Council votes not to grant firefighter requested trial following alleged demotion
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Thursday, December 06, 2012
Tulsa’s City Council voted 7-2 Thursday to not grant firefighter Jeremy Moore his requested trial for councilors to determine whether there was sufficient cause for his alleged demotion.
This came after City Attorney David O’Meilia issued a formal legal opinion earlier in the day that a trial based on Moore’s case was not justified.
The City Charter allows a firefighter to request an open trial in front of the council, but only if “written charges” are filed against them by the Fire Department chief or the mayor, according to the opinion.
That did not happen in this case, the opinion indicates. Moore was never formally promoted, so he could not be demoted, and no charges of misconduct or violation of rules or policies have been made against him.
Moore, 37, was notified Nov. 7 that he would be serving as a district chief in the field rather than in the administrative chief post he had held since April 2011.
As a result, his base salary was reduced from $94,011 to $81,654.
His demand for a trial was filed with the City Clerk’s Office on Nov. 16.
Moore, a 16-year veteran of the department, was one of five internal candidates who competed earlier this year to be the next chief. The post ultimately went to Fire Chief Ray Driskell.
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 chose to be covered by the language in the charter’s Article 11, which allows for trial proceedings.
The council’s decision Thursday means Moore’s only other recourse might be to file a lawsuit in court.
“I am going to make sure Chief Moore is aware of the rights he has and all available remedies to him so can make a decision within a timely manner,” said Moore’s attorney, Joel LaCourse.
Moore declined to comment.
The legal opinion states that Moore being named the administrative chief by Former Fire Chief Allen LaCroix would not be considered a “valid promotion” under the charter.
It notes that there was not competitive examination for the post or involvement of the personnel committee.
Councilors Blake Ewing and Jack Henderson voted against the decision to deny a trial, with the other seven councilors voting in favor.
Before the vote, the council met for an hour-long executive session with O’Meilia and his staff, as well as Bixby City Attorney Pat Boulden, who formerly worked for Tulsa’s Legal Department and was brought in as an independent counsel at the request of councilors.
LaCourse had argued in a filing that the City Attorney’s Office should recuse itself from the proceedings because it could not fairly represent the fire administration’s point of view and guide the council in its duties.
O’Meilia had before told the Tulsa World that his office would not recuse, saying it has a duty under the charter to represent the city, including the council, in all legal proceedings.