HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Thursday, Huntsville City Council discussed an ordinance that would allow the city to fire employees facing or that have been convicted of a felony, without a formal department hearing. Moving forward without hearings would have legal implications.
The ordinance, proposed by Councilwoman Frances Akridge, didn’t pass. Akridge herself voted against her own proposal because It’s simply not legal.
In fact, the City of Huntsville already has an ordinance that allows the city to terminate an employee convicted of a felony. The only change proposed was doing away with a formal departmental hearing.
The legal issue centers around the right to an employment hearing before and after felony charges are brought forward against a city employee. State municipal law says those hearings must be held.
Under Alabama law, police officers are also afforded extra protections with department hearings for felony charges or even disciplinary actions.
At Thursday’s city council meeting, Councilman Bill Kling asked an outside lawyer why other cities were able to terminate employees, specifically former law enforcement, in other high profile cases.
The lawyer said those officers did likely have some sort of departmental hearing before being terminated.
“We do have to balance an employee’s right to due process. But we do have the ability to suspend and terminate employees who are even indicted for a felony. The city employment handbook does give that authority. What we should be careful about is adding something that takes away the right of a hearing because we run into some problems,” said the lawyer.
Council President Jeannie Robinson was not present.
The majority of the council rejected the ordinance outside of Kling. He was visibly frustrated despite the legal explanation given by lawyers.
The ordinance was previously on the agenda weeks ago and was tabled.