SHREVEPORT – The Louisiana 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal recently reversed the decision of the First Judicial District Court for Caddo Parish concerning the dismissal of a Shreveport firefighter who lost his job after being accused of knowledge of improper conduct but failing to report it.
The appeals court, in its June 27 decision, reversed the district court ruling that "found the termination an absolute nullity."
Firefighter Clint Richardson was dismissed by the city on Aug. 30, 2013. His dismissal was then upheld at a hearing by the Shreveport Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board, court filings said.
As related in court documents, Richardson contested his dismissal by filing suit in the First Judicial District Court for Caddo Parish, which nullified the police and fire board’s ruling.
The city of Shreveport appealed the district court’s decision, and the appeals court reversed the ruling and remanded the case back to the district court for further consideration.
Judge Jeff Cox, who delivered the appeal court’s ruling, said, “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.”
According to court records, the reason for Richardson’s dismissal was based on the fact that he had knowledge of a female and male visitor being together in a locked bathroom. Charges at the Civil Service Board hearings stated, “You participated in staged photographs of an offensive nature that has disrupted departmental service and negatively impacted the public interest.”
Also mentioned in court documents was an incident In September 2013 when criminal charges were brought against Richardson in Caddo Parish for cruelty to the infirmed and principal to prostitution. He pleaded guilty to the principal to prostitution charge and was assessed a $25 fine rather than being sentenced to jail time.
In protest of his dismissal, Richardson claimed violations of the fire department employee rights and due process, specifically stating that he was not given written notice when the investigation began, and when he did receive notice, it did not list specific charges or violations, only statutes.
Cox, in declaring the appeals court ruling, Cox said, “The district court may not substitute its opinion for that of the board. The board's decision will not be overturned unless it is manifestly erroneous or arbitrary and capricious. Factual findings in civil service cases are to be given deference by a reviewing court.”
He continued, “Disciplinary action against a civil service employee will be deemed arbitrary and capricious unless there is a real and substantial relationship between the improper conduct and the efficient operation of the public service. The appointing authority must demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the conduct did in fact impair the efficient and orderly operation of the public service.”
In conclusion, Cox wrote, “We respectfully reverse the district court judgment and remand the matter to the district court for further proceedings in compliance with this opinion. The appellate court costs in the amount of $2,135 are to be equally split between Richardson and the city of Shreveport.
Judges Jeanette G. Garrett and James M. Stephens concurred.