Monday, May 7, 2018

Davis v. County of Fresno

Davis v. County of Fresno (CA5 F073151 5/3/18) Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights

Plaintiff James Davis was dismissed from his employment as a supervising juvenile correctional officer based on findings of insubordination, discourteous treatment of a subordinate, wrongfully assuming supervisorial duties over his wife despite several admonitions to the contrary, exaggerating the hours he worked on multiple time cards, and other misconduct.  Davis’s administrative appeal of his dismissal was denied by the Civil Service Commission (Commission) of the County of Fresno (County).  Davis filed a petition for a writ of administrative mandamus requesting the superior court to set aside the Commission’s decision.  The superior court denied the petition.

On appeal, Davis contends County violated his constitutional due process rights by failing to provide him a copy of all materials upon which the disciplinary action was based prior to his Skelly hearing.  Davis also contends County’s failure to produce complete copies of reports and witness interviews conducted during the internal affairs investigation into his alleged misconduct violated the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, Government Code section 3300 et seq. (POBRA).

We conclude the materials delivered prior to Davis’s Skelly hearing satisfied the requirements of due process applicable before disciplinary action is imposed.  In contrast, we conclude County violated Davis’s right under POBRA to receive “any reports or complaints made by investigators or other persons.”  (§ 3303, subd. (g).)  We interpret the term “any reports” to include the incident reports and interview transcripts attached to a September 2012 memorandum prepared by a special probation investigator who looked into a retaliation complaint made by another officer against Davis.  Davis’s alleged discourteous treatment of this officer was one of the grounds for his dismissal.

The issue of the appropriate remedy for a violation of POBRA is committed to the broad discretion of the superior court.  Here, the record does not compel this court, as a matter of law, to reinstate Davis with backpay.  Furthermore, there exists a wide range of remedies and we make no comment as to the merits of any of the possible remedies the trial court might select.  Therefore, we remand this matter to the superior court and direct it to decide in the first instance the appropriate remedy.
We therefore reverse the judgment.

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