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Charles v. New Orleans Police Department

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

June 19, 2019

RHETT CHARLES
v.
NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT

          APPEAL FROM CITY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION ORLEANS NO. 8735

          Kevin Vincent Boshea ATTORNEY AT LAW COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT

          Elizabeth Robins DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY Renee Goudeau ASSISTANT CITY ATTORNEY Sunni J. LeBeouf CITY ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE

          Court composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Roland L. Belsome, Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins

          Roland L. Belsome, Judge.

         Plaintiff-Appellant, Rhett Charles, appeals the judgment of the Civil Service Commission (Commission) which sustained his demotion and one-day suspension by the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). For the following reasons, we affirm the Commission's decision.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Appellant, a twenty-eight year veteran, worked as a sergeant for the NOPD. In 2016, he supervised at least fourteen officers in the Alternative Police Response (APR Unit). During that time, he engaged in a series of sexually inappropriate conversations with two of his subordinate female employees: Officer Shannon Reeves and Officer Nicole Alcala.

         After receiving a complaint regarding Appellant's behavior, the NOPD initiated a Public Integrity Bureau investigation. The investigation was assigned to Sergeant Christopher Johnson. At the conclusion of the investigation, Sergeant Johnson found that Appellant violated the NOPD's Rules 3[1] and 4[2] concerning professional conduct and neglect of duty. In accordance with these findings, discipline was recommended.

         After the disciplinary hearing, the NOPD issued a one-day suspension and demotion for the violations. As a result, Appellant filed an appeal with the Commission. After a hearing, the Commission sustained the NOPD's disciplinary decision and denied the appeal. This appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         An appellate court is to apply the clearly wrong or manifestly erroneous standard of review when reviewing the Commission's factual findings. Bannister v. Dep't of Streets, 95-0404, p. 8 (La. 1/16/96), 666 So.2d 641, 647 (citing Walters v. Dep't of Police of the City of New Orleans, 454 So.2d 106 (La. 1984)). When "evaluating the Commission's determination as to whether the disciplinary action is both based on legal cause and commensurate with the infraction, the court should not modify the Commission's order unless it is arbitrary, capricious, or characterized by abuse of discretion." Id. A decision by the Commission is "arbitrary or capricious" when there is no rational basis for the action taken. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         Appellant asserts three assignments of error, concerning two issues: the sufficiency of the evidence and the disciplinary action. The first issue is whether the NOPD established the violations by a preponderance of the evidence. The second issue is whether ...


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