APPEAL FROM THE TWENTY-FOURTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH
OF JEFFERSON, STATE OF LOUISIANA NO. 775-643, DIVISION
"H" HONORABLE GLENN B. ANSARDI, JUDGE PRESIDING.
COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLANT, JONATHAN FARRELLY Laura C.
Rodrigue Blake J. Arcuri.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE, JEFFERSON PARISH EAST BANK
CONSOLIDATED SPECIAL FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT Guice A.
Giambrone, III Craig R. Watson Amanda Plaiscia.
composed of Judges Fredericka Homberg Wicker, Jude G.
Gravois, and Hans J. Liljeberg.
FREDERICKA HOMBERG WICKER, JUDGE.
case is before us on a Petition for Judicial Review by
appellant, firefighter Jonathan Farrelly, of the January 14,
2019 Judgment of the district court affirming the Jefferson
Parish Fire Civil Service Board's review of his
disciplinary action taken by appellee, the Jefferson Parish
East Bank Consolidated Special Fire Protection District. As
we find appellee's investigation and interrogation of
appellant did not sufficiently comport with the provisions of
La. R.S. 33:2181, we find the discipline against appellant to
be an absolute nullity. Accordingly, we reverse the decision
of the district court affirming the ruling of the Fire Civil
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 19, 2017, firefighter Jonathan Farrelly was arrested by
the Kenner Police Department on charges of theft and assault
following a road rage incident which occurred on the shoulder
of westbound Interstate 10 near the Veteran's exit.
Farrelly was cut off by another driver, and went around and
"cut him back off." He was reported to be slamming
on his brakes in front of a vehicle, throwing a water bottle,
and using profanities. Farrelly admitted to pulling over on
the shoulder of the interstate, exiting his vehicle, and
engaging in a physical altercation with another driver. He
also stated that he threw the other driver's cell phone
into a grassy area before he drove away.
incident occurred around 8:00 P.M. when Farrelly was driving
home after riding in the Irish Italian parade. Farrelly
admitted to drinking from 8:00 A.M. to noon earlier that day.
At the time of the incident, Farrelly was off duty and not in
uniform. The license plate of his car identified him as a
"Louisiana Professional Firefighter." The Kenner
Police Department notified Fire Department Chief Caraway of
the arrest. Joe Greco, the Director of Fire Services,
assigned Assistant Fire Director Dave Saunders to confirm
Farrelly reported to work on March 21, 2017, he reported the
incident to his captain Billy Zeigler. Captain Frank Tournier
took Farrelly to headquarters to meet with District Chief
Carl Brondum and Assistant Fire Director Saunders. Farrelly
disclosed the details of the incident to the two supervisors
after he was told that they were aware of his arrest and
asked him what had happened.
March 23, 2017, Farrelly was sent a letter informing him that
he was under investigation and scheduled for a
pre-disciplinary hearing. Attached to the letter was a copy
of the "Firefighter Bill of Rights." At the hearing on
May 18, 2017 before Director Greco, Farrelly was again
provided with the Bill of Rights, and given an opportunity to
provide an unsworn statement. Farrelly was notified on May 19,
2017 that he would be suspended for five 12-hour working days
for violating the following standards: La. R.S.
33:2560(A)(3), (4), (5), (14), and (15); District Rules and
Regulations Article X, § 2:26, 2:27,
3:02, and 3:05; and District Rules and
Regulations Article III § 2:00 and 3:00. Farrelly
appealed to the Fire Civil Service Board (FCSB) claiming that
his original questioning on March 21, 2017 violated the
Firefighter Bill of Rights and his actions did not affect the
department's efficiency and operation. A hearing before
the FCSB, composed of three members, was held on August 8,
2017. The FCSB denied his appeal finding no violation of the
Firefighter Bill of Rights and that Farrelly's actions
affected the department's operation because of the high
standards to which members of the department are held.
appealed the decision, petitioning the district court on
September 11, 2017 for judicial review under La. R.S.
33:2561(E). A hearing was held on June 20, 2018. The district
court dismissed the appeal in its judgment of January 14,
2019, upholding the ruling of the FCSB, finding good faith in
their exercise of discretion affirming the suspension.
appeal, Farrelly alleges two assignments of error: 1) the
appellee conducted an interrogation without providing the
Firefighter Bill of Rights, and 2) the FCSB's decision
was not made in good faith for cause as there was no evidence
that Farrelly's conduct impaired the efficient operation
of the department.
district court's review of an action of the civil service
board is "confined to the determination of whether the
decision made by the board was made in good faith for cause.
. . or to whether a board member should have or failed to
recuse himself." La. R.S. 33:2561(E). The appellate
court's standard of review of a board's determination
is multifaceted. Bolar v. Dep't of Pub.
Works-Water, 95-346 (La.App. 5 Cir. 10/31/95), 663 So.2d
876, 879 - 80, writ denied, 95-2809 (La. 1/26/96),
666 So.2d 680. When reviewing the board's findings of
fact, the appellate court must apply the manifest error
standard. Wyatt v. Harahan Mun. Fire and Police Civil
Service Bd., 06-81 (La.App. 5 Cir. 7/25/06), 935 So.2d
849, 853. Therefore, in our review of the FCSB's finding
that the Firefighter Bill of Rights was not violated, we must
find that the Board's determination was clearly
erroneous. However, when judging the Board's exercise of
its discretion in determining whether the disciplinary action
is based on legal cause, the court should not modify the
Board's order unless ...