Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald fired by city manager
The Texas Workforce Commission found no evidence that former Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald is guilty of work-connected misconduct, the state agency announced Monday in a reversal of its earlier decision in June.
In its decision, the TWC also said Fitzgerald should receive full unemployment benefits after being fired on May 20.
The TWC originally denied Fitzgerald unemployment compensation on June 13 based on the claim that the chief was fired due to work-related misconduct. Fitzgerald appealed the decision, and an appellate hearing was concluded on July 11.
Fitzgerald was fired after city officials said he acted inappropriately during a police awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. The confrontation, described by some witnesses to the Star-Telegram as “heated,” was prompted by a news release announcing that the state union was kicking Fitzgerald out.
The TWC said in its decision Monday that Fitzgerald did not do anything wrong during the conversation, and nothing significant occurred.
Fitzgerald has also denied acting inappropriately during the confrontation, which included Manny Ramirez, president of the Fort Worth Police Officers Association.
“Basically, the only evidence that the City had was some chatter generated by the FWPOA representative Manny Ramirez that the Chief had acted inappropriately at the banquet. While this may have been enough to dupe the media into thinking something happened, in the end, you win or lose based on evidence, not hearsay,” said Fitzgerald’s lawyer, Stephen Kennedy, in a press release Monday night.
Mayor Betsy Price issued a statement Tuesday in regards to the TWC’s decision.
“Regardless, I standby the city’s decision to terminate Joel Fitzgerald and will not comment any further as there is pending litigation,” she said.
In June, Fitzgerald filed a whisteblower lawsuit against the city alleging that it fired him in retaliation for reporting to officials, including the FBI, that the city was not in compliance with federal Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) regulations.
The city has denied those allegations and insisted it is in compliance with all federal regulations.
Fitzgerald and Kennedy have demanded a public hearing on his termination.
On July 11, Kennedy sent a letter to Fort Worth City Attorney Sarah Fullenwider, 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.”
“The TWC’s finding that Dr. Fitzgerald did nothing wrong at the D.C. conference is going to make the City’s justification of terminating Dr. Fitzgerald rather difficult to justify to a Dallas jury,” Kennedy said in the release.
Kennedy is also representing two fired IT employees in their whistleblower lawsuits against the city.