An attorney for fired Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald says the chief was improperly terminated by the city and is demanding a public hearing on the matter.
Stephen Kennedy, who is representing Fitzgerald in a whistleblower lawsuit filed against the city of Fort Worth, sent a letter to Fort Worth City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider on Thursday, demanding the hearing and alleging that Fitzgerald was improperly terminated and denied due process.
In a reply sent by Fullenwider to Kennedy and shared with the Star-Telegram, the city attorney responded that “Mr. Fitzgerald’s termination is final.”
Under the Fort Worth’s City Charter, Kennedy wrote in his letter to Fullenwider, only the city manager can fire a director and the director is entitled to a public hearing before the decision to terminate is finalized.
“Here, Dr. Fitzgerald, the first African American Police Chief for the City of Fort Worth, was terminated through a memo from the Assistant City Manager, Jay Chapa,” Kennedy wrote. “The decision was not made in writing by the City Manager and the decision to terminate Dr. Fitzgerald was made final immediately.”
Fitzgerald is demanding the city reverse his termination pending a public hearing, a vote by the City Council regarding whether he should be terminated and “all salary and benefits lost during the time of his improper termination.”
In a news release about the letter, Kennedy states the City Charter must be followed and enforced like any other law on the books.
“Police officers expect and demand that citizens of Fort Worth follow City Ordinances on a daily basis and, if they do not, they get arrested,” Kennedy states. “The same logic applies to the City Council, City Manager, and the City Attorney.”
In her response letter, Fullenwider said Fitzgerald failed to “timely invoke his rights “ under the Fort Worth City Charter.
“Furthermore, the authority to appoint and remove directors is vested solely with the City Manager, and the City Council is not authorized to render the type of relief you are requesting on behalf of your client,” she wrote.
Fullenwider also pointed out in her letter that a successor chief has been appointed and was approved by the City Council on May 28.
Kennedy said Fitzgerald’s termination memo had been drafted in advance and signed.
“The City declared the termination final the moment Dr. Fitzgerald stepped into the City Manager’s conference room for the surprise termination meeting,” Kennedy said. “Following Ms. Fullenwider’s logic, each and every City director must demand a public hearing pursuant to the Charter before receiving notice of termination. I doubt that is what the people of Fort Worth intended when they wrote the Charter.”