The Washington state attorney general’s office fired a chief criminal investigator accused of engaging in "disrespectful and disruptive" behavior at a restaurant over a waitress's Black Lives Matter pin and then posting about it on Facebook.
Cloyd Steiger, a former Seattle Police homicide detective who worked as a chief criminal investigator for the state attorney general, allegedly raised his voice as he was leaving the restaurant. He also wrote on his restaurant bill, "BLM button = no tip. That’s how socialism works;" and posted a copy of the written receipt, which bore the waitress's name, on social media, according to the attorney general's office.
"By your actions, you have irreparably compromised your credibility and brought significant embarrassment and disruption to the office," said a letter from Deputy Attorney General Todd Bowers setting out the reasons for Steiger's dismissal.
Steiger has the right to appeal the decision, the letter said.
His lawyer, Steven Fogg, told NBC News in an email Saturday that they plan to contest the dismissal: "This is a political firing, pure and simple."
"If Detective Steiger had stiffed a waitress for wearing a MAGA button (which would have been equally boorish behavior), he would not have been terminated — odds are that his superiors would have praised him," Fogg said. "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 incident occurred on Sept. 6 when Steiger went to a restaurant in Tacoma with his wife and noticed that the 19-year-old waitress serving him was wearing a BLM pin on her uniform, according to the deputy attorney general’s letter.
During a probe of the incident, Steiger told attorney general's office investigators that he was "offended by the pin" but didn't verbalize his concerns to the waitress, the dismissal letter said. His interaction with the waitress "remained cordial," but when he paid his bill he wrote the note about the BLM button on the tip line.
As he was leaving the restaurant, Steiger complained about the BLM pin to another employee whom he took to be a manager of the establishment, the deputy attorney general's letter said. Toward the end of the conversation, "you raised your voice and verbally called out 'bulls---,'” the letter said. "You believe that you likely raised your middle finger in his direction before leaving the restaurant."
Steiger told investigators he took a photo of the restaurant receipt he had written on and posted it on his public Facebook page without realizing the waitress's name was on the bill, the dismissal letter said. He later deleted the post and made his Facebook page private.
A pre-disciplinary letter submitted to the attorney general's office by Steiger's lawyer said he “regrets the manner in which he expressed his personal opinions" while off duty and that "he spoke with more heat than was necessary or than he intended." Steiger also "regrets publicizing the incident via social media," according to the letter.
Steiger was placed on administrative leave two days after the restaurant incident, the Seattle Times reported. His dismissal, which will become effective on Oct. 22, came this week after the attorney general's office said its investigation found he failed to meet the office's integrity standards and undermined the trust of the public as well as his fellow workers.
His lawyer, Fogg, told NBC News, "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 fired Cloyd for expressing political opinions as a private citizen with which some members of the AG’s Office disagreed."