Fairfax County Sheriff Carl R. Peed has been ordered to reinstate two former deputies who were fired last fall for allegedly giving a newspaper reporter a document that accused the sheriff's department of racial discrimination.
The Fairfax County Civil Service Commission, in an 11-hour closed-door hearing Tuesday, ruled that Peed must rehire former deputies Jabar Shabazz and Robert Cutts, the commission's executive director, John Robinson, said yesterday.
The commission will issue a written decision next week, Robinson said.
Shabazz, 33, was fired Dec. 3, and Cutts, 39, was dismissed Nov. 20. At the time, Peed said that the deputies, both of whom are black, had given a reporter from The Connection newspapers a draft copy of a newsletter published by Blacks in Government, a national employee support group. The document accused the sheriff's department of harassing and discriminating against black deputies.
Peed said Shabazz and Cutts had violated department rules against making public statements, releasing information to the media and knowingly making false statements.
The deputies denied the charges and filed grievances with the commission alleging that they were fired because they had made internal complaints about racial discrimination in the department and because they had aired grievances with groups such as the NAACP.
Shabazz and Cutts, along with a third deputy, Gwendolyn Bell, also filed a lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria, asking the court to order their reinstatement and to halt illegal practices in the department.
"I'm just relieved and I can't wait to see the Civil Service Commission's reasoning," said Charles D. Smith, the attorney for Shabazz and Cutts.
Smith said Cutts has been unable to find work since being fired, while Shabazz is working as a jail guard in Hanover County.
Peed could not be reached for comment yesterday. He has previously declined to comment on the firings but has vigorously denied that there is racial discrimination in the department.
Assistant County Attorney James E. Wilcox Jr., who represented Peed before the commission, said he could not comment on the commission's decision until it issues a written ruling.
Stanley G. Barry, a former deputy who is challenging Peed in the November election, praised the commission's ruling.
"I think the Civil Service Commission is affirming something many of us have long believed--that you can't fire someone just because you don't like them or agree with them," Barry said.
Barry himself was fired by Peed last spring after announcing he would seek the sheriff's job.