City of Beaumont seeks protective order in suit over BPD lieutenant promotion

By David Yates | Dec 1, 2010

The city of Beaumont, its police chief and city manager are seeking a protective order in a suit over their decision to promote a police lieutenant without filling his position or appointing a new sergeant.

In April, the Southeast Texas Record reported that the Beaumont Police Officers Association along with BPD officers Bert Moore, Raymond Shearer and Dean Oliver filed suit against the city, Police Chief Frank Coffin and City Manager Kyle Hayes.

The suit stems from the retirement of Capt. Melissa Ownby and the city's decision to promote Lt. Wayne Jeffcoat in her place, court records show.

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

On Oct. 13 the defendants filed a motion for protective order and motion to quash deposition notice.

In their motion, the defendants claim that under the 2006 settlement agreement and collective bargaining agreement, the power to create positions within BPD is a legislative act, "and as such the court does not have jurisdiction to order the city to establish the noted vacant positions to in its police force."

The defendants also argue that since "the plaintiffs cannot point to a single disputed relevant jurisdictional fact ... the court should quash plaintiffs' deposition and enter an order protecting defendants from further discovery in this matter," the motion states.

According to the suit, 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.

"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.

John Warner of Reaud, Morgan and Quinn in Beaumont represents them.

The city is represented by Senior Assistant City Attorney Quentin Price.

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, is presiding over the case.

Case No. A186-653

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