The recent appeal hearing of former Asst Fire Chief Jeff Burkhart is likely to be costly to the taxpayers. A wrongful termination lawsuit can be expected to land on City Hall’s doorsteps. A review of the proceedings would give even Jose Feliciano the chills. Insubordination- not in a coon’s age or a horse’s derriere. Hurricane Katrina would have steered clear of this farce.
Consider these salient points of interest:
- Under oath, Mayor Piper admitted that he had not reviewed the city code or read the Building Maintenence Supervisor job description prior to making the transfer. He only did so after Mr. Burkhart refused the new position on the grounds of not being qualified. The mayor also had not read the official City Due Process Procedure.
- Jeff Burkhart was fired by the mayor for insubordination after refusing a transfer to the Building Maintenance Department.
- The interim City Human Resources Director stated that Burkhart did not meet the job requirements. He does not have the required state certification electrician license for the position.
- Had Burkhart actually accepted the position, he would have been in violation of the City Code for accepting a position he was not qualified for.
- Mayor Piper claims that this was a lateral transfer, not a demotion, with no loss of pay for Burkhart. However, the Building Maintenance position salary is listed at $30,000 less than the assistant fire chief position.
- Had Burkhart accepted the position, again, he would have been in violation of the city code when the salary was not adjusted downward as the city code requires. Mayor Piper said he was going to maintain Burkhart’s assistant fire chief salary.
- The city code states that an employee can legally refuse a job assignment if it is an unusual one that is hazardous or unsafe. Furthermore, it states an employee cannot be disciplined for declining that assignment. The actual job description states certain aspects of the job are hazardous and specifies state certification- electrician licensure – is required. Mr. Burkhart does not have such a license.
- The two city council members who served on the appeal panel stated their position was the mayor can do whatever he wants, because he is the mayor. The city code does not state this. They ignored all these facts in evidence to grant the mayor his wish. They violated their oaths of office to first, serve the citizens of Clarksville and uphold the law, the charter and the city code. They had an obligation to weigh the facts, the law and render justice.
Mr. Burkhart has a solid foundation upon which to suit. The hearing proceedings is a public record and the testimony given was under oath. Statements uttered are part of the official record. Dereliction of duty may well apply. It will follow those folks into court. It will likely render the city liable for another guilty judgment and penalty award. This sort of thing was not suppose to plague us any more. Remember that campaign promise? Well, it seems we are in for a new but different round of lawsuits.
Forget a marina. Someone, please, turns the lights off as you exit this mess! Slide it back in the oven. It’s not done yet!
SectionsNews, Opinion, Politics
TopicsAppeal Hearings, City Charter, City Code, Civil Lawsuits, Clarksville City Council, Commentary, Culpability
City Liability Coverage, External Review, Fairness, Human Resources, Impartiality, Integrity, Job Descriptions, Job Discrimination, Local Government, Local Politics, Politics