Washington state Deputy Attorney General Todd Bowers has fired senior criminal investigator Cloyd Steiger after it was found Steiger stiffed a Tacoma waitress on a tip for wearing a Black Lives Matter pin while working.
What are the details of the incident?
According to KING-TV, Steiger — a 61-year-old former Seattle police homicide detective — visited a restaurant on Sept. 6, where he ran up a $46.74 bill and refused to tip the server.
Instead, on the purchase receipt, Steiger wrote, "BLM button = no tip. That's how socialism works."
While at the restaurant, Steiger also reportedly "made a scene."
According to The Seattle Times:
A server, 19-year-old Reese Vincent, said she met the couple and led them to a table on the patio, where they ordered cocktails and appetizers. Steiger, she said, seemed "standoffish" and anxious to leave. They asked for their check after a single round of drinks, she said.
Vincent, who has since turned 20, said Steiger pulled out his wallet to get his credit card and she noticed it bore "the American flag symbol with the blue line through the middle," describing the "Thin Blue Line" flag, adopted as a symbol of solidarity with law enforcement, although some see it as a symbol of white supremacy and institutional racism.
Vincent said she was respectful and cashed them out. At that point, according to witnesses and the AG's investigation, Steiger confronted another young employee he thought was a manager and angrily confronted him about the BLM buttons. That conversation ended with Steiger swearing and flipping the young man off.
Steiger shared a photo of the receipt on his Facebook page after his visit at the restaurant, which soon went viral.
Just two days later, the attorney general's office placed Steiger on a suspension pending an investigation into the incident.
'Extremely poor judgment'
The attorney general's office on Wednesday concluded that investigation into Steiger's behavior, determining that he showed "extremely poor judgment" when he visited the Tacoma restaurant in September with his wife. During the investigation, Steiger also reportedly told investigators that he believed Black Lives Matter as an organization was on par with the Ku Klux Klan, and added that "both are hate groups."
According to Bowers' termination letter, Steiger — who worked as a chief criminal investigator for the district attorney's Homicide Investigation Tracking System — displayed "angry, disrespectful, and disruptive" behavior while at the restaurant.
The outlet reported that Steiger, according to Bowers' letter, "failed to meet the integrity standards of the office," and with his behavior, "had undermined the trust of the public and his fellow workers."
The Seattle Times reported that Bowers also said Steiger "irreparably compromised [his] credibility and brought significant disruption and embarrassment to the office."
According to The News Tribune, "the Attorney General's Office reviewed more than 150 phone calls, social media posts, and constituent mail" following Steiger's post.
"A running theme throughout this public feedback is that your behavior evidences racial bias towards Blacks and people of color and that you — and by extension the AGO — cannot be trusted in your role as a criminal investigator to remain unbiased," Bowers wrote in Steiger's termination letter.
Dan Jackson, spokesperson for the office of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, told The News Tribune that the termination letter "speaks for itself" and offered no further comment on the decision.
Has Steiger responded to the news of his firing?
The Times also reported that Steiger on Thursday announced he plans to contest the firing.
On Friday, Steve Fogg, an attorney for Steiger, said that the termination would violate Steiger's First Amendment Rights.
In a lengthy statement, Fogg said, "Terminating Cloyd is both a mistake and illegal. It is uncontested that Cloyd has served the public well for over forty years — his personnel record with the AG is spotless and he has been instrumental in solving dozens of homicides. The AG is firing Cloyd not because he didn't do his job (he did it well) and not because he didn't tip a waitress and raised his voice — if the AG fired people for that sort of private behavior, the ranks of the AG would be thin indeed."
"The AG," he continued, "fired Cloyd for expressing political opinions as a private citizen with which some members of the AG's Office disagreed. That is not just illegal, but sets a frightening precedent that we will have no choice but to contest in court."
Of the initial incident itself, Fogg said Steiger's "emotions were running high because he has two sons who are Seattle police officers," as The Times reported, "one of whom had been involved in confrontations with BLM protesters at the East Precinct."