City wins appeal in Mathews case; Appellate judges reverse arbitrator's decision

David Yates Sep. 1, 2011, 5:00am

The 9th Court of Appeals today reversed an arbitrator's decision reinstating James Mathews as a firefighter with the Beaumont Fire Department.

The court also found that the city had given Mathews proper notice of the facts and of charges against him that formed the basis of his termination.

Mathews was indefinitely suspended in October 2007, due to his actions following a minor automobile accident and the altercation that ensued. He was acquitted of the criminal charges in July 2009 when the alleged victim failed to show up in court.

An independent arbitrator ordered Mathews reinstated, finding the City had not given him proper notice of the charges against him. The city lost an appeal with the district court and then appealed to the Beaumont Court of Appeals.

Appellate Justices C.J. Steve McKeithen, David Gaultney and Hollis Horton issued a unanimous opinion stating that the arbitrator exceeded his jurisdiction by reinstating Mathews based on procedural issues.

The court's opinion also indicates:

  • The arbitrator was incorrect in refusing to hear evidence relating to the original incident, reversing Mathews' termination solely and incorrectly on the procedural issue.

  • The city made adequate connections in its original termination document between Mathews' actions during the altercation, and specific civil service and departmental rules violated.

    The opinion states, "[The arbitrator] reinstated Mathews without an evidentiary hearing, although the notice stated the acts for which Mathews was charged."

    In a separate opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed the expunction of records ordered by a District Court judge.

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