APPEAL FROM THE THIRTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT, PARISH OF VERNON, NO. 88,028. HONORABLE VERNON B. CLARK, DISTRICT JUDGE.
Daniel M. Landry, III, Attorney at Law, Lafayette, Louisiana, Counsel For Plaintiff/Appellant: Colleen Townsend.
Cloyd Benjamin, Jr., Law Office of Cloyd Benjamin, Jr., Natchitoches, Louisiana, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee: City of Leesville.
Court composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Billy Howard Ezell, and Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.
[14-923 La.App. 3 Cir. 1]
Plaintiff, Colleen Townsend, appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of Defendant, City of Leesville. For the following reasons, the trial court's judgment is reversed.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Townsend, a police officer employed by the Leesville Police Department for eleven years, was terminated from employment on February 11, 2013, for misconduct. This misconduct arose from an incident when Townsend attempted to execute a search warrant. Specifically, Townsend called Judge John Ford at his residence at approximately 2:00 a.m. on November 30, 2012, to obtain his signature on a search warrant. Judge Ford told her to proceed to his house which was located at 1461 Ford's Dairy Road. Instead, Townsend mistakenly went to a home located at 1367 Ford's Dairy Road which belonged to Judge Ford's daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Milton Belsha. When she arrived at the Belshas' home, Townsend knocked on the carport door. After receiving no response, she contacted Judge Ford by telephone, and he advised her that a light was on inside of his residence and instructed her to walk into his residence. Townsend proceeded to the back of the Belshas' house where she opened a door and pointed her flashlight within. Mrs. Belsha heard a noise and awakened Mr. Belsha who ran towards the door. When he reached the door, which was partially open, he allegedly kicked it closed. Townsend,
who was standing outside behind the closed door, identified herself to Mr. Belsha as a police officer. Mr. Belsha subsequently opened the door and told her that she was at the wrong address. Thereafter, Townsend proceeded to the correct address and obtained Judge Ford's signature. Upon leaving the Belshas' residence, Townsend radioed the police dispatcher, Elizabeth Chapman, [14-923 La.App. 3 Cir. 2] and asked her to note her mistake as it might become an issue in the future. Although she thinks she may have mentioned this incident to her shift advisor at the end of her shift, Townsend did not report this incident to anyone else.
The next day, Judge Ford learned about this incident from his wife who learned about it from their daughter, Mrs. Belsha. A few days later, he subsequently discussed the situation with Jack Simms, Jr., the Leesville City Attorney. Simms then told Gregory Hill, the Leesville Chief of Police, who conducted an internal affairs investigation on December 12, 2012. This investigation revealed that Townsend violated police departmental policies regarding a shift commander's duties, personal conduct, and behavior. Townsend was subsequently terminated from employment by the appointing authority and City Administrator, Courtney Christensen. After Townsend appealed her termination to the Leesville Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board (the Board) and following a hearing occurring on April 19, 2013, the Board upheld the actions of the appointing authority by a three to two vote.
Townsend appealed the Board's decision to the trial court. After an October 24, 2013 hearing, the trial court found that the Board acted in good faith and had just cause to terminate Townsend. It is from this ruling that Townsend has appealed, contending that the trial court erred in finding that the ...