State Patrol: Troopers with fake diplomas should be fired

State Patrol: Troopers with fake diplomas should be fired
THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. -- Termination has been recommended for the Washington State Patrol employees who allegedly used fake diplomas to earn pay raises.

Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said the agency made the preliminary decision following an internal investigation.

"The investigation supported the allegations," he said.

The involved employees now have the opportunity to appeal any of the findings if they so choose before a final decision is made, Calkins said.

The accused men are Trooper Dennis Tardiff of Seattle, Sgt. Chris Sweet of Kelso, Trooper Spike Unruh and Trooper Dan Mann of Spokane. Sgt. Robert Brusseau, Sgt. Jason Linn, Trooper Gabriel Olson and Trooper Brian Ensley - all of Vancouver - are also accused.

The State Patrol began investigating after federal agents shut down a diploma mill in Spokane that had already awarded thousands of fake diplomas. However, the agency won't say if the troopers got their diplomas from the Spokane operation.

Troopers can boost their pay significantly with college diplomas -- a 2-percent increase for a two-year degree and a 4-percent hike for a four-year degree.

Earlier this year prosecutors reviewed the findings of a criminal investigation and decided not to file criminal charges against the troopers.

"What wasn't passed around is, 'Hey, this is a good way to defraud our employer.' What was passed around was, 'Hey, this is away that we could qualify, perhaps, for this incentive,"' said Thurston County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Jon Tunheim.

WSP expects the men's appeals to be submitted by the end of the month.

Ten troopers and sergeants were originally accused in the case. Two - James Hotaling of Vancouver and John McMillan of Wenatchee - have resigned since.

Trooper Brian Ensley, left, and Trooper Dan Mann

Trooper Gabriel Olson, left, and Trooper Dennis Tardiff

Trooper Spike Unruh, left, and Sgt. Robert Brusseau

Sgt. Jason Linn, left, and Sgt. Chris Sweet