Stephanie Brown is an Officer with the Georgetown, Texas Police Department, who was investigated by the Department in 2013 for taking her then boyfriend’s prescription medication and ingesting mescaline. Following the investigation, the Police Chief concluded that Brown used someone’s prescription drugs, ingested mescaline, was untruthful when questioned, and Brown was suspended indefinitely. Then, the Police Chief told the County and District Attorney’s office of the alleged misconduct, and the prosecutors issued a joint letter that their offices would no longer accept cases in which Brown was involved.

Brown appealed the suspension to an independent hearing examiner. The examiner concluded that there was insufficient evidence that Brown ingested mescaline and that Brown, herself, had prescriptions for the drugs that belonged to her boyfriend and reduced Brown’s suspension to 15 days. Brown returned to the Department, but the Police Chief fired her the next day because Brown could no longer fulfill the essential job function of testifying in court proceedings. The Chief stated that because this was a non-disciplinary termination, Brown did not have a right to appeal under the Civil Service Act.

Brown then sued the City, seeking that her termination was a disciplinary action triggering appeal rights under the Civil Service Act and that she was wrongfully terminated based on the same alleged conduct already ruled on by the hearing examiner.

The Texas Court of Appeals issued a strongly worded opinion agreeing with Brown. The Court noted that Brown’s first termination was clearly a disciplinary suspension based on her alleged drug use and that those allegations were the basis of the prosecutors’ decision to no longer accept cases in which Brown was involved. Therefore, Brown’s second termination, due to not being able to testify, was ultimately based on the same allegations as her first termination. The defendants presented no evidence that Brown was incapable of testifying, and the prosecutors’ decision was based on the Police Chief accusations. The Civil Service Act was intended to prevent the sort of factual scenario in this case.

Brown v. Nero, 2015 WL 5666172 (Tex. App. 2015)