On February 26, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Eric Sawyer issued his proposed decision in the matter of the accusation against James Reyes, former paramedic and captain with IFPD, who had been terminated by Chief Patrick Reitz in July 2014.

Judge Sawyer found on the evidence that Chief Reitz “abused his discretion in deciding to terminate respondent” Reyes. He granted Reyes’ appeal and issued an order reversing Reyes’ termination from employment with IFPD as a paramedic and captain, which order would become effective if IFPD did not timely reject the judge's decision

The Idyllwild Fire Protection District held a special meeting Friday, March 18. The subject was “employee discipline, dismissal or release.” No individual was identified. After the meeting opened, the commission entered closed session for several hours to discuss the subject.

California’s Government Code section 11517 outlines the process for an agency adjudicative proceeding. When the commission returned to open session and adjourned the meeting, Fire Chief Patrick Reitz reported the actions, which the commission took pursuant to Government Code section 11517, subdivision (c)(2)(E). This subsection defines the process when an administrative law judge hears a case and the agency rejects the proposed decision.

Reitz reported the following actions:
“1. Reject the proposed decision of the ALJ in order to review transcripts
2.  Order transcripts to be produced to the parties
3.  Written argument submitted by the parties w/in 30 days of the receipt of the transcripts
4.  Final Order by board within 70 days of the receipt of the transcripts.”

In sum, under section 11517. the IFPD board rejected Judge Sawyer's proposed decision and announced that the board itself will decide the case on the record, including transcripts of the hearing held over March, May, November of 2015, and upon written argument submitted by the parties.

Judge Sawyer's proposed decision and the IFPD board's rejection are published in their entirety below.

The commission’s agenda for its March 22 meeting included a closed session to discuss “Pursuant to Government Code [section] 54956.9: Conference with Legal Counsel — Existing Litigation: James Reyes vs. Idyllwild Fire Protection District.”

Reyes is a former IFPD captain who was terminated on July 19, 2014. Besides going before an ALJ, Reyes filed a wrongful termination of employment suit in the Riverside County Superior Court in February 2015.

The Town Crier will publish further developments, in print and online, beginning with its printed issue of April 7.

Jack Clark contributed to this story.

Click here to view the administrative law judge's proposed decision and IFPD board's rejection thereof.