Judge: City of Fort Worth free to hire new police chief

A contentious hearing between the City of Fort Worth and former Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald has ended with a Dallas County district court judge denying a motion from Fitzgerald’s attorneys that would have prevented the city from moving ahead with hiring a permanent police chief.

In a ruling from the bench, District Court Judge Gena Slaughter said she could not find irreparable harm to Fitzgerald by allowing the city to hire a new permanent police chief.

“The judge’s ruling in favor of the City of Fort Worth, denying Mr. Fitzgerald’s application for a temporary injunction, is the appropriate conclusion,” the city said in a statement from the City Attorney’s Office. “This temporary injunction hearing was an unnecessary distraction and media circus led by Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Fitzgerald in an attempt to publicly try their case. The city maintains its position that the decision to terminate the employment of Mr. Fitzgerald was appropriate and justified. The city will continue to vigorously defend the meritless claims made by Mr. Fitzgerald and his attorney in the proper forum – the court,” the statement continued.

The ruling on Thursday, Nov. 21, came at the end of a four-day hearing for a temporary injunction, which would have kept the city from seeking a new chief.

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According to a report by WFAA, after the hearing, Fitzgerald said he would still like to be reinstated as police chief after a possible jury trial.

Fitzgerald was fired in May because he failed to exercise sound judgment and provide appropriate leadership to the police department, according to the Fort Worth news release. Fitzgerald and his attorney say he was fired because he was about to expose corruption at city hall.

Fitzgerald’s lawyer argued that his termination violated the city charter and that a new hire should be delayed as his client makes his case for reinstatement.

When Fitzgerald was terminated in May, City Manager David Cooke said city leaders had been working on “some issues” with Fitzgerald since he dropped a contentious bid to leave Texas to lead the police department in Baltimore.

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“There comes a point in time when I, as city manager, have to examine the totality of a situation and then decide a course of action,” said Cooke. “My responsibility is to make decisions and recommendations in the best interest of the City of Fort Worth.”

Fitzgerald became Fort Worth’s chief of police in October 2015.

Last year, Fitzgerald was picked by the mayor of Baltimore as her choice to be police commissioner there. But he abruptly withdrew from consideration after The Baltimore Sun reported that Fitzgerald’s resume overstated some achievements from his tenure in Fort Worth. Baltimore’s mayor later resigned over other issues.

The former mayor pleaded guilty earlier this month to federal conspiracy and tax evasion charges involving sales of her self-published children’s books, a case that exposed anew the depths of corruption in Maryland’s largest city.

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This report contains material from FWBP archives and the Associated Press.