Appeals court says Leesville wrong to fire police chief

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that because an investigation into former Police Chief Bobby Hickman was not completed

within the proper timeframe, the City of Leesville was wrong to have fired him on Jan. 28, 2011.

The appeals court ruled that the investigation should have been completed within 60 days of its beginning, by Jan. 4, 2011.

However, in a letter dated Jan. 6, Leesville notified Hickman that it had hired Mark Sheridan to investigate.

“We reverse Mr. Hickman’s termination

and render judgment reinstating his employment retroactive to the date

of his original

termination and awarding him full pay and benefits from the date

of his reinstatement, together with legal interest thereon

until paid,” the appeals court said.

The 3rd Circuit also ordered Leesville to pay $2,590 for the costs of proceedings.

The City of Leesville sent notice to Hickman on Nov. 5 that it was investigating him, saying he was “alleged to have committed

acts contrary to the Laws of the State of Louisiana and or the United States of America.”

Hickman pleaded guilty in federal court in June to having a firearm with an obliterated serial number.

In August, he was accused of taking

money from the city’s D.A.R.E. program and charged with felony theft

over $1,500 and malfeasance

in office.

In October, he was sentenced on the

firearms charge to 46 months in prison and ordered to make restitution

for a stolen sawed-off

shotgun found at his residence.

The appeals court said Hickman claimed that he learned of his firing in the newspaper on Feb. 2, 2011, and did not receive

written notice by mail until Feb. 9.

Hickman appealed saying the investigation had not been completed within the proper timeframe.

Hickman “argues that he did not receive the procedural protections that he is entitled to as a civil service employee and

under the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights,” the 3rd Circuit said.

A lower court upheld the city’s decision.

In explaining its decision to reverse,

the appeals court cited a statute that reads “Any discipline, demotion,

dismissal,

or adverse action of any sort whatsoever taken against a police

employee or law enforcement officer without complete compliance

with the foregoing minimum standards is an absolute nullity.”

The 3rd Circuit said the actions taken against Hickman were “an absolute nullity.”