Navigating Unfair Termination as a Civil Service Employee: Understanding the Appeals Process

police_cop_police_uniforms-scaledExperiencing termination from your job is a difficult situation, especially when it feels unjust. Scott Poiencot faced this unfortunate circumstance when he was terminated from his position as a police officer in the Lafayette Police Department, where he had served for several years. As a civil service employee, Louisiana law provided a specific procedure for appealing his termination. This case sheds light on employees’ challenges in challenging an unfair termination. In addition, it emphasizes the importance of seeking legal guidance to understand their rights and navigate the appeals process.

Before his termination, Scott Poiencot had been involved in three different Internal Affairs investigations. The first investigation (AD2012-007) involved a confidential document being removed from a police file and eventually released to the media. It was discovered that a Lieutenant in the police department had removed the document initially and whited out some information before providing it to Poeincot.  The second investigation (AD2012-010) involved Poiencot secretly recording a phone conversation involving a Major in the police department. Poiencot eventually admitted to downloading the conversation, which was released to the media. The third investigation (AD2012-012) involved Poiencot’s refusal to submit to a polygraph as part of the first investigation related to releasing a confidential document. His termination letter referenced all three prior investigations with which he was involved. 

After his termination, Poiencot appealed to the Lafayette Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board (the “Board”). The Board voted 5-0 to uphold his termination, finding it was made for cause and in good faith. The Board then issued a final judgment. 

After that, Poiencot appealed to the district court under La. R.S. 33:2501(E)(1), which states the district court shall determine whether the Board’s decision was made in good faith for cause. He argued the Board should have only considered the first investigation (AD2012-007) in making its determination. The Lafayette City Government argued its termination decision was based on Poiencot’s violation of confidentiality policies, so his termination was made in good faith. Under La. R.S. 33:2501(3), the issue before the court was whether the Board had decided to affirm the termination in good faith and for cause. The district court agreed the Board had acted in good faith. Poiencot then appealed.

The appellate court defers to the district court and Board’s findings of fact and does not overturn them unless there is manifest error. On appeal, Poiencot argued the Board should have had separate hearings for each of the three prior investigations with which he was involved. However, he did not provide any legal authority to support this argument. Therefore, the appellate court agreed with the district court’s finding there was no error that allowed it to overturn the Board’s findings and that it acted in good faith and with cause in upholding Poiencot’s termination. 

In the Poiencot case, the appellate court upheld the district court’s decision affirming Poiencot’s termination. Poiencot argued that the Board should have held separate hearings for each of the three investigations he was involved in but failed to provide legal authority. As a civil service employee, complying with special procedural requirements is crucial when challenging an unfair termination. Seeking experienced counsel can help ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.

Additional Sources: Scott Poiencot v. Lafayette Consolidated Government, et al.

Written by Berniard Law Firm

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Police Officer Termination: Dismissal of Former Police Officer’s Lawsuit is Affirmed for No Cause of Action

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