San Antonio Court of Appeals holds civil service protection does not allow applicants to appeal to district court who do not already fall under control of a specific commission

The City of San Antonio Fire Fighters’ and Police Officers’ Civil Service Commission; City of San Antonio v. Gabriel Saenz, 04-22-00347-CV (Tex.App. – San Antonio, April 27, 2023)

This is a civil service/employment dispute where the San Antonio Court of Appeals determined a fire fighter applicant could not appeal a disqualification to district court.

Saenz applied to be a firefighter with the City of San Antonio, but his application was disqualified. After Saenz appealed and lost before the San Antonio Civil Service Commission, he appealed to district court. The Commission filed a plea to the jurisdiction which was denied by the trial court. The Commissioned appealed.

Saenz appealed pursuant to §143.015 of the Texas Local Government Code which states that if a fire fighter is dissatisfied with any commission decision, the fire fighter may file a petition in district court asking that the decision be set aside.  The Commission asserted Saenz was not a “fire fighter” for purposes of protection since he was merely an applicant. Further, the Commission asserted such an appeal was also untimely. “Fire fighter” is defined in Chapter 143, in relevant part, as “a member of a fire department who was appointed in substantial compliance with this chapter . . . .” Saenz is a member of the City of Canyon Lake Fire Department, appointed in compliance with Chapter 143. However, the question is whether Saenz is a “fire fighter” with respect to the San Antonio Fire Department.  After going through a statutory construction analysis, the court held, within the context of Chapter 143, “a member of a fire department,” under § 143.003(4) (emphasis added), means a member of the fire department for the particular municipality that has adopted Chapter 143 and under the specific commission whose decision is being appealed. As a result, the plea should have been granted.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Chief Justice Martinez, Justices Watkins and Rodriguez. Opinion by Chief Justice Martinez.

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