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Comments About DUI Policy Protected By First Amendment

Bill Wright worked as a police officer for the City of Salisbury, Missouri. On September 21, 2007, the City’s mayor met with Wright and the Police Chief. The next day, Wright wrote a letter on his personal letterhead, addressed to “To Whom It May Concern,” regarding the meeting that occurred on the previous day. In the letter, Wright recounted the fact that the Mayor complained that Wright had been…

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Fire Department Computer Rule Impermissibly Vague

Ralph Bowman is a firefighter for Butler Township, Ohio. In 2007, routine maintenance of the Township computer system revealed that members of the Fire Department had been accessing and downloading violent and pornographic files from the Internet on work time using Township computers. When an investigation concluded that Bowman had accessed a video entitled “Felony Fights,” which he claimed had some training value, the Township terminated Bowman. Bowman challenged…

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System Has Authority to Order Fire Department to Terminate Chief

One of the provisions in Oklahoma’s police and fire pension statutes is that “no person shall be employed in a fire department who has reached the age of 45 years, unless it appears he shall become eligible for retirement at the age of 65 years, or unless he retired from a municipal fire department in the State of Oklahoma.” When the City of Spencer hired Ronald Cummings, who was…

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Explorer Scout Has No Property Right

Matthew Zwilling was a member of the Madison, Connecticut Police Explorer Post. When the City terminated him, Zwilling sued, claiming his termination violated his due process rights. A federal court rejected the lawsuit, finding that Zwilling had no property right to his position in the Explorer Post. The Court noted that “property interests are not created by the Constitution. Rather they are created and their dimensions are defined by…

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Officer Fired For Car Wreck, Not Because Of Age

Bob Pacovsky was fired from his position as a police officer for the City of Greenville, Mississippi when he became involved in a car wreck. Pacovsky sued the City, alleging that his discharge was really because of his age (he was 52 years old). The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Pacovsky’s lawsuit. Pacovsky’s claim revolved around his contention that similarly-situated younger officers who had been involved in…

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Police Agency Can Inquire As To Applicant’s Expunged Criminal Conviction

When Jimmy Macon was arrested for DUI after he began employment as a deputy jailer with the Shelby County, Tennessee Sheriff’s Department, the Department learned that in 1993, long before he began work for the County, Macon had pled guilty to a felony drug charge of manufacturing, delivery and possession of a controlled substance. Macon’s conviction was expunged in 1999. The County then began examining the security investigation statement…

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Hearing Board Fails To Give Police Officer Adequate Notice Or Grant Continuance

Stewart Becker was a police officer with the Sunset City, Utah Police Department. Becker was terminated on April 4, 2007, and was given a letter that briefly outlined the appeals process, including his rights to a hearing, to be represented by counsel, to examine evidence, and to confront witnesses. The letter, however, did not mention the requirement that the “City Appeal Board’s” decision had to be made within 15…

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Employer Bears Burden Of Proof In Disciplinary Case

Kimberly Falk worked for the Lee County, Florida Sheriff’s Department. When her employment was terminated, she appealed to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Civil Service Board. The Board affirmed her termination, and Falk appealed to the Florida Court of Appeals. The Court reversed Falk’s termination, finding that the Civil Service Board applied the wrong burden of proof. The Court ruled that “where an agency terminates an employee for certain…

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Judge Cites Firefighter Case Example Of ‘What Happens When Grown Men Act Like Five-Year-Olds’

Ricky and Joel Shanks were volunteer firefighters for the Village of Catskill, New York. On October 4, 2005, Joel Shanks anonymously reported multiple safety violations allegedly committed by the Department to OSHA. These violations included outdated aerial ladder inspection, lack of safety equipment, firefighters with facial hair wearing SCBAs, outdated equipment, lack of training and standards, and a failure to follow OSHA standards. After the complaint, a company chief…

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Uninvolved Decision Makers Not Required In Small Town

Louisville, Colorado is a city of slightly less than 20,000 people. Jerry Riggins was employed as a police officer with the Louisville Police Department. In May 2004, he experienced a psychiatric episode in which he complained that someone was after him, his hotel room was bugged, and there was a computer chip implanted in his head. His wife reported the incident, and he was taken to a hospital and…

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A Day Late, A Lawsuit Lost

Christopher Noonan, a fire captain, was terminated from his employment with the City of Ann Arbor, Michigan Fire Department on December 27, 2007. Noonan was alleged to have threatened subordinates and to have had a gun in his personal vehicle on the Department’s premises in violation of a Departmental rule. Noonan challenged his termination through the grievance procedure in the City’s contract with the Ann Arbor Fire Fighters Association….

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Court Upholds Rule Banning Contact with Former Inmates

Dennis Harris was a deputy sheriff for Butler County, Ohio. When he was terminated, Harris filed a lawsuit contending that he was fired in retaliation for supporting the Sheriff’s opponent in a recent election. Harris asserted that the Sheriff complained that Harris had never campaigned for him, and was angry because Harris attended a hog roast fundraiser for former Sheriff Don Gabbard that was held at Harris’ church. A…

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Volunteer Firefighters Have No Property Right To The Job

Brian Baker, Brian Jenkins, Gary Jenkins, and Brandon Jenkins were all volunteer firefighters for the City of Stanford, Kentucky. In 2006, they became concerned about the safety and reliability of the equipment being used by the Department. Their concerns included a lack of testing on hoses, a rusted-out battery compartment on a fire engine, faulty wiring systems for engine windshield wipers and headlights, a malfunctioning air tank, and a…

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‘Private Dishonesty,’ Off-Duty Sex, And Discipline

An FBI special agent given the pseudonym of “John Doe” in court proceedings worked as a special agent pilot near an FBI office in Ohio. While Doe was off duty, he had consensual sex with a female member of the FBI’s support staff, whom he was dating. Doe and the woman videotaped their sexual encounters, at her suggestion. Doe also videotaped separate consensual sexual relations at his residence with…

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Six-Year Delay In Resolving Disciplinary Charges Does Not Violate Due Process

Russell Cope worked as a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper for 35 years when he was terminated in 2006. Cope’s termination was based upon his handling of a traffic stop on May 30, 2000. Cope challenged his termination through the court system arguing, among other things, that the six-year delay between the incident and the bringing of charges against him violated his due process rights. The Tennessee Court of Appeals…

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Bill Of Rights Statute Of Limitations Stops Running When Employee Is Fired

Carlos Sanchez was a detective for the Los Angeles Police Department. In 2003, Sanchez was served with a multi-count disciplinary charge, including allegations that he maintained an improper relationship with a drug dealer, that he failed to notify his commanding officer of an informant he was utilizing, that he improperly purchased a motorcycle from a known informant, and that he released confidential documents and information to an informant. During…

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‘Aren’t You Being Discriminatory’ Is Protected Activity Under ADA

Mary Casna was a police clerk for the City of Loves Park, Illinois. Casna suffers a hearing impairment resulting from chemotherapy and wears aids in both ears. Casna reported to Kay Eliot, the Chief’s secretary. Eliot kept a log in which she recorded Casna’s performance, and her comments were rarely favorable. Eliot noted that Casna took a long time to complete routine tasks and gossiped about coworkers. The tension…

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Civil Service Appeals Get New Trials In Ohio

In October 2006, Michael Bryant was suspended by the Hamilton, Ohio Police Department for unbecoming conduct, untruthfulness, and insubordination. The internal affairs investigation which led to this sanction was conducted by Captain Joseph Murray, Lieutenant Scott Scrimizzi, and Sergeant Michael Waldeck. In early 2007, Murray received an unsolicited subscription to Cosmopolitan magazine along with a bill for $54. The bill indicated that subscriptions had also been sent to Lieutenant…

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Police Chief Loses Job For Conduct In Wake Of Officers’ Accident

Donald Perryman was the Police Chief of the Village of Saranac Lake, New York. When Perryman was fired for misconduct and incompetence, he challenged his termination on the grounds that there was no “substantial evidence” supporting the Village’s termination decision. An appeals court found otherwise, and upheld Perryman’s termination. As the Court summarized the evidence, “the charges against Perryman stemmed from an incident when two Village police officers were…

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Drug Test Runs Into Hearsay Problems

Michael Brown was employed as a corrections officer by Monmouth County, New Jersey for 17 years. On July 13, 2004, Brown was randomly selected for a drug test pursuant to the County’s policy. When the test was reported as positive for marijuana use and the County announced its intention to terminate Brown, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge. Two witnesses testified on behalf of the County…

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Extensive Disciplinary Procedures Do Not Create Property Right To Job

Carey Faulkner was employed by the City of Bartlett, Tennessee as a police officer beginning in 1999. On August 18, 2007, Faulkner held a party at her home which was attended by neighbors and police officer trainees. Drinking and nude swimming took place at the party, and Faulkner’s husband was subsequently charged with sexually assaulting one of the party guests. The local media reported about Faulkner’s party and previous…

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Police Captain Wins $1.5 Million Jury Verdict In Retaliation Claim

William Broderick was a captain with the Boston Police Department. In 1988, Broderick was elected to become president of the Superior Officers Union, a full-time position he held until 2000. For the 12 years he was president of the Union, the atmosphere between Broderick and Police Commissioner Paul Evans was one of “conflict and distrust,” including “public charges and lawsuits by Broderick, and on the Department’s side, disciplinary proceedings…

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No ‘Involuntary Disability Exception’ To Bill Of Rights

California’s Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act provides that “no punitive action” shall be undertaken against a public safety officer “without providing the public safety officer with an opportunity for administrative appeal.” The California Court of Appeals recently had to resolve whether the requirement for a hearing applies even to placement on involuntary disability status. The case involved Leisha Fauth, a peace officer with Riverside County, California….

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Grievance Procedure Expires With Contract

Catherine Whiting was a corrections officer with the Ottawa County, Michigan Sheriff’s Department. On February 15, 2006, while Whiting was off duty, she learned that her husband had engaged in an extramarital affair with a female acquaintance, Holly Gerbers. Upon learning of the affair, Whiting telephoned Gerbers and threatened to kill her. The following day, the Department suspended Whiting pending an internal investigation into her conduct. Eventually, the Sheriff…

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The Battle Of The Experts In A Shooting Case

David Garcia has been a Long Beach, California police officer since 2000. On the night of July 16, 2004, Garcia became involved with an apparently mentally disturbed individual. The encounter eventually resulted in Garcia shooting and killing the suspect. The Department convened an Officer Involved Shooting Board. By a 4-1 margin, the Board concluded that the shooting was intentional and out of policy. When the Department terminated Garcia, he…

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