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Richardson v. City of Shreveport

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

June 27, 2018

CLINT RICHARDSON Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
CITY OF SHREVEPORT AND ITS APPOINTING AUTHORITY AND THE SHREVEPORT MUNICIPAL FIRE AND POLICE CIVIL SERVICE BOARD Defendants-Appellants

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 593, 826 Honorable Ramon Lafitte, Judge

          BRAINARD & BRAINARD, LLC By: Eron J. Brainard Counsel for Appellee

          PETTIETTE, ARMAND, DUNKELMAN, WOODLEY, BYRD & CROMWELL, LLP By: Joseph S. Woodley Counsel for Appellants, City of Shreveport And Its Appointing Authority

          BILLY R. CASEY Counsel for Appellants, The Shreveport Municipal Fire And Police Civil Service Board

          Before GARRETT, COX, and STEPHENS, JJ.

          COX, J.

         Clint Richardson ("Richardson") was an employee of the Shreveport Fire Department. On August 30, 2013, he was terminated by the Appointing Authority for the City of Shreveport ("City"). Richardson appealed his termination to the Shreveport Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board ("Board"). The Board upheld his termination. Richardson then appealed the Board's decision to the First Judicial District Court, Caddo Parish, Louisiana. The district court found the termination to be an absolute nullity. The City of Shreveport has now appealed the district court's judgment. For the reasons outlined below, we respectfully reverse the district court judgment and remand this matter to the district court for further proceedings in order for it to fulfill its function as the reviewing court pursuant to La. R.S. 33:2501.

         FACTS

         On July 10, 2013, Richardson was given a Notice of Formal Investigation and/or Interrogation ("NOFI"), which he signed the same day. Richardson's NOFI stated he was being investigated under La. R.S. 33:2500(A), which provides, in pertinent part:

A. The tenure of persons who have been regularly and permanently inducted into positions of the classified service shall be during good behavior. However, the appointing authority may remove any employee from the service, or take such disciplinary action as the circumstances warrant in the manner provided below for any one of the following reasons:
(1) Unwillingness or failure to perform the duties of his position in a satisfactory manner.
(2) The deliberate omission of an act that it was his duty to perform.
(3) The commission or omission of any act to the prejudice of the departmental service or contrary to the public interest or policy.
(5) Conduct of a discourteous or wantonly offensive nature toward the public, any municipal officer or employee; and, any dishonest, disgraceful, or immoral conduct.
(14) The willful violation of any provision of this Part or of any rule, regulation, or order hereunder.
(15) Any other act or failure to act which the board deems sufficient to show the offender to be an unsuitable or unfit person to be employed in the respective service.

         The NOFI also lists violations of General Rules, specifically:

(R) Refrain from being a party of any malicious gossip, rumor, report or activity that would disrupt the department or any member, and from making derogatory statements or adversely criticizing City Government policies, activities or officers of the Fire Department or other personnel of the City Government. Any concerns relative to polices, activities, or officers shall be submitted through proper channels.
(U) Not engage in any type of sexual conduct, nor shall they solicit such conduct while on duty or visiting any fire station or facility.
Refer to City of Shreveport Executive Order 95-1 (revised) Harassment Statement (page 45)
E. Conduct themselves in such a manner as approved by law-abiding, self-respecting citizens.
F. Refrain from committing any act which might bring discredit upon the Department or its members.

         On August 26, 2013, Richardson was given a Notice of Pre-Disciplinary Conference ("PDC"), scheduled for August 29, 2013. The PDC was attended by the Fire Chief, Assistant Fire Chief, Personnel Analyst, Assistant City Attorney, and Clint Richardson. The first section on the PDC form is "Charges." The instructions state, "Below write the action(s) with which employee is charged. Specify dates, times, and any other pertinent information. Attach additional sheets if needed." The list written below includes the violations, which were also set forth in the NOFI, but does not state specific dates, times, and other information.

         Under the section entitled "Evidence," it states to "Refer to audio recording. It is alleged that Firefighter Richardson had Knowledge of improper behavior at Station #8 and did not report it." Under the section entitled "Employee's Side," it simply ...


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