Tulsa firefighter uses City Charter for a demotion trial, a first in council history
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Thursday, November 29, 2012
11/29/12 at 7:46 AM
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See the filings: Read the letters from Moore’s attorney:
For the first time in Tulsa City Council history, a trial is scheduled for the 6 p.m. regular Thursday meeting for councilors to determine whether there was sufficient cause for a firefighter to be demoted.
Jeremy Moore, 37, is exercising his right under the City Charter to challenge in an open trial before the council his demotion from the Tulsa Fire Department's administrative chief position.
Moore was notified Nov. 7 that he would be serving as a district chief, his previous job, rather than in the administrative chief post he had held since April 2011. He retained attorney Joel LaCourse and filed his trial demand with the City Clerk's Office on Nov. 16.
Fire Department administrators are expected to argue that Moore was transferred by former Fire Chief Allen LaCroix into the administrative chief post - not promoted - and therefore his transfer out of the position is not a demotion.
In additional documents filed with the city late Wednesday, LaCourse pointed out that the position change has resulted in Moore's salary being reduced from $94,011 to $81,654 annually.
"He was an administrative chief and is now a district chief back in the field," the attorney said in the filing. "If that is not a demotion, I'm not sure what is."
Moore was one of five candidates in this year's search for a new fire chief, which ended with Ray Driskell's getting the top job.
Firefighters have the power to request a council trial, while police officers and other city employees have their grievances heard by the Civil Service Commission.
When the City Charter was drafted in 1989, city administrators went to the police and firefighter unions and asked whether they wanted to be under civil service or have their own charter title written.
Police opted to be under the protection of the civil service process, while firefighters are covered by the language in the charter's Article 11, which allows for trial proceedings.
The only further recourse is to take the matter to court.
The administrative chief position is not covered by the firefighters union, so the union can't get involved in the dispute.
Only once before, around 2004, did a firefighter request a trial in front of the council, but it didn't end up taking place because of a missed deadline, Council Administrator Drew Rees said.
Council Chairman G.T. Bynum said councilors will be briefed during an executive session at a 5 p.m. Thursday meeting by the City Attorney's Office about how the proceeding should be conducted.
"We've never had something like this come up, certainly in the time I've been on the council," Bynum said.
"So this has the potential to be the first time the council has ever handled anything like this. It's important to me that we are doing everything in the proper and legal way."
However, LaCourse is also seeking the recusal of the city's Legal Department from the case. In his filing, the attorney indicates that City Attorney David O'Meilia and his staff will be advising the council that the trial is not appropriate because it is not a case of a true demotion.
But the City Attorney's Office also is supposed to provide legal advice to the council on how to proceed, if it does so, and help represent the side of Fire Department administrators.
"It is Chief Moore's concern that, if the city of Tulsa Legal Department sits on the committee, that there will be a conflict of interest between their role in both representing the actions of Chief Driskell and trying to advise what is supposed to be an impartial City Council as to the actions taken," LaCourse said.
"The City of Tulsa's Legal Department cannot stand as judge, jury and prosecutor."
Driskell declined to comment to the Tulsa World about the trial, calling it a "personnel matter." Moore was unavailable for comment.
In his 16-year career with the Tulsa Fire Department, Moore has served as administrative chief, district chief and technical rescue captain, in addition to field firefighter.
Moore also has completed the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program.
Tulsa City Charter
Section 4.2. Trial
Any person against whom
written charges are filed,
requesting removal, suspension,
demotion, or discharge,
may within ten (10) days
from the date of service of the
charges upon the person file
with the City Clerk a demand
for an open trial before the
Council. At the trial the
person charged shall have
the right to be represented
by legal counsel. The Council
shall, within ten (10) days
after demand, give the person
charged an open hearing upon
Section 4.3. Decision
If after hearing the Council
shall find that good and
sufficient cause has not been
shown for the removal, suspension,
demotion, or discharge,
the Council shall order the
person charged to be reinstated
and shall compensate him
for the time of such removal,
demotion, or suspension. If the
Council by a majority vote shall
find that good and sufficient
cause has been shown by a
preponderance of evidence,
the Council may order the
removal, suspension, demotion,
or discharge of such person, or
may discipline such person by
suspension for a period of not
more than ninety (90) days
or by fine in an amount not to
exceed fifty dollars ($50.00),
Section 4.5. Appeals
No act of the Council shall
be construed to deny a sworn
member of the Fire Department
the right to file an action
for hearing before any court of
Police officers and other
city employees are covered by
Article X’s Civil Service Commission.
Original Print Headline: Council to hear firefighter's status-change trial, a Tulsa first
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Jeremy Moore (left) and Ray Driskell: They were among five candidates in this year's search for a new fire chief, which ended with Driskell's getting the top job