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LCW Partner J. Scott Tiedemann And Associate Alex Wong Convince Court Of Appeal To Uphold Police Officer’s Termination

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Jun 05, 2024

A city terminated a police officer based on allegations that he purchased and facilitated the sale of a controlled substance, and did not tell the truth during the administrative investigation into his misconduct.  The officer denied the allegations and appealed the dismissal to the city manager.

The city manager followed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and the exclusive representative, and appointed a hearing officer to:  oversee an administrative appeal hearing; and issue a recommend decision.  The hearing officer ruled that the city did not prove the charges and recommended the officer’s reinstatement.  The city manager declined this recommendation, and issued her own decision to sustain the charges and the termination.

The former officer asked the superior court to review the city manager’s decision.  He claimed that the MOU required the city manager to defer to the hearing officer’s determinations regarding the facts and witness credibility.  The trial court ruled that the city manager acted within her power under the terms of the MOU.  The former officer appealed.

The California Court of Appeal upheld the city manager’s decision.  LCW convinced the Court of Appeal that the city manager was well within her authority as the ultimate decision maker, and that there was no due process violation. The Court of Appeal agreed, finding that the MOU gives: the hearing officer the authority to create the record; and the city manager the discretion how to interpret the appeal hearing record and reach a final decision.

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