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Kass v. Plaquemines Parish Gov't

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

February 25, 2015

PHYLLIS D. KASS
v.
PLAQUEMINES PARISH GOVERNMENT

APPEAL FROM PLAQUEMINES PARISH CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION. NO. 14-004 C\W 14-005.

Patrick J. Eskew, BARBEE & ASSOCIATES, L.L.C., Belle Chasse, LA, COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT.

Rachel E. Linzy, Javier Jalice, THE KULLMAN FIRM, APLC, New Orleans, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

(Court composed of Judge Daniel L. Dysart, Judge Madeleine M. Landrieu, Judge Rosemary Ledet).

OPINION

Page 1104

[2014-0830 La.App. 4 Cir. 2] Madeleine M. Landrieu, Judge.

The plaintiff, Phyllis Kass, appeals the Civil Service Commission's decision upholding her suspension and the ultimate termination of her employment by the Plaquemines Parish government (" PPG" ). For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEEDING BELOW

Prior to her termination on April 28, 2014, Ms. Kass served as the Superintendent of Planning and Zoning for PPG, a position she had held since 2011. Ms. Kass was promoted to this position when PPG's former Permitting and Zoning Department was split into two separate divisions--one named Planning and Zoning, and the other named Permitting. Before her promotion, Ms. Kass had worked in the Permitting Department for more than twenty years as a secretary and Permit Tech. As Superintendent of Planning and

Page 1105

Zoning, Ms. Kass was responsible for administering and enforcing the parish's zoning ordinances, reviewing permitting requirements associated with zoning, and reviewing applications for rezoning of land. She reported directly to Mr. Leo Palazzo, the Parish Attorney and the head of PPG's Legal Department.

On April 14, 2014, Mr. Palazzo met with Ms. Kass and told her that a citizen complaint and an ensuing investigation by the Legal Department had produced evidence that Ms. Kass had five trailers on her property that were there illegally in [2014-0830 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] violation of PPG permitting and zoning ordinances. Ms. Kass admitted this fact. That same day, Ms. Kass was suspended indefinitely for violating the zoning ordinances that she was responsible for enforcing. The next day, Ms. Kass received a letter from PPG's Human Resources Manager summoning her to a Pre-Termination meeting on April 21, 2014, at which she would have an opportunity to defend her actions. Following that meeting, Ms. Kass was terminated as of April 28, 2014. The termination letter she received cited her maintenance of five illegal trailers on her property without the necessary permits with full knowledge that her property was not zoned for such activity, and her endangerment of the health and safety of the trailer occupants, as well as of the parish, by having all five trailers illegally hooked up to one utility pole. The letter stated that given Ms. Kass' position as Superintendent, her actions constituted insubordination of the highest order, gross misconduct, negligence and potentially malfeasance in office.

Ms. Kass appealed her suspension and termination to the Civil Service Commission. After hearing the matter, the Commission rendered a written decision on July 9, 2014 upholding Ms. Kass' ...


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