FORT WORTH, Texas - Former Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald returned to court on Tuesday to fight to get his job back.
Fitzgerald was fired in May because the city manager said a "series of missteps" damaged trust in his leadership. But Fitzgerald and his legal team believe he was let go for other reasons.
As the case plays out in court, the city of Fort Worth has been barred from hiring a full-time police chief to replace Fitzgerald. He says he plans to see this case to the end.
It's been months since Fitzgerald has put on a Fort Worth police uniform. He was terminated in May after the city was questioning his leadership and citing issues that led up to his firing, including Fitzgerald being up for the chief job in Baltimore and an incident in Washington, D.C. with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
“I have unfinished business. I took this job because I knew what kind of challenge it would be to me, and I've met those challenges as they come,” Fitzgerald said. “Unfortunately, this has been a hiccup in the road to being police chief in Fort Worth.”
Fitzgerald and his legal team say he was fired in retaliation for reporting to the FBI that the city wasn't in compliance with federal crime regulations. He says he was fired just an hour before he was scheduled to meet with FBI reps.
“I can assure the citizens that I am very much intent on coming back and being chief,” Fitzgerald said.
On Tuesday, a judge told Fitzgerald the law requires him to name specific city officials in his legal complaint instead of the city as a whole. So Fitzgerald and his attorneys must now amend court documents and then go before a judge again.
“So the courts have said in order to require a person to take action, a person has to be named. And the city is a legal entity that cannot be ordered to take action in this sort of case,” explained Fort Worth Asst. City Attorney Carolyn McFatridge. “So that's why an individual, such as the city manager, would be the appropriate party.”
Attorneys for Fitzgerald also argued he's entitled to a public hearing.
“Why not have the public hearing? Do they have something they're hiding? Do they have something they're afraid will come to light in a public hearing?” wondered Stephen Kennedy, Fitzgerald’s attorney. “We're certainly not afraid.”
“My hope is that I'm restored, and I'm able to do the job the people in Fort Worth so much want me to do,” Fitzgerald said.
Both sides are due back in court on Nov. 18.