Suit claims police chief violated agreement by not filling position

Kelly Holleran Apr. 30, 2010, 6:52am

The city of Beaumont, its police chief and its city manager find themselves defending their decision to promote a lieutenant without filling his position or appointing a new sergeant in his place.

The Beaumont Police Officers Association and officers Bert Moore, Raymond Shearer and Dean Oliver filed a lawsuit April 21 in Jefferson County District Court against the city, Police Chief Frank Coffin and City Manager Kyle Hayes.

The controversy began after Capt. Melissa Ownby retired and the city promoted Lt. Wayne Jeffcoat to take her place, the plaintiffs claim.

However, upon promoting Jeffcoat, the city failed to fill his vacated lieutenant position, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs claim an officer must be promoted to Jeffcoat's lieutenant position according to a December 2006 settlement agreement.

In the settlement, the city agreed to create four new lieutenant positions and to delete four sergeant positions. When one of the lieutenants vacated a position, the position would not be refilled, but a sergeant slot would open in its place, the suit states.

"Plaintiffs contend that since Lt. Wayne Jeffcoat was not one of the four newly-created Lieutenant's positions referred to in the Breaux settlement, the City is not entitled to delete the position of Lieutenant," the complaint says. "Pleading further, and in the alternative, if it is found that the settlement agreement allows for the position of any four Lieutenants' positions to be deleted and 'backfilled' by creation of a Sergeant's position, then the City of Beaumont has breached the Settlement Agreement in failing to create a new position of Sergeant in connection with the deletion of the Lieutenant's position."

The plaintiffs want the court to order that Jeffcoat's vacant lieutenant position be filled with another lieutenant or create a sergeant's position in its place.

The plaintiffs also seek attorney's fees, costs and other relief the court deems just.

John Warner of Reaud, Morgan and Quinn in Beaumont will be representing them.

The case has been assigned to Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A186-653.

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