A judge said today he would rule after written memoranda are filed in support of the oral arguments made today in the civil trial of Roberts v Jonesboro.
In the suit, David Roberts claims he was never properly terminated as Town of Jonesboro Fire Chief and should be awarded back pay and benefits as of January 11, 2011.
The town claims Roberts had acknowledged his termination and is entitled to no compensation.
Unable to come to a settlement during an 1 1/2 hour pretrial conference, the parties in the suit made their arguments before Division B Judge Jimmy Teat in Second Judicial District Court at the Jackson Parish court house.
Culpepper began by calling as his first witness the town’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson, and asking him to show in the minutes of the town’s 1/11/2011 board of aldermen meeting where any specific motion was made to remove Roberts as the town’s fire chief, and where it was voted upon by the board.
Roberts claims in his petition that the proper procedures as required by law were not followed at that meeting. Cited in arguments today was LA RS 33:404(A)3 – Duties of mayor:
However, appointment or removal of a nonelected chief of police, the municipal clerk, the municipal attorney, or any department head shall be subject to approval by the board of aldermen…
Also cited was an attorney general’s opinion that said department heads shall serve until removed.
Thompson said that the action of naming a new chief served the same purpose as the specific action of removing Roberts. Thompson noted that the town can have only one fire chief at a time.
Said Thompson, “that had to have been their assumption,” referring to the intent of the board.
On cross-examination, Stokes asked Thompson if had he advised Roberts of his intention to replace him. Thompson said he had done so, both verbally and in writing. Thompson’s letter to Roberts was entered into evidence.
Culpepper rebutted that the letter was not specifically voted upon by the board, and that the law requires board approval.
Stokes also brought up a demand letter to the town from Roberts, and the resulting settlement, regarding unused comp and vacation time. The issue had come up in Feb, 2011, prior to the lawsuit currently under litigation.
Stokes noted that a release had been signed by Roberts, and entered both that document and the cleared checks into evidence. Stokes argued that the settlement implied Robert’s acknowledgement of termination.
Culpepper argued that the settlement was for the time period prior to 1/11/2011, and that it had no bearing on the issue at hand.
After a lunch recess, Roberts took the stand, and in reply to Culpepper’s specific question of was he terminated “with the concurrence of the board of alderman,” he said no.
On cross, Roberts acknowledged to Stokes that he had received the mayor’s letter telling him he would be terminated, and also that he had signed the settlement with the town for comp and vacation time.
A ruling is expected within thirty to sixty days.