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Board: Leesville had just cause to fire former chief

Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 10:32 AM

By Lauren Manary / American Press

LEESVILLE — The city had the right to end its contract with former Police Chief Bobby Hickman, the municipal civil service board ruled on Wednesday.

Hickman in June 2012 pleaded guilty in federal court to having a firearm with an obliterated serial number and is serving a 46-month prison term.

The city fired Hickman in January 2011, but the former chief said he was wrongly let go. A district court upheld the city’s action, but the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal said city officials had failed to follow the proper procedure. It ordered that Hickman be reinstated with back pay and benefits.

At Wednesday’s civil service board hearing, attorney Cloyd Benjamin, who represents Leesville, said Hickman is unable to perform police duties because he is incarcerated. Additionally, he said, Hickman is barred by state law from having a firearm because he’s a convicted felon.

Hickman’s attorney, Aaron Green, said City Administrator Courtney Christian, who fired Hickman, failed to follow protocol during an internal pre-investigation hearing when she didn’t recognize him as a city employee.

He also argued that the city didn’t follow the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights, which dictates a law enforcement official’s rights while under investigation.

But Benjamin said Hickman’s rights weren’t violated.

“We’re talking about a man who has been convicted, is sitting in prison, claiming he wants to be chief of police, claiming that he was wronged,” he said. “I fail to see, and counsel (Green) has not shown, any wrong that has been done to his client.”

The city had asked the appeals court for advice on how to handle reinstating Hickman after its ruling, but the court denied both the city’s request for a rehearing and clarification on the matter, Christian said.

Christian, Leesville Detective Kenneth Pine and the current police chief, Greg Hill, testified at the hearing.

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