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Cortez v. Department of Transportation and Development

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, First Circuit

December 23, 2014

LORNE CORTEZ
v.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Page 615

Appealed from the Civil Service Commission in and for the State of Louisiana. Docket No. S-17767. Honorable James A. Smith, Chairman.

JOHN B. BRUMFIELD, JR., BATON ROUGE, LA, ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT LORNE CORTEZ.

STEPHEN C. CARLETON, BATON ROUGE, LA ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLEE LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND DEVELOPMENT.

BEFORE: KUHN, PETTIGREW, AND WELCH, JJ.

OPINION

Page 616

[2014 0851 La.App. 1 Cir. 2] PETTIGREW, J.

In this employment termination case, the terminated employee, Lorne Cortez (Cortez), appeals the decision of the Civil Service Referee (Referee) as well as the denial by the Louisiana State Civil Service Commission (the Commission) of his application seeking review of the Referee's decision. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Cortez began his employment with the defendant, Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), on July 14, 2003; and prior to his termination on June 26, 2013, he was a classified civil service employee serving with permanent status as an Information Technology Technical Support Specialist I for DOTD District 02, in the Houma, Louisiana sub-district area.

On June 4, 2013, Cortez received, by hand delivery, a written pre-deprivation notice from his Appointing Authority and ITS (Intelligence Transportation Systems) Director, Engineer 8, Stephen W. Glascock (Glascock). In that 6-page letter, Glascock detailed a sequence of events involving Cortez that had occurred on April 18 and 19, 2013, and informed Cortez that his conduct during those detailed events constituted violations of PPM No. 29, Employee Conduct; PPM No. 51, Use of Computers, and PPM No. 53, Violence in the Workplace. The letter provided Cortez with four detailed descriptions of his conduct allegedly in violation of PPM No. 29, and two detailed descriptions for each of the alleged violations of PPM Nos. 51 and 53. In conclusion, the letter informed Cortez:

Your unprofessional and inappropriate behavior, as well as your failure to follow direct orders, has violated the aforementioned prohibitions of PPM No. 29, PPM No. 51, and PPM No. 53. Your conduct has been highly disruptive to the DOTD working environment ... you were unable to perform your job functions, you caused a considerable amount of time to be lost, reducing efficiency, as work productivity ceased to exist by both yourself and all those involved in these issues, you created a negative public image by having the general public witness your behavior, you failed to follow directives, and you impeded an investigation. ... Additionally, your actions lower morale of your co-workers, and inefficiently manages (sic) DOTD's resources.

Page 617

[2014 0851 La.App. 1 Cir. 3] Cortez was additionally informed of his right to respond in writing and also that a pre-deprivation hearing had been scheduled for June 12, 2013. Cortez, through counsel, responded to the charges by letter dated June 18, 2013.

On June 26, 2013, by hand-delivery, Cortez received a written disciplinary action notice from Glascock that he was being dismissed from employment with DOTD effective on 4:00 p.m. that same date. Glascock, again, detailed the incidents and violations by Cortez's conduct underlying his decision to terminate him. He acknowledged receipt and consideration of Cortez's written response, via counsel, and informed Cortez of his right to appeal his dismissal.

Cortez filed a notice of appeal with the Commission on July 12, 2013, that was assigned to Referee Brent C. Frederick. Cortez was properly notified that the hearing would be held on October 8, 2013. The record contains a letter dated October 2, 2013, to Referee Frederick from counsel for DOTD, " confirming the substance of [a] status conference call" between them and counsel for Cortez, during which allegations were raised " concerning the ownership and presentation of firearms by Mr. Cortez." The letter stated that DOTD, in an abundance of caution, had requested security measures. The letter also ...


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