Bexar Cnty. Civil Serv. Comm'n v. Casals

In Bexar Cnty. Civil Serv. Comm'n v. Casals, 63 S.W.3d 57 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 2001, no pet.), a former deputy appealed his termination to a civil-service commission and listed as a witness the constable who terminated him. Id. at 58. The commission sent notice of the hearing to the constable, informing him that his presence was "most imperative" and that, if he were unable to attend, he "must submit a written request for postponement . . . no later than one week prior to the hearing." Id. The commission further warned the constable that his failure to appear at the hearing would nullify the former deputy's termination. Id. The constable neither appeared nor provided notice of his reasons for failing to appear, and the former deputy immediately objected to proceeding any further. Id. at 58-59. He argued that his termination was forfeited under the commission's rules. Id. at 59. The relevant rule provided, in full: "The Commission, through its Director, shall notify the Elected Official/Department Head of the hearing date, time, or place. If the Elected Official/Department Head does not attend the hearing or does not notify the Commission ahead of time of the Elected Official's/Department Head's inability to attend, the failure to attend will be considered the Elected Official's/Department Head's forfeiture of the Adverse Action. The Commission will convene and enter an order stating the Elected Official's/Department Head's failure to attend and that the Commission has deemed that the Elected Official/Department Head has forfeited the Adverse Action and that all the facts alleged in the Adverse Action Notice are untrue." Id. The former deputy further complained that the constable's failure to appear deprived him of his right to cross-examine his accuser. See id. The commission nonetheless continued with the hearing and eventually suspended the former deputy without pay. Id. The former deputy appealed, raising a single issue: the commission failed to follow its own rules. Id. The trial court reversed the suspension. Id. The court of appeals upheld that reversal under Tex. Loc. Gov't Code section 158.0121, reasoning that: (1) the former deputy's right to have the adverse action forfeited and all facts alleged against him deemed untrue was a substantial right and (2) the commission's decision to proceed contrary to its own rules prejudiced that right. Id. at 61-62.