NHP trooper’s firing upheld | NevadaAppeal.com

NHP trooper’s firing upheld

A state hearings officer has upheld the firing of a veteran state trooper for sexual advances toward a woman at a New Year’s Eve party while he was on duty.

Trooper James Steele’s conduct at the Dec. 31, 2007, party and in the Churchill County Sheriff’s Dispatch Center six days later was termed “egregious” by State Hearings Officer Bill Kockenmeister.

According to the decision issued Thursday, Steele made sexual comments and advances toward a sheriff’s dispatcher at the party, where he spent more than two hours even though he was on duty.

According to testimony during his Nevada Highway Patrol disciplinary hearing, Steele gave her a ride home because she was severely intoxicated and walked her to her door. He admitted kissing her but the report by the NHP Disciplinary Board says Steele asked if he could “cop a feel” and that she consented. It says he put his hands on her breasts and groin.

He admitted to the NHP board that he did not think the woman could have clearly consented to the sexual behavior.

She told investigators she didn’t clearly remember the events of that night but that she didn’t consent to sexual conduct.

Six days later, Steele renewed his advances at the dispatch center in Fallon and told her they could be “friends with benefits.”

Sheriff’s Sgt. Bill Coleman and several other witnesses testified to Steele’s conduct at the dispatch center where they said he spent more than two hours talking to the visibly uncomfortable woman.

His conduct was reported to Churchill Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Horsley by another female sheriff’s employee.

The decision states, “While employee exhibited remorse about his actions and indicated that this would not happen again, his conduct was so egregious that the provisions of (the Nevada Administrative Code) are applicable and, thus, termination was justified,” Kockenmeister wrote.

In his defense, Steele cited another instance in which two employees had sex and were not terminated. He said with 13 years of good service, termination was too severe.

Kockenmeister cited other incidents, including a trooper who groped a woman at a Christmas party, one who fondled a woman at a traffic stop, one who kissed a woman at a traffic stop and a parole officer who made advances to a probationer. Kockenmeister noted that all in those cases resigned or were fired.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.