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Stump v. Town of Middletown

Superior Court of Delaware

August 9, 2018

JEFFERY L. STUMP, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF MIDDLETOWN, MAYOR KENNETH L. BRANNER, CHIEF MICHAEL IGLIO, and DELAWARE CRIMINAL JUSTICE COUNCIL, an agency of the State of Delaware Defendants.

          Date Submitted: June 28, 2018

         On Defendants' Motion to Dismiss DENIED.

          John S. Malik, Esquire, The Law Office of John S. Malik, Attorney for Plaintiff.

          Rae M. Mims, Esquire, Department of Justice, Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice Council

          Scott G. Wilcox, Esquire, Whiteford Taylor & Preston LLC, Attorney for Defendants Town of Middletown, Mayor Kenneth L. Branner, and Chief Michael Iglio.

          OPINION

          JUDGE CALVIN L. SCOTT, JR.

         The issue in this action is whether a sworn police officer was afforded sufficient due process in accordance with the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights when the officer was disciplined without an opportunity to participate in a hearing.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Jeffery Stump (Stump) was employed by Defendant Town of Middletown as a sworn police officer. Stump held the rank of Master Sergeant prior to an investigation of possible violations of Police Department Rules and Regulations. After an investigation Stump was notified the Town of Middletown intended to demote him two ranks to Master Corporal. The demotion was accompanied with a reduction in pay and a probationary period of one year. Stump filed a grievance with Mayor and Council of the Town of Middletown. After a review of the investigation the Mayor and Council made the decision to reinstate Stump as Sergeant. This decision had the effect of a demotion of only one rank for Stump. Stump requested an appeal from this decision which was denied.

         Parties Assertions

         Sump petitions this Court for a Writ of Mandamus directing Defendants to perform their duties pursuant to the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights (LEOBOR). Stump alleges that he was not provided the due process protections of 11 Del. C. § 9200 et. Seq. Stump claims the grievance process followed by the Town of Middletown failed to provide a sufficient hearing as required by 11 Del. C. § 9203. Stump's complaint alleges inter alia that he was deprived the opportunity to hear and cross examine witnesses against him, to call witnesses on his behalf, and to present evidence in his defense.[1] Stump requests a Writ of Mandamus be issued requiring Defendants Criminal Justice Council (CSC), Town of Middletown, and Mayor of Middletown provide an adequate hearing prior to the imposition of any disciplinary actions as required by § 9203.

         Defendants CSC have moved for dismissal of this petition claiming Stump is not entitled to a hearing by CSC. CSC contends § 9203 only requires a hearing before the council if there is no grievance procedure provided for by the bargaining agreement between the agency and the bargaining unit. In the present case, CSC contends Middletown Police officers are represented by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #20. CSC submits that under the collective bargaining agreement grievances shall be administered in accordance with the Town of Middletown's Personnel Policy Manual. CSC urges dismissal as Stump has pursued his grievance through the policy as stated in the manual, therefore he has exhausted his remedies and no CSC hearing is required.

         Defendants Town of Middletown, Chief of Police Iglio, and Mayor Branner (Hereinafter collectively referred to as Middletown) echo CSC's reasoning for dismissal. Middletown argues the Personnel Manual provides a grievance procedure which Stump followed. Middletown argues ...


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