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Tensions high as Civil Service Board sets firefighter hearings - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Tensions high as Civil Service Board sets firefighter hearings

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SHREVEPORT, La. -

Four former Shreveport Station 8 firefighters are fighting to get their jobs back after allegations of prostitution and cruelty to disabled men resulted in their termination.

Wednesday, the Shreveport Municipal Fire & Police Civil Service Board set appeal hearings for Billy Glass and Derrick Harris for April 8, 2014.

Discussions got heated when one lawyer said his client couldn't afford to wait seven months to know his fate with the department.

Representing former Shreveport Fire Captain Derrick Harris at Wednesday's Civil Service Board meeting, attorney John Settle said his client deserves to collect a paycheck and to return to duty. Settle said waiting until a hearing in April- at the earliest- is unacceptable.

"My client is now not being paid," Settle said. "Our goal at the hearing would be to have him reinstated on the payroll. Of course, they could award him back pay but that's difficult to make ends meet while your waiting on back pay."

Speaking for SFD, attorney Joe Woodley said because Harris and others are charged with criminal offenses it would be best to wait for the court case to wrap up before the board addresses their appeal.

"My problem is that my witnesses have criminal matters going on, and it's going to be a problem for me to present evidence from the witness stand from people who are not being compelled to testify," Woodley said to board members.

Since Civil Service Board meetings are open to the public, anything said in front of the board could theoretically jeopardize the criminal case.

Settle says its the department's problem if they can't interview witnesses, not his.

As Settle tried a last time to make a last argument for an earlier hearing, the board began to vote, raising tensions between both sides.

"Can I finish?" Settle asked Chairman Jason Brook. "Are you going to cut me off and not let me finish my presentation?"

The two men talked over a moment before both sides reached their breaking point.

Brook:"Mr. Suttle... Mr. Settle."

Settle: "It's Settle."

Brook: "Whatever your name is."

Settle: "Well, maybe you can read it: S-E-T-T-L-E. Is your's Brook, or Broke, or what?"

From there, the board voted and set the hearing for April 8.

In an interview after the decision, Settle said he believes the department doesn't have a case and Fire Chief Craig Mulford rushed to judgment with his firings. Settle says Mulford now wants the courts to do the heavy lifting by securing a conviction, a result that may make it easier for the Civil Service Board to reject Harris' appeal.

"Now they're ducking and saying 'Well, we don't want to go to a hearing because there's a criminal case pending,'" Settle says. "There's no idea how long a criminal case will take. It is doubtful it will go to trial before the end of next year, in my opinion."

When asked about Settle's claims that the chief is trying to wait out a criminal case for his own benefit, SFD spokesperson Fred Sanders said, "We're going to allow due process to run its course."

Lawyers for the other two firefighters still waiting for their appeal hearing dates, Clint Richardson and Jason Vaughan, seem split on whether an early hearing would hurt or help their clients.

"I believe that to keep these men's employment in limbo until next April creates an extreme and unnecessary hardship on them," Peter Flowers said on behalf of former firefighter Clint Richardson.

Flowers said Richardson's notice of appeal was sent to SFD Tuesday, Sept. 10.

Stephen Glassell filed former fire engineer Jason Vaughan's appeal Wednesday and in it asked that the appeal hearing be delayed until after the criminal case's conclusion.

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