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Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 01:19 pm

Cop-turned-thief ordered back to work

Sheriff’s department must pay back wages

A thief has been ordered reinstated to her job as a Sangamon County sheriff’s deputy.

Sherry Waldron admits that she shoplifted $26 worth of groceries from a Schnuck’s on Sangamon Avenue in the spring of 2013. Two months earlier, she had been acquitted of stealing plants from a Sherman park, a case that prompted the sheriff’s department to fire her in 2012.

“I find that although Ms. Waldron has made some serious mistakes in the last several years, her character is beyond repute,” wrote arbitrator Timothy B. Tobin in ordering Waldron immediately reinstated with full back pay, lost overtime and benefits. “Ms. Waldron has shown over her 10-year term of employment with the sheriff’s office that she can be an outstanding sheriff’s deputy, she deserves another chance.”

Read the decision here.

Even Waldron didn’t think she had a shot at reinstatement when she stole the groceries, according to the decision issued last week. The ruling marks the third time that an arbitrator has decided Waldron must be allowed to work as a cop even though she is an admitted thief.

Dennis McGilligan, a different arbitrator who considered both the plant incident and the shoplifting case, last year ruled that Waldron must be reinstated. The county appealed the decision, and a judge sent the case back to McGilligan, ordering him to consider only the plant incident and to use a less-strict standard of evidence than he did in his initial ruling. The result, however, was the same, and the county earlier this year wrote a check for more than $223,000 to cover back wages and benefits.

This time, Tobin considered only the shoplifting charge to which Waldron pleaded guilty. He found that the sheriff’s department didn’t have the authority to fire Waldron for the theft because she was not an employee at the time she stole the groceries, having been terminated a year earlier due to the plant incident.

“It is impossible for an employer to discharge a non-employee for just cause,” Tobin wrote.

The arbitrator also ruled that the department wrongly took into account the plant incident when deciding that Waldron should be terminated after she stole groceries.

The sheriff’s department has said that Waldron cannot be an effective deputy because her credibility would be questioned in court. Department officials could not be reached for comment.

In ruling in Waldron’s favor last year, McGilligan found that sheriff’s officials disciplined female employees more harshly than male workers. Tobin in his ruling last week rejected a contention by the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, the union for sheriff’s deputies, that the department had discriminated against Waldron or subjected her to unequal treatment.

Waldron told Tobin that she lost her home and car after she was terminated and was forced to sell her personal property and cash in her pension. She also said that she had sought psychiatric help and been diagnosed with depression. Tobin wrote that he rejected an argument from the union that Waldron wasn’t a typical thief because “she was hungry, destitute and depressed.”

“I do not agree, theft is theft no matter the underlying circumstances,” Tobin wrote.

Waldron at last report was working as a part-time postmaster for the U.S. Postal Service.

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.


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