Civil Service Commission to hear case of lost pay|[10/01/05]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 1, 2005

The Civil Service Commission Friday denied a motion by city attorney Walterine Langford to dismiss an appeal by 30-year Vicksburg police officer Rudolph Walker to recoup pay lost after the city placed him on leave in June for “blackout spells.”

The three-member commission took less than 3 minutes to render a decision after hearing arguments by Langford, representing the city, and Walker’s attorney, Richard Dean. A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 18.

Commission Chairman Joe Graham said Walker’s case deserves to be heard. Langford had argued jurisdiction rested with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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“The commission unanimously concludes that most of the discussion here today goes to the merits of a case that is yet to be heard,” Graham said. “The city, in essence, takes the position that unless the word ‘discipline’ is used, it does not exist. The commission does not agree.”

Langford had argued the Civil Service Commission should not try to rule in the case because Walker was never disciplined. Instead, he was placed on leave without pay, she said.

“The Civil Service protects employees when they have been disciplined,” Langford said. “Mr. Walker was never disciplined. He was placed on leave; he was not suspended or terminated. I don’t think the Civil Service Commission has jurisdiction to handle the case brought by Mr. Walker.”

According to Langford, Walker told a fellow employee that he was suffering “blackout spells” while on night patrols. When city officials were informed, the patrolman was placed on administrative duty for a week while medical opinions were sought on his condition.

Pending receipt of medical information, Walker was placed on leave without pay. His attorney maintains Walker was effectively suspended and is seeking back pay.

But Human Services Director Lamar Horton said Walker received pay through the Family and Medical Leave Act for about half of his leave.

Dean also wants Walker, who has diabetes, moved to the day shift.

“We contend that he was improperly suspended without pay from June 2-Sept. 13,” Dean said after the Civil Service Commission meeting. “A medical doctor is saying he needs to be put on day shift. If he were put on day shift, he would have zero medical problems.”

Dean said Walker occasionally must sit with a supervisor and eat candy bars during his nightshift when his blood-sugar level dips too low.

“But he’s had no major issues since he’s been back on the job and has done nothing to endanger the public,” Dean said. “Our contention is that the city wants to keep him on nightshift to try to get him to quit.”

That simply is not the case, Langford said during arguments.

“When Mr. Walker failed to obtain a statement from his doctor, he was placed on leave,” she said. “We offered him an olive branch. I just don’t know what else we could have done.”

In a June 2 letter to Walker, Deputy Police Chief Richard O’Bannon wrote that Walker had until 5 p.m. that day to provide city officials proof he was “no longer having ‘blackout spells.'”

But Dean said medical opinions from Walker’s doctor were provided to city officials.

“The city just didn’t like what his doctors had to say,” Dean said. “Mr. Walker had a medical condition that can be accommodated. The city has an obligation to do that.”

Walker was returned to nightshift, Langford said, after Dr. William Nichols evaluated him and city officials, based on that information, determined Walker was fit to return to work.