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Fired Augusta firefighter gets new personnel board hearing

Tuesday, April 23, 2013 5:49 PM
Last updated 7:47 PM
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Edward Neal, the veteran Augusta firefighter terminated in 2008 for failing a drug screen, is getting a new hearing before the city’s personnel board.

Employed with the department for 25 years and assigned to Station 9 at the time he reportedly tested positive for marijuana, Neal denied he used drugs and fought his termination in a case that changed state law for the presentation of drug screen findings in public personnel hearings.

The Georgia Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s ruling against Neal in 2010, refusing further review.

Chris Nicholson, Neal’s attorney, said Tuesday the former firefighter was “doing all right” but did not expect to be reinstated. “We’ve been trying to settle it,” Nicholson said.

That could happen, with mediation authorized more than a year ago yet to begin, while Neal’s new hearing before the personnel board is tentatively scheduled for May 19, board chairman Chip Barbee said.

The personnel board, meanwhile, got authorization from a city committee Monday to hire its own attorney in the case, as both general counsel Andrew MacKenzie, who represented the city in Neal’s initial hearing, and special counsel Dan Hamilton, who represented Augusta in the appeal, are now prevented by conflicts of interest from further representing the board, MacKenzie said.

The crux of Neal’s suit was that he had a Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him, even in an administrative personnel hearing. It also contended that the city’s “medical review officer,” a local physician who presented the results, was unfamiliar with the testing procedures used or the Atlanta lab that performed the test and was merely passing along hearsay when he spoke at the hearing.

“He could not ‘say whether that test was good or not,’ only that ‘the test that came back from the lab was positive,” the appeals court wrote.

Neal, whom Nicholson said was helped with legal fees through his membership in Augusta Firefighters Association, originally requested his job back and all the salary, benefits and retirement pay he lost. He has not requested attorney fees. MacKenzie said the city has paid outside counsel $28,500 so far to litigate the case.

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Sweet son
Sweet son 04/23/13 - 06:57 pm
“We’ve been trying to settle it,” Nicholson said.

All that Neal and Nicholson are looking for is a little "traveling money" at the taxpayer's expense. Did he test positive for marihuana or did he not?

bumblebeerose 04/24/13 - 05:47 am
My Question is

My question is was it a false positive or a true positive. Some drugs will make you test positive for marijuana that is when the lab is supposed to do further testing to confirm what it really is. Was that done or not? If not you can not say for sure he tested positive.

ICYUNVme 04/24/13 - 11:05 am

Sweet son...PLEASE get facts before you make such a ridiculous claim on some one! And before they can actually say what drug it was that he tested positive for they have to find out if it's a positive test before they can make a claim that it was marijuana I would think. There are such foods one can eat that will make a drug test come back positive. Now for you, Sweet son to say they need traveling money at the tax payers can thank your city leaders for that when they did this bogus accusations!!! The FACTS on this case is far from being touched...GET to the bottom!!!!

my.voice 04/24/13 - 01:52 pm
So now we test the test?

So now we test the test? Wait, lets test the tester to see if THEY are on drugs.

You test >>> You fail ->>> You fired >>> YOU GO HOME

rmwhitley 04/24/13 - 05:15 pm

me of that piece of work, ryan braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, his union and lowyers.

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