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Warren police Sgt. Manny Nites, who once staved off his firing after he traveled to Solon to coach his daughter’s basketball game while on duty, won arbitration late Monday against the city and is allowed to retain his job after being fired for showing up to a fantasy football draft party while on duty.
Nites was granted his job back after an arbitrator ruled in his favor. The arbitrator ruled that Nites be fully reinstated but will not receive back pay or benefits for the time he was suspended. The city argued for Nites’ firing.
Warren Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said Nites’ reinstatement will affect recent promotions in the department.
“There are only a certain amount in a level of sergeants available and not withstanding the fact that several were just promoted recently, Sgt. Nites coming back affects that agreed upon number. One sergeant will likely have to be demoted back to patrol,” said Cantalamessa.
The firing also was downgraded to a disciplinary suspension. The arbitrator ruled Nites clearly committed “serious department rule violations” but found he did not participate in picking players during the draft. The ruling says Nites only visited with guests and ate food during the draft party.
Nites appealed then-Chief Tim Bowers’ decision to fire Nites in December for attending the draft at a friend’s house while on duty and lying about it during his disciplinary hearing.
The arbitrator also found Nites was called to a report of tire slashing while he was at the party but never responded. More than 10 minutes later, another officer alerted Nites he no longer needed to respond because he took care of it. The arbitrator wrote because the tire slashing is considered an act of violence, the police department dispatches two officers for their safety.
In 2009, Nites signed a last-chance agreement with Bowers and the department that stipulated he pay back three hours to the city for leaving to coach the basketball game, serve a 90-day unpaid suspension and could be fired if he had any disciplinary complaints in the following two years.
He also agreed to testify against three Warren supervisors who allowed or knew he left to coach the basketball game, including current Chief Erik Merkel, who was suspended without pay for 10 days.
Bowers originally demoted him from his sergeant rank and suspended him for 10 days but reinstated him at his current rank after the agreement.
Nites was also investigated the same year for calling in sick in order to coach a little league baseball team.