Beaumont Police Chief Frank Coffin Jr.
Following an Aug. 20 jurisdiction hearing, a local judge must now turn to the scales of Lady Justice and decide if a suspended Beaumont police officer's constitutional rights outweigh a collective bargaining agreement.
Officer Keith Breiner, suspended for having sex with prostitutes during a sting operation, claims Police Chief Frank Coffin Jr. wants to fire him for doing the job he was told to do.
To stay his scheduled Aug. 1 termination, Breiner filed a lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order against BPD and the city on July 24 in Jefferson County District Court. Judge Gary Sanderson of the 60th Judicial District granted the restraining order that same day.
During Wednesday's jurisdiction hearing Breiner's attorney, Larry Watts of Houston, said Chief Coffin took it upon himself to "assassinate Breiner's character by sending his minions into the community" and to the media to label Breiner as a "rouge officer."
However, Chief Coffin testified that he believed the assertions making up Breiner's case to be inaccurate.
Watts argued that Chief Coffin's alleged actions diminished Breiner's future job prospects and violated his Texas constitutional rights for equal employment.
"If an action by an entity is to preclude employment, it is a constitutional violation," Watts said, adding that the punishment did not fit the crime since a similar incident transpired in the department in the past, but no corrective actions were taken.
Conversely, attorneys for the city argued Breiner is bound by a union authorized collective bargaining agreement that has been in effect since Oct. 1, 2007.
Under the agreement, Breiner was required to exhaust all administrative remedies and finish the arbitration process before filing suit, said Beaumont City Attorney Tyrone Cooper.
Court documents show Breiner had started the arbitration process but broke union ranks by pursuing a legal recourse.
While being questioned by Watts, Chief Coffin testified that Breiner had never personally signed any contract limiting his constitutional rights or waiving his rights to hire a lawyer outside the union.
Judge Sanderson is expected to make a decision within the week.
Several BPD officers attended the hearing in support of Breiner.
In his lawsuit, Breiner says he was contacted April 1 by an officer from the department's narcotics division "about performing an undercover operation at two houses of prostitution fronting as massage parlors."
Breiner claims he was told that an undercover officer would likely have to perform sex acts in order to make a Felony Aggravated Promotion of Prostitution case.
Breiner alleges he was selected for the task because other officers weren't "domestically able to do what was required," and the department believed Breiner and his wife "were so stable as to be able to make the necessary, temporary adjustments as a sacrifice for his job and the community's interests."
The suit lawsays that Breiner was told the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office had been consulted and that there was no violation of law involved.
He claims supervisors gave him $160 -- $60 for the massage and $100 for sex -- and sent him to the Sun Spa on April 8 and then again April 11.
"On April 15, 2008, it had been decided that the next step would require revisiting the massage parlors, secretly introducing tape recorders, and tape recording the sex acts," the suit says.
"It was also decided that in order not to cause Breiner to be assigned to engage in multiple sex acts required to make a felony charge, a second … officer would be enlisted, which led to the involvement of Lt. (David) Kiker in the operation."
Kiker is also currently suspended.
The suit continues by alleging that on April 15, both Breiner and Kiker were issued BPD funds for massages and sex acts, and with appropriate police cover, made the first team entry into Sun Spa.
The undercover officers each had a sexual encounter with a female employee, which each officer recorded. The suit claims the officers were debriefed by the department following the encounter and congratulated for not being identified.
The petition alleges the officers were repeatedly sent back to conduct sex acts on April 23, April 29 and again on May 7.
According to the petition, detailed affidavits from Breiner and Kiker were presented to a district judge in order to obtain search warrants.
In May, Beaumont police got search warrants for the VIP Massage Parlor and the Sun Spa in west Beaumont.
On May 12, Breiner claims a BPD captain verified that sex acts had been committed by him and Kiker in making the criminal case.
The suit states that the captain later said she hadn't known about what transpired, and notified Breiner that the chief of police was upset and she might be compelled to file complaints against the both of them.
According to the petition, on May 27, Breiner was notified that a complaint had been filed against him with BPD's Internal Affairs Division, alleging he'd acted unprofessionally while trying to make the criminal charges against the prostitutes and the massage parlors.
On May 30, Breiner was denied his request to take a polygraph he said would verify that he had been asked to perform the assignment and that he had been told that any sex acts performed by him as required to make the cases were expected, legal and permitted, the suit says.
Case No. B182-127