Former Beaumont firefighter sues chief for wrongful termination

Kelly Holleran Aug. 27, 2012, 7:39am


A former Beaumont firefighter is attempting to regain his job after he claims the fire chief wrongly suspended him from his position.

James Matthews filed a lawsuit Aug. 16 in Jefferson County District Court against the city of Beaumont.

In his complaint, Matthews claims he worked as a civil service firefighter in the Beaumont Fire Department for more than 15 years when Fire Chief Anne Huff suspended him on Oct. 7, 2008.

Following his suspension, Matthews appealed it and won his appeal, the suit states.

However, the city appealed the decision to award Matthews his job back, the complaint says. The district court ordered Beaumont to allow Matthews to continue working, but the city again appealed to the Ninth District Court of Appeals in Beaumont, Matthews claims.

The appellate court  reversed the district's court's decision and ordered a rehearing, according to the complaint.

Both parties selected a new hearing examiner, the suit states. However, before the hearing, the new examiner accepted and reviewed new evidence related to the case, the complaint says. Matthews claims state law prohibits the review of new evidence.

After reviewing the new evidence, the hearing examiner ruled Matthews' appeal dismissed, according to the complaint.

"The hearing examiner exceeded his jurisdiction in ignoring the statutory framework and dismissing Matthews' appeal," the suit states. "The hearing examiner's jurisdiction was limited to determining whether the indefinite suspension should be upheld or modified, based on the fire department's compliance with Chapter 143's procedural requirements and the truth of the specific charges against Matthews."

In his complaint, Matthews seeks a declaration that the hearing examiner exceeded his jurisdiction, an order that Matthews suspension be overturned and an order that the city restore him to his former position. He is also seeking an order that the fire department pay him for the time off and to restore other benefits he lost, plus attorney's fees and other relief the court deems just.

R. Craig Deats and Matt Bachop of Deats, Durst, Owen and Levy of Austin will be representing him.

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

Case No. A192-887

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