ST. LOUIS–(KMOX)–Gene Stubblefield — the city’s top jailer fired just before Christmas by Mayor Slay after a rash of escapes — is now asking to get his job back before a three member commission appointed by the mayor.
“We do have some concerns, some substantial concerns, that a mayor-appointed commission can separate their political affiliations form their decision making,” said Stubblefield’s attorney Sherrie Hall.
Hall has been arguing Stubblefield’s case before the Civil Service Commission, where city employees can turn to appeal when they believe they were wrongly disciplined.
In Stubblefield’s well-publicized case, he contends that last year’s spate of escapes that led to his firing were the result of Slay administration budget cuts that weakened jail protocol, a problem he claims he warned the Slay administration about repeatedly in e-mails.
“We think that when the escapes started to happen, the city looked for a scapegoat and Gene was their most convenient person,” Hall said.Slay’s office has insisted the escapes were the result of individual mistakes by guards and not the result of cutbacks or jailers forced to work excessive overtime.
The civil service commissioners who will rule on Stubblefield’s appeal are Steven M. Barney, senior vice president of human resources and acting ceo for SSM health care, Stanley Newsome, former deputy St. Louis fire chief, and John H. Clark, a longtime advocate for labor with ties to the electrician’s union.
Vouching for the objectivity of the commissioners, the city’s personal director Rick Frank says just because they were appointed by the mayor doesn’t mean they will rubber stamp his wishes.
“While they are appointed by the mayor, they do not discuss any type of decision making with him,” Frank said, “They are independent .”
Frank himself was appointed by the mayor, and has often butted heads with Slay over personnel matters.
“We’ve had instances in the past where there were hard feelings because elected officials may wish to take action against an employee and the civil service commission determines there is insufficient reason to discipline an employee,” Frank said.
In Stubblefield’s case, the three commissioners have not been present during his hearing. A hearing officer, who is a licensed attorney specializing in employment law, is hearing the case and will rule on all motions, conduct the evidentiary hearing and make a recommendation for the commission to consider.
Stubblefield is seeking either reinstatement with back pay or assignment to a comparable job with back pay.
In order for that to happen, at least two of the three commissioners would have to side with Stubblefield.
Stubblefield’s attorney remains hopeful, but watchful for signs of true deliberation .
“We’ll be looking to see that they have actually read the correspondence between commissioner Stubblefield and and (Public Safety) Director (Charles) Bryson and other city officials in which commissioner Stubblefield repeatedly raised these (security) concerns.”
If the commission sides with Slay and votes to uphold Stubblefield’s termination, he has one more option.
“Our option is to appeal this to the circuit court system, if we feel we don’t get a fair shake here,” Hall said. .
After last week’s testimony, the case is expected to be on hold until mid-March to allow Stubblefield’s attorney to honor another committment. She says she has been called for jury duty.