HBA-NRS H.B. 2635 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 2635 By: Farrar County Affairs 4/22/2001 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Sheriff's deputies currently have a weak disciplinary appeals process which results in unfair and often discriminatory procedures and inconsistent sentencing. If a deputy is suspended, it is imperative that the appeals process be timely and efficient. However, there are no time lines in the appeals process. The Houston Police Department has an independent and clear disciplinary appeals process. House Bill 2635 improves the disciplinary appeals process for sheriff's deputies to conform to the process used by the Houston Police Department. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. ANALYSIS House Bill 2635 amends the Local Government Code to authorize a sheriff to suspend an employee under the sheriff's supervision or jurisdiction for a violation of a civil service rule for a reasonable period not to exceed 15 days. The bill prohibits a sheriff from suspending an employee later than the 180th day after the date the sheriff's department (department) discovers or becomes aware of the violation. If the sheriff suspends an employee, the bill requires the sheriff, within 120 hours after the employee is notified of the suspension, to file a written statement of action with the sheriff's department civil service commission (commission). The bill sets forth other provisions regarding a suspension and provides that a suspension is void and that the employee is entitled to full pay under certain conditions (Sec. 158.062). The bill authorizes the sheriff to indefinitely suspend an employee under the sheriff's supervision or jurisdiction for the violation of a civil service rule and requires the sheriff, within 120 hours of the suspension, to file a statement with the commission giving the reasons for the suspension and immediately deliver a copy of the statement in person to the suspended employee. The bill provides that if the sheriff offers an employee an indefinite suspension of 16 to 90 calender days the employee may agree in writing to accept the suspension, with no right of appeal (Sec. 158.063). The bill provides that an appeal by an employee to the commission from an action for which an appeal or review is provided is sufficient if the employee files it with the commission not later than the 10th day after the date on which the action occurred. The bill sets forth what must be contained in an appeal to the commission. The bill entitles the affected employee to be represented by counsel or a person the employee chooses and requires that each commission proceeding be held in public. The bill authorizes the affected employee to request the commission to subpoena any documents or witnesses that the employee considers pertinent to the case. The bill requires the commission to maintain a public record of each proceeding (Sec. 158.064). If a suspended employee appeals a disciplinary suspension to the commission, the bill requires the commission to determine if just cause exists for the suspension. The bill authorizes the commission to order a reduction in the period of suspension or to reverse the decision of the sheriff and order reinstatement of the employee and to repay the employee for any lost wages (Sec. 158.065). If a suspended employee appeals an indefinite suspension to the commission, the bill requires the commission to hold a hearing and render a decision in writing not later than the 30th day after the date it receives notice of appeal. The bill requires the commission's decision to state whether the suspended employee is permanently dismissed from the sheriff's department, temporarily suspended from the department, or restored to the employee's former position or status in the department's classified service. If the suspended employee is restored to the position, the bill requires the sheriff to immediately reinstate the employee and entitles the employee to full compensation for the actual time lost as a result of the suspension. The bill authorizes the commission to suspend or dismiss an employee only for a violation of civil service rules and only after a finding by the commission of the truth of specific charges against the employee (Sec. 158.066). If the disciplinary action was overturned on appeal by the commission, an independent third-party hearing examiner, or a court of competent jurisdiction, the bill requires the sheriff to promptly order that the records of a disciplinary action taken against an employee be expunged from each file maintained on the employee by the department. The bill requires the department to maintain an investigatory document that relates to a disciplinary action against an employee that was overturned on appeal, or any document that relates to a charge of misconduct that the department did not sustain (Sec. 158.068). If the commission, a hearing examiner, or a district court orders that an employee suspended without pay be reinstated, the bill requires the county, before the end of the second full pay period after the date the person is reinstated, to repay to the employee all wages lost as a result of the suspension (Sec. 158.069). The bill authorizes the sheriff to assign an employee under the sheriff's jurisdiction or supervision to uncompensated duty in place of or in combination with a period of disciplinary suspension without pay. If uncompensated duty is combined with a disciplinary suspension, the total number of uncompensated duty days may not exceed 15 days (Sec. 158.070). The bill requires a sheriff who takes disciplinary action against an employee to issue a letter of disciplinary action to the employee. The letter must state that in an appeal of the disciplinary action, the appealing employee may elect to appeal to an independent third party hearing examiner instead of to the commission and that by doing so the person waives all rights to appeal to a district court. The bill provides that a hearing examiner's decision is final and binding on all parties. The bill provides that the hearing commission has the same duties and powers as the commission. The bill authorizes the parties to agree to an expedited hearing procedure. In an appeal that does not involve an expedited hearing procedure, the bill requires the hearing examiner to make a reasonable effort to render a decision on the appeal before the 31st day after the later of the date the hearing ends or the date the briefs are filed. The bill provides that the hearing examiner's fees and expenses are shared equally by the appealing employee and by the department. (Sec. 158.071). The bill applies only to a sheriff's department that has voted to create and is under a civil service system and is in a county with a population of 2.3 million or more (Sec. 158.061). EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001.