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LCW Attorney Sue Ann Renfro Convinces Court That Police Chief’s Decision To Terminate Officer Must Stand
A hearing officer disagreed with a chief of police’s decision to terminate the employment of a senior officer. The basis for the termination was the investigation finding that the officer had a sexual relationship with a then-19-year-old member of the city’s youth program.
The hearing officer’s decision stated that reasonable minds could differ on the level of penalty, and that the chief did not abuse his discretion in selecting termination. Yet, the hearing officer substituted her discretion for the chief’s as to the severity of the officer’s transgression. She reduced the penalty to a two-month suspension without pay.
The city filed a petition for writ of mandate to challenge the hearing officer’s decision. At hearing, LCW argued the law that a decision maker’s penalty assessment must stand unless the evidence shows that the penalty was an abuse of discretion. The fact that the hearing officer expressly stated in her decision that the chief had acted within his discretion, was “game over” for the judge. The judge agreed that penalty determination for this misconduct should be left to the chief and upheld the termination.