The future of the dispute surrounding the termination of Baton Rouge’s former police chief may turn on whether or not he should properly be designated as a classified municipal employee. Dewayne White, who was fired on February 6, wants the opportunity to appeal his termination before the local Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board. The five-member board would have the authority to determine whether or not the chief should be reinstated to his position. However, city-parish officials have taken the position that Police Chief is an unclassified appointed position that is not entitled to appeal to the civil service board.
A quick answer to the outstanding question of employment law may be critical because the chief would have only 15 days to appeal his termination to the civil service board if, in fact, he is entitled to the rights of a classified employee. A deputy state examiner for the Louisiana Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service says that state statutes make it clear that police chief is a classified municipal position. In contrast, an attorney representing the mayor-president points to the city-parish Plan of Government as the authoritative source for determining the position’s classification.
If the police chief gets the opportunity to present his appeal to the civil service board, he will be able to present witnesses and argue his case before a five-member panel that includes representatives from the police and fire departments. The mayor-president would have the opportunity to explain his reasons for the firing as well, and the board would determine whether or not those reasons amounted to good cause.
Although an appearance before the civil service board might provide a favorable forum for the police chief’s appeal, his attorney has not ruled other options. Whether or not the board decides that the chief is entitled to classified employee status, the debate over the applicable designation may be only the first step down a long road of employment litigation.
Source: The Advocate, “White’s civil service status disputed,” Jim Mustian, Feb. 12, 2013