss his return to duty. Instead of meeting at the sheriff’s office, the meeting was scheduled at the county Public Health and Legislative Building.
When they met, Cooper said Turner was accompanied by Shanda Zessin, his chief administrative deputy, and Gerrod Martin, his chief operations deputy. Cooper said Turner said little and just handed him a manila file containing the paperwork concerning his separation and then left.
“He handed me a file and just walked out,” Cooper said.