(a) Applicability; Rights. For purposes of this section, the term “member” refers to all officers and firefighters of the Fire Department. This section shall not apply to any member of the department who has not completed the period of probation in his or her entry position as provided in Section 1011(a). Members not covered by this section who are otherwise entitled by law to a hearing or appeal with regard to proposed or imposed discipline shall be provided a hearing or appeal under rules promulgated by the Fire Chief.
The right of a member of the Fire Department, except the Fire Chief and any other member in a position exempt from civil service, to hold his or her office or position and to receive compensation attached to the office or position is hereby declared to be a substantial property right of which the holder shall not be deprived arbitrarily or summarily, nor other than as provided in this section. No member of the Fire Department shall be suspended, removed, or otherwise separated from the service of the Fire Department (other than by resignation), except for good and sufficient cause shown upon a finding of guilty of the specific charge or charges assigned as cause or causes after a full, fair and impartial hearing before a Board of Rights except as provided in subsection (b) and (h) of this section. The charges must be filed within one year of the department’s discovery of the act committed or omitted by a member and in no event later than two years from the date of the act or omission. No case of suspension with loss of pay shall be for a period exceeding six months.
(b) Temporary Relief from Duty; Suspension. After following predisciplinary procedures otherwise required by law, the Fire Chief may:
(1) temporarily relieve from duty any member pending a hearing before and decision by a Board of Rights on any charge or charges pending against the member; or
(2) suspend the member for a total period not to exceed 30 days with loss of pay and with or without reprimand, subject to the right of the member to a hearing before a Board of Rights. In the event the member files an application for a hearing before a Board of Rights as provided in this section, the suspension shall automatically become a temporary relief from duty pending hearing and decision by the Board of Rights. In the event that the member fails to apply for a hearing within the period prescribed, he or she shall be deemed to have waived the hearing and the suspension shall remain effective, unless the Fire Chief requires that a hearing be held.
(3) cancel such temporary relief from duty, or following such relief from duty, restore the member to duty with or without restrictions pending a hearing before a Board of Rights.
(c) Complaint. In the event any order of relief from duty or suspension is made, the order shall contain a statement of the charges assigned as causes. The Fire Chief shall, within five days after the order is served as provided in subsection (d), file with the Board of Fire Commissioners, a copy of a verified written complaint upon which the order is based, with a statement that a copy of the order and verified complaint was served upon the accused. The complaint shall be verified by the oath of the Fire Chief and shall contain a statement in clear and concise language of all the facts constituting the charge or charges. If the complaint and proof of service are not filed within the five day period prescribed, the order of temporary relief from duty or suspension shall be void and of no effect and shall be automatically revoked, and the accused member restored to duty with the department without loss of pay and without prejudice, as if no order of relief from duty or suspension had been made.
(d) Service. The service of any notice, order or process mentioned in this section, other than service of subpoena, may be made either by handing the member a copy personally or by sending a copy by certified mail to his or her last known address of record with the Fire Department if, after due diligence, the member cannot be found.
(e) Application for Hearing. Within five days after personal service upon the accused of a copy of the verified complaint or within ten days after service by certified mail, the accused member may file with the Fire Chief a written application for a hearing before and decision by a Board of Rights.
(f) Time and Place of Hearing. Upon the selection of a Board of Rights, the Fire Chief shall set the time (not less than five nor more than ten days thereafter) and designate a place where the hearing is to be held, and shall cause notice thereof to be served upon the accused. After the Board of Rights has first convened, the board may continue the hearing of the matter to a specific date, and no other notice need be given, except as required by order of the board.
(g) Composition of Board of Rights. The Board of Rights shall be composed of three officers of the rank of battalion chief or higher. Upon the filing of the request for hearing before a Board of Rights, the accused shall draw six cards from a box containing the names of all officers who are qualified to be members of the board (except the names of the accused, the accuser, the Fire Chief, Deputy Chiefs, and other officers who may be prejudiced or disqualified by reason of being a material witness to the facts constituting the charges made), and shall select any three of the six names drawn to be members of the Board of Rights, rejecting the three names not selected by replacing them in the box.
(h) Failure to Request a Hearing; Failure to Appear. In the event the accused fails to request a hearing before a Board of Rights within the period prescribed, the Fire Chief may require a hearing to be held before a Board of Rights and may for that purpose, within five days after the expiration of such period, draw three names from a box to constitute the board.
If a Board of Rights has been constituted for the purpose of hearing and the accused, without reasonable excuse, fails, or refuses to appear before the Board of Rights at the time and place designated, the Fire Chief may, at his or her discretion, either direct the Board of Rights to proceed with the hearing in the absence of the accused, or the Fire Chief may, without a hearing, impose the penalty of suspension or removal as he or she deems fit and proper. The Fire Chief shall cause notice of the action to be served upon the accused and shall file a statement of the action with the Board of Fire Commissioners within five days.
If the accused and the Fire Chief both fail to draw and create a Board of Rights within the period prescribed in any case of temporary relief from duty pending hearing, the temporary relief from duty shall be null and void.
(i) Oaths, Affirmations and Subpoenas. Each member of the Board of Rights shall have the power to administer oaths and affirmations, in any investigation or proceeding pending before the board, examine witnesses under oath, and compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence.
Upon demand of any member of the Board of Rights, the City Clerk shall issue a subpoena in the name of the City, and attest the same with the corporate seal. The subpoena shall direct and require the attendance of the witnesses or the production of evidence at the time and place specified. It shall be the duty of the Chief of Police to cause all such subpoenas to be served upon the person or persons required to attend or produce evidence. It shall be the duty of the Council to provide suitable penalties for disobedience of such subpoenas, and the refusal of witnesses to testify or produce evidence.
(j) Legal Advice. Upon the request of any two members of the Board of Rights, the board’s chairperson shall request an attorney from the City Attorney’s office who shall advise the board on legal matters during any session of the hearing. The attorney need not be physically present at the hearing, but may advise the Board telephonically or through other means of communication. The same attorney advising the Board of Rights shall not advise the department’s advocate in the same matter.
(k) Burden of Proof. In Board of Rights proceedings, the Fire Department shall have the burden of proving each charge, including those based on conduct punishable in whole or in part as a crime, by a preponderance of the evidence.
(l) Representation; Transcript. At the hearing, the accused shall have the right to appear in person and by counsel or representative, or both, and make defense to the charges and may produce witnesses and cross-examine witnesses. The accused shall have the right and privilege to select and name any other member of the department of any rank not higher than the rank of captain (who is not otherwise disqualified by reason of prejudice or being a party to the action in any capacity) to act as his or her defense representative at the hearing. The Fire Chief must immediately assign the member selected to act as defense representative, and it is hereby made the duty of such member to use every legal means available and exercise the best efforts of which he or she is capable to defend the accused at the hearing.
All testimony at the hearing shall be given under oath, reported by a stenographer and transcribed and the member shall be entitled, upon request, to a certified copy of the transcript without charge or payment of fee.
(m) Findings and Decision. The Board of Rights shall, at the conclusion of the hearing, make its findings of guilty or not guilty on each charge which must be based only upon the evidence presented at the hearing. If the accused is found not guilty, the board shall order his or her restoration to duty without loss of pay and without prejudice, and the order shall be self-executing and immediately effective. If the accused is found guilty, the Board of Rights shall, by order, prescribe its penalty of:
(1) suspension for a definite period not exceeding six months with total loss of pay, and with or without reprimand; or
(2) reprimand without further penalty; or
(3) removal from office or position.
The decision and order must be certified in writing and a copy immediately delivered to the Fire Chief.
(n) Personnel History and Records. The departmental personnel history and records of the accused shall be available to the Board of Rights only if the accused has been found guilty of any charge upon which he or she was heard by the Board of Rights, and then only for the purpose of determining a proper penalty, except that the medical package of the accused shall not be considered by the board with regard to penalty unless such information is relevant to a charge as to which there was a finding of guilty. At the penalty stage, the board must look to the nature and gravity of the offense of which the accused has been found guilty and may at its discretion review the departmental personnel history and record of the accused, provided that no item or entry in the record may be considered by the board except in the presence of the accused, unless the member has failed or refused to be present, and then only if the accused has been given a fair and reasonable opportunity to explain the item or entry.
(o) Imposition; Reduction of Penalty. Within five days of delivery to the Fire Chief of a certified copy of the decision and order of the Board of Rights, the Fire Chief shall either execute the order, or the Fire Chief may, at his or her discretion and in lieu of the order, impose a penalty less severe than that ordered by the Board of Rights, but may not impose a greater penalty. In the case of a suspension or removal, the Fire Chief shall cause a copy of the notice of the penalty to be served upon the accused and shall file a statement of such action with the Board of Fire Commissioners within five days thereafter.
(p) Effective Date of Penalty. In any case of suspension or removal prescribed by the Board of Rights, or by the Fire Chief if no hearing is held before a Board of Rights, the time of the suspension shall be computed from the first day the member was suspended or relieved from duty pending hearing before and decision by the Board of Rights and the removal shall relate back to and be effective as of the date of the relief from duty pending hearing before and decision by the Board of Rights. Notwithstanding the above, the Fire Chief and the member may agree to an alternative date for the commencement of the period of suspension and/or may agree to non-consecutive dates for the term of the suspension.
(q) Double Jeopardy; Exoneration. No member shall be twice tried for the same offense, except upon his or her request. In any case of exoneration of the accused after a hearing before a Board of Rights, exoneration shall be without prejudice to the member.
(r) Rehearing. At any time within three years after the effective date of removal, the removed member may file a request with the Fire Chief to be reheard or to be heard on the cause of his or her removal, together with a supporting affidavit setting forth in clear and concise language the reasons or grounds for a hearing or rehearing. The Fire Chief shall consider and make a decision upon the request within 30 days after filing. If the Fire Chief determines that good reason or cause exists for a hearing or rehearing, the Fire Chief shall without unnecessary delay, cause a Board of Rights to be constituted for the purpose of hearing and deciding upon the matter. The Board of Rights shall, at the conclusion of the hearing, render and certify its findings (independent of any previous findings by any other Board of Rights, or any other court, board or other tribunal, or any investigation or report of or discretion exercised by the Fire Chief in cases where no hearing was had before a Board of Rights), based only upon the evidence presented at such hearing. The board shall make and certify its decision and order in writing, and deliver a copy to the Fire Chief. The Fire Chief shall proceed in the same manner as provided for above after decision by a Board of Rights.
(s) Other Legal Rights. This section shall not be construed to affect any rights a member may have to assert other legal rights or remedies in relation to his or her office or position or to the compensation attached thereto, or to appeal to or be heard or tried by any court or other tribunal of competent jurisdiction.
(t) Restoration to Duty. Any person restored to duty or reinstated in his or her office or position after suspension or removal, shall be entitled to receive full compensation from the City as if the suspension or removal had not been made, except that such compensation shall not be for more than one year’s salary unless otherwise provided by law.
(u) Effects of New Charter. This section shall not apply to the discipline of any member who was relieved from duty or who appealed a suspension to a Board of Rights prior to its effective date. Matters arising out of such relief from duty or suspension shall be adjudicated in accordance with applicable prior Charter provisions.