Lawyer stops the city from hiring a new Fort Worth police chief
Former Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald will seek immediate reinstatement and back pay at a hearing on Aug. 1, according to a letter from his attorney to Fort Worth city attorneys.
Attorney Stephen Andrew Kennedy of Dallas sent the letter Monday morning just days after a state district judge prohibited the city of Fort Worth from hiring a new police chief for the next 14 days.
It is the third request by Kennedy for Fitzgerald to be reinstated.
State District Judge Gena Slaughter scheduled the hearing, during which the city will be able to mount an objection to a longer delay. The temporary restraining order granted by the judge will not prevent the city from interviewing candidates, though for the next two weeks, no one can be hired for the position.
In the Monday letter, Kennedy demands that city officials reverse the decision of Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa to terminate Fitzgerald and follow the city charter, which Kennedy argues requires a public hearing before Fitzgerald’s termination becomes final.
The Aug. 1 hearing will include testimony from police officials who witnessed the Washington, D.C., incident that city administrators say triggered Fitzgerald’s firing in May, as well as provide a public hearing for the chief to partially present his grievances about the way his termination was handled, according to Kennedy.
Fitzgerald sought the temporary restraining order granted on Friday so he could make a case for indefinitely delaying the hiring of a new chief.
The city has stood by its decision to fire Fitzgerald. In a termination memo in May, Chapa references several examples of Fitzgerald’s “increasing lack of good judgment.”
“The judge granted the TRO prohibiting the city from hiring a police chief other than in an interim capacity for a period of 14 days,” the city attorney’s office said in a statement after Friday’s ruling. “The temporary injunction hearing is set for August 1st. The city will continue to vigorously defend against the claims made by Joel Fitzgerald.”
The attorney representing the city, Christopher Troutt, told the judge that if applicants for the police chief position discover that it is clouded by an injunction, they would likely never apply. Troutt also argued that if the court ever ordered that Fitzgerald be reinstated, then any person occupying the police chief position would have to vacate the position.
Troutt will have another chance to buttress those claims during the August hearing.
Ed Kraus has been serving as interim chief since Fitzgerald was fired in May.