The Kenosha Police and Fire Commission on Tuesday upheld the termination of a police sergeant convicted of drunken driving.
Sgt. Gregory Munnelly, who was fired in February, appealed the decision to the commission.
Tuesday’s meeting hinged on a technical question: Was the police chief’s firing of Munnelly “discipline” and, if so, did the chief violate state statute by bypassing the Police and Fire Commission, which hears disciplinary cases?
The city, through attorney Joel Aziere, argued it was not, and argued that the commission did not have jurisdiction over the matter.
Munnelly’s attorney argued the termination was disciplinary.
Before making a decision on the police sergeant’s termination, the commission first heard arguments on the jurisdiction and opted to hear Munnelly’s appeal.
Munnelly, 41, was fired by Police Chief Dan Miskinis Feb. 1 about a month after Munnelly pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated causing injury.
In firing Munnelly, Miskinis acted without seeking a disciplinary hearing through the Police and Fire Commission, instead terminating Munnelly because — as he no longer had a valid driver’s license — he did not meet the minimum qualifications for the job. The city argued that the termination was not a disciplinary action.
In Munnelly’s appeal, his attorney argued that Miskinis violated Munnelly’s rights by bypassing the commission, which typically approves hiring and firing decisions.
With the commission’s decision Tuesday, Munnelly is expected to appeal his termination in circuit court.
Munnelly was arrested in November 2017 in Oak Creek after he crashed into a vehicle that was stopped at a traffic light. He was not on duty at the time and was not driving a Kenosha police car. The driver in the car he struck had minor injuries.
Munnelly’s blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit when he was tested after the crash.
According to testimony at the hearing Tuesday, Munnelly informed the Kenosha Police Department of his arrest and was initially placed on desk duty. He then returned to regular duty until he entered his plea.
With his conviction, Munnelly was sentenced to 40 days in jail and his license was revoked for a year.
In testimony Tuesday, Miskinis said having a valid driver’s license and a good driving record is part of the job description created by the city for all police officers.
He said he decided it was “most expeditious and appropriate” to terminate Munnelly directly because he no longer met the job qualifications.
“All sworn positions within the police department require a valid driver’s license,” Miskinis said.