SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - One of the Shreveport firefighters dismissed in the wake of the Fire Station 8 cruelty and prostitution scandal is taking the civil service board to court over the date of his appeal hearing.
Derrick Harris was fired on August 30, a month after his arrest on charges of cruelty to the infirm and principal to prostitution in connection with the scandal. 3 other firefighters were arrested in the same charges in the following days.
Harris appealed his firing on September 4, and asked for a hearing to be scheduled for the board's December meeting. In spite of that request at it's Wednesday meeting, which became heated at times, the board set Harris' appeal hearing for April of 2014.
On Thursday, Harris' attorney John Settle asked a Caddo District Court judge Thursday to order the Shreveport Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board to show why Harris' appeal should not be heard in December, rather than in April.
The suit argues that Louisiana law requires the board to grant the employee a hearing and investigation within thirty days after receipt of written request, and that he is "unduly prejudiced by a delayed hearing in April."
That order was signed by Judge Roy Brun, and an October 21 hearing date was set. That is the same day Harris is due in court for a preliminary exam on the criminal charges against him.
Settle tells KSLA News 12 that he believes the board set the April date because they want to criminal case to play out first.
Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board Chairman Sgt. Jason Brooks doesn't deny that, saying it's standard practice. "It has always been the practice that we will not hear a case in a public forum like that on a police officer or a fireman when criminal proceedings are involved or something that may be civil, so that things that may come up inside our hearing would come up, or not come up, necessarily, in a criminal proceeding."
"That's for the protection and the fireman and or any witness that could be involved." Plus, Brooks says, "If he's been arrested for a felony, which he was, we generally don't put people back to work who've been arrested and charged with a felony."
Harris, a 23-year veteran of the department, and four other Shreveport firefighters are accused of abusing 2 mentally challenged men who were regulars at the fire station.
Harris, 17-year veteran and engineer Billy Glass, 11-year veteran firefighter Jason Vaughn and 4-year veteran firefighter Clint Richardson are all charged with cruelty to the infirm and principal to prostitution. All have plead not guilty in Caddo District Court.
A fifth firefighter, Randy Chandler, has been charged with cruelty to the infirm. All are free on bond.
Fellow fired firefighter Billy Glass is also appealing his termination, and KSLA News 12 has learned that the civil service board expects to set appeal hearing dates for two more firefighters at their next meeting in October.