Civil Service Director ordered to submit appeal to independent hearing examiner, but City immune from damages

Richard Stubbs v. The City of Weslaco, et al., 13-14-00054-CV (Tex. App. —  Corpus Christi, January 8, 2015).

This is an appeal from the dismissal of a mandamus action where the 13th Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal and ordered the trial court to consider whether the firefighter’s appeal from indefinite suspension should be submitted to a hearing examiner.

Stubbs was a firefighter with the City of Weslaco who was injured in an accident unrelated to his employment and was temporarily disabled. After a year of not receiving any updates on his condition the Fire Chief put Stubbs on indefinite suspension. Stubbs filed an appeal to the Civil Service Commission, however, the Director of the Civil Service Commission denied the submission noting he did not follow the proper procedure.  The Texas Local Government Code § 143.057(b) requires a request for an independent hearing examiner be submitted to the Director and not to the Commission.  He sued for writ of mandamus to compel the Director to submit the appeal to a hearing examiner, for injunctive and declaratory relief and for monetary relief. The trial court dismissed the claims and Stubbs appealed.

The court first held the City could not be sued for mandamus, only its officials. The claims for monetary damages and declaratory relief also do not survive against the City as it retains immunity. The Commission is the exclusive authority over reinstatement, not the trial court so the trial court did not err in dismissing those claims. The only claims that survive are the mandamus, injunctive relief, and declaratory judgment claims against the Civil Service Director, Ramirez. The court expressed no opinion on the merits of the remaining claims, only that the trial court has jurisdiction to hear them and remanded those claims. The court affirmed in part and reversed in part.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Valdez, Justice Garza and Justice Longoria. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Longoria. The attorneys listed for Stubbs are Craig Deats and Matthew Bachop. The attorneys listed for the City Defendants are Casandra Ortiz and Keith C. Livesay.