Davis case continues

Published 3:17 pm Saturday, May 8, 2010

Contributing Editor

Jimmy Davis, fired from his job as chief of the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS Department last summer, is prepared to settle his dispute with the city over his firing — under the right conditions.
Brian Jones, one of Davis’s attorneys, said his client and his legal team, have submitted settlement proposals to the city, with none being accepted.
“The City strives to be fair to every employee. While we are prohibited by law from discussing the specifics of any particular personnel situation, the City believes Mr. Davis was provided reasonable options prior to his separation from employment with the city. The City will continue to strive to be fair to past, present, and future employees,” the city replied in a written statement when asked if it and Davis had made good-faith efforts to settle the dispute.
Davis said he and the city have been through a series of hearings in recent months regarding the case. Until some procedural and jurisdictional issues are resolved, the case won’t be concluded, they said.
Davis’ grievance hearing was held in October, Jones said.
City Manager James c. Smith denied Davis’ grievance in November, Jones said.
“In our opinion, the grievance hearing was not characterized by substantive or procedural fairness,” Davis said.
The grievance hearing was flawed, he said.
“We weren’t satisfied with the grievance procedure,” Davis said.
Davis said he and his attorneys requested the names of witnesses, documents and other information the city planned to produce at the hearing. That request was made in writing, Davis said.
Davis said he and his attorneys wanted that information so they could better prepare for the hearing. Davis said he and his attorneys were unprepared to deal with some things that surfaced at the hearing.
“We were hearing things for the first time in that grievance hearing,” Davis said.
Since being hired to represent Davis, Jones said, he and his client have “not been aware of any written grievances filed by any city employee against Jimmy.”
“We never received that information prior to the hearing,” Davis said.
Following the grievance hearing, two hearings before the N.C. Employment Security Commission were held. In the wake of his firing, Davis filed for unemployment insurance benefits.
In the first hearing, the city and Davis filed written statements with ESC. After the first hearing on Sept. 30, an ESC adjudicator determined Davis was eligible for benefits because he had not been fired for misconduct on the job. The city appealed that decision.
At the second hearing in February, the ESC reversed the earlier finding. In March, Davis appealed that ruling.
“That is still ongoing. We are waiting on the Employment Security Commission to tell us how to proceed next,” Davis said.
In November, Davis filed a petition with the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, seeking to appeal the city’s dismissal of his grievance. Davis contends the city had no just cause to fire him.
Davis said he’s entitled to a hearing before an OAH official because he served as the city’s emergency-management coordinator in his final years with the city.
Jones said that requests for copies of documents he and Davis consider public records, such as copies of grants related to fire-department equipment and emergency-management materials, have not been provided to them.
“Mr. James L. Davis has filed a petition with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), claiming that, unlike any other City employee, he is covered by the State Personnel Act and is entitled to a hearing before the OAH. The City’s position is that Mr. Davis has no greater, additional, or special rights or privileges beyond those enjoyed by every other City employee,” reads the city’s written response.
“Accordingly, the City has requested Mr. Davis’ petition for a hearing before OAH should be dismissed. Mr. Davis has requested an extension of time to respond to this request to allow him to gather documents to support his claim that he is covered under the State Personnel Act. All discovery has been stayed pending a ruling on this issue. Although the City does not believe any of these documents are relevant, the City has provided or is in the process of providing documents that Mr. Davis has requested from the City. It is the City’s understanding that Mr. Davis is also waiting on documents from other state and/or federal agencies. Once Mr. Davis files his response, OAH will determine whether Mr. Davis is entitled to a hearing. If a hearing is allowed, the City will participate appropriately in those proceedings,” reads the city’s response.
Davis and Jones said the city wants to seal certain documents related to the filing of his petition with OAH and any subsequent hearing(s) resulting from that petition.
“Mr. Davis (by legal counsel) and the City have agreed that certain documents should be filed under seal in order to protect and observe not only Mr. Davis’ rights under the law but also the rights of other employees of the City of Washington,” reads the city’s response.
The city’s response was supplied, in part, by Robin Davis, the attorney of record in the city’s defense of the Davis case before the OAH.
Davis also is represented by Reagan Weaver, a member of the Capitol District Law Offices in Raleigh. Weaver was added to Davis’ legal team to respond to the city’s actions against Davis.
A synopsis of the Davis case
Jimmy Davis, the Washington fire chief terminated by the city in July, contends the city had no legitimate reason to terminate him.
In a press release issued July 17, City Manager James C. Smith announced that Davis had been separated from employment with the city. Before his termination, Davis led the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS-Inspections Department.
After his termination, Davis hired Brian Jones, an attorney with Mason &Jones, P.A., to represent him. Later, Reagan Weaver, a member of the Capitol District Law Offices in Raleigh, was added to the Davis legal team.
In July, Davis and Jones said the public has the right to know the circumstances surrounding Davis’ termination.
Davis, during an interview in July, said allegations against him include, but are not limited to, the following:
• having city employees pick up lunch orders for him;
• having city employees run errands such as making deposits at banks for him;
• having city employees make appointments for things such as haircuts for him;
• taking and making personal phone calls on his city-owned cell phone;
• showing favoritism to some city employees;
• personal use of a city-owned copy machine;
• using city employees and equipment for personal business.
Davis said he’s been accused of confronting city employees, accusing a city employee in his department of having extra-marital affairs and making inappropriate comments at the fire station.
Previously, Jones said he and Davis believe the former fire chief is the target of an unfair investigation.
Davis denies any wrongdoing in regard to his job performance as a city employee. He said the allegations against him are unfounded.
Davis said he’s being “treated like a criminal” by the city. Davis also said he would like to know the real reason he was fired.
Smith, during an interview in July, said the allegations against Davis are not criminal in nature and that Davis had not been the subject of a criminal investigation.
— Mike Voss
Contributing Editor