Former city employee to get another civil service hearing

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - A terminated employee of the city of Shepherdsville will have another day in court. And, this time, there will be procedures to follow.

Bullitt Circuit Court Judge Rodney Burress has returned the termination appeal by Mike Schroeder to the Shepherdsville Civil Service Commission.

After a hearing last month, Burress ruled recently that within 10 days of his ruling, there must be written reasons why Schroeder was terminated on Feb. 1, 2010, as the waste water treatment plant operator.

And within 20 days of the Jan. 13 ruling, the civil service commission must provide both parties a set of procedures to be followed on the next hearing.

“We are pleased with the judge’s decision,” said attorney Mark Hall, who represents Schroeder. “I think this illustrates that it wasn’t done properly.”

During the hearing, Hall argued that his client was not presented with any specific findings on why he was terminated by then-mayor Sherman Tinnell.

Since that time, current mayor Scott Ellis has presented Schroeder with a detailed list of items that led to his dismissal.

Those reasons for termination included Schroeder’s employment with the city of Hillview at the same time he worked for Shepherdsville; not completing required paperwork for the EPA; not attending budget hearings; and unbecoming conduct by an employee.

This is more than Hall received when Schroeder was originally terminated.

Hall said that his client was not presented with a timely hearing and the matter drug on for months. It wasn’t until December that the civil service board finally reached the decision to affirm the mayor’s decision to terminate.

Schroeder has also filed a whistleblower’s lawsuit against the city alleging that the termination occurred after the plant operator had a discussion with state officials.

Throughout the proceedings, civil service members changed and Hall said the board wanted to make a ruling before he was given the opportunity to present evidence.

“They had their minds made up,” said Hall.

Adam Fuller, representing the city, said there was due process given to Schroeder as the delay was caused by an agreement between the opposing attorneys.

But Hall said it wasn’t a fair hearing.

“You have to have that neutral decision maker,” said Hall. “We didn’t have that.”

But Fuller said that Schroeder had an opportunity to tell his story and that it was a fair hearing and the commission came to an unbiased opinion.

In his ruling, Burress said there was no evidence that the civil service commissioners were biased in their decision.

What Burress did have problems with was the lack of a process set forth in terms of how the proceedings would be held.

Getting proper notification on the grounds of the dismissal was also lacking and caused a problem in ensuring due process rights were guaranteed, wrote Burress.

“The Court finds that such a vague notice does not provide the plaintiff (Schroeder) with a fair opportunity to prepare a meaningful defense to the charges,” Burress wrote.

As part of his order, all issues would be heard at a new civil service hearing.

The outcome was a little different from the most recent ruling by Burress against the civil service commission. Last year, he ordered police chief Doug Puckett returned to his position after overturning a civil service commission ruling to terminate. Puckett is back on duty for the city.