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Huntsville City Council votes against changing employee disciplinary procedure

Published: Aug. 26, 2021 at 8:53 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The Huntsville City Council voted against a proposal that would allow a city employee to be immediately fired if they committed a felony.

The proposal was introduced at Thursday night’s City Council meeting and not long after former Huntsville police officer William Darby was still considered a city employee with pay after he was convicted of murder. Darby has since resigned from the department and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The proposal states: “(A) Indictment for, conviction of, or commission of, an act which would constitute, (1) a felony or (2) a crime involving moral turpitude; conviction of, or the commission of an act which would constitute a misdemeanor which reflects unfavorably upon the employee’s character or his/her effectiveness in the job; however, a conviction of a felony during employment is cause for immediate termination upon rendering of the verdict and a department hearing will not be conducted.”

The big question was is this ordinance constitutional? Councilmember Frances Akridge asked that exact question to Attorney David Canupp. He replied he would not advise the city to move forward with the ordinance.

So, there will be no change to the employee disciplinary procedure. Canupp’s reasoning being it conflicts with existing law.

Based on a Supreme Court decision called Loudermill, no matter how bad the offense of a public employee is, they have a right to a hearing before and after they are terminated. There is also an Alabama state law that says law enforcement officers are required to have a hearing before they are terminated or even suspended and after.

Attorney Canupp says the city would run into problems if this passed. But, a hearing could be expedited in the future.

“We do have to balance an employee’s right to due process. We do have the right to suspend or even terminate employees who are indicted for a felony. The personnel manual does give that authority, What we should be careful about it is adding something that takes away the right of a hearing because we may run into some problems,” said Canupp.

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