Guide to Hearings

Hearing Procedure

The following is a guide to hearings in general. See below for specific procedures to be followed for each type of appeal/complaint.

When a determination has been made that a hearing will be conducted, the Commission appoints one of its members as a hearing officer and a hearing is calendared based on the schedules of the hearing officer and all parties concerned.

The employee/appellant is entitled to appear at the hearing, to produce evidence and may have an attorney or other representative present. Hearings are recorded.

The Commission has the power to issue subpoenas (to order that people be present at the hearing) and subpoenas duces tecum (to order that specific records, documents, etc. be made available no later than the day of the hearing). Click here for details on how to request a subpoena and/or a subpoena duces tecum. The parties should cooperate and stagger the scheduling of witnesses to the greatest extent possible, for expedient use of the witness’ time, and to limit the interruption to the County’s workforce.

The parties are responsible to come prepared to the hearing with six (6) copies of all documents/exhibits which they plan to introduce as evidence or present to the hearing officer. Four (4) of the copies must be collated and tabbed into 3-ring binders. The six copies are needed for the following:

        1)    Hearing Officer – 3-ring binder, tabbed
        2)    Commission Legal Advisor – 3-ring binder, tabbed
        3)    Opposing Party – 3-ring binder, tabbed
        4)    Witness Stand – 3-ring binder, tabbed
        5)    Commission Office – loose copy
        6)    Your copy

Please mark each copy of all documents/exhibits and collate them in numeric or alphabetical order prior to the hearing as follows: The Department will number exhibits Department 1, 2, 3, etc. at the bottom right corner of the first page of each exhibit. The Employee/Appellant will mark exhibits Appellant A, B, C, etc. at the bottom right corner of the first page of each exhibit. The Commission acknowledges that all marked exhibits may not be introduced as evidence, or additional exhibits may be presented during the hearing and/or the order may vary slightly.

Please use the forms linked below to list all witnesses and exhibits in the order they will be presented. The Commission acknowledges that the order may change depending on unforeseen circumstances during the hearing.

        Witness List:  PDF Format    MS Word Format

        Exhibit List:  PDF Format    MS Word Format

The parties will meet 30 minutes prior to the start of the hearing to exchange exhibits and the witness/exhibit lists. Before the exchange, please deliver three (3) binders, a set of the loose exhibits, and the witness/exhibit lists to the Commission Office in Room 458.

The hearing will begin with the parties being permitted to make an opening statement. The opening statement is an informal way of familiarizing the hearing officer with the general nature of the case and what evidence is likely to be heard. Upon completion of the opening statements, the party carrying the burden of proof will present first. The standard of proof in all hearings is a preponderance of the evidence.

The Commission encourages the parties to discuss issues in advance of the hearing and to narrow the issues at the hearing to only those items actually in dispute. If any part of the appeal/complaint is not in dispute or has been settled, the hearing officer should be notified promptly at the start of the hearing. "Stipulations" of facts agreed to in advance of the hearing can save a great deal of time for parties and witnesses.

During the hearing, the Employee may be questioned and he or she may question other witnesses. Technical rules of evidence do not apply to the hearings and hearings are not controlled by formal courtroom procedures. Certain evidence which would not be admissible in court may be admissible in Civil Service hearings. Hearsay evidence is admissible, but only to supplement or explain other evidence. It cannot be used as the sole basis for any findings of fact unless it would be admissible in court.

Even though technical rules of evidence do not apply, the parties may, and frequently do, make the same objections as would be made in court proceedings. The statement of an objection must specify the grounds for objection, for example:

        "Objection. The question calls for speculation by the witness."

Once an objection is made, the witness should not answer the question. The hearing officer will make a ruling on the objection, and the witness will be instructed as to whether he or she may answer.

The hearing room is equipped with a 50” television screen that can be connected to a computer to show exhibits. The television is capable of both an RGB monitor and HDMI connection. This television is available for use by all parties in the presentation of evidence and/or review of any visual material presented.

Closing "arguments" and final remarks (i.e., non-testimony by the parties about the credibility of witnesses or the relative weight of evidence, etc.) by each party will conclude the hearing. Once the hearing is adjourned, the hearing officer will review all of the evidence submitted and will make recommendations to the Commission regarding his/her proposed decision in the case. The hearing officer and Commission staff will attempt to place the matter on its next public meeting agenda following the hearing, if at all possible. The Commission will deliberate together as to the appropriate decision in the case and will give an oral report of its decision at a public meeting. Written reports of the Commission decision will be distributed to the parties within 48-hours of approval.

Disciplinary Hearings

Permanent employees in the classified service who have been removed, demoted, suspended or reduced in compensation, may, within ten (10) calendar days after receipt of the order of such disciplinary action, file a written appeal and answer to the charges with the Civil Service Commission. If the appeal and answer are timely, a hearing will be scheduled.

In preparing for the hearing, the employee or his/her representative has the right to inspect relevant documents which the appointing authority has and which would be admissible at the hearing. Objections can be raised to the provision of certain documents and the hearing officer will decide whether those documents must be provided.

The employee and or his/her representative also have the right, prior to the hearing, to interview other employees having knowledge of the appeal/complaint before the Commission. Interviews of those employees and inspection of documents shall be at times and places reasonable for the employees and the appointing authority.  At the hearing, the employee may be questioned and he or she may question other witnesses.

In Rule VII hearings, the appointing authority bears the burden of proof.

Selection Process Appeals

An employee may appeal to the Commission any component of a County selection process. The Commission may, at its discretion, grant a hearing under Rule X of the Civil Service Rules. The applicant or employee must file a "Petition to Appeal Selection Process" form with the Commission within fifteen (15) calendar days from the date of receipt of notification from the Director of DHR or appointing authority of the action being appealed. 

The petition is availalbe on the Forms page

If a timely complaint is filed and the Commission grants the request for a hearing, Commission staff will schedule a hearing. The Commission may, pending conduct of the hearing, order a certification and/or selection held in abeyance until a final Commission decision is made.

As in disciplinary hearings, the Commission encourages the joint submittal of a stipulation of facts and issues. Both parties may present documents and testimony as necessary to the hearing officer and may examine the witnesses. An opportunity is given for both sides to fully present their positions to the hearing officer. As in disciplinary hearings, technical rules of evidence do not apply.

In a Rule X selection process hearing, the person challenging the selection process bears the burden of establishing flaws in the process which may be remedied by the Commission.

The final action may affirm, modify, or revoke the determination of the selection process being appealed.

Discrimination Complaints

Under Rule VI of the Civil Service Rules, an employee, former employee or applicant may file a discrimination complaint regarding County employment actions within sixty (60) calendar days of the alleged discriminatory practice, or knowledge thereof. If a complaint is filed in a timely manner, the Commission shall refer the complaint to the Office of Ethics and Compliance for review and report back to the Commission.

If an investigative report comes back from the Office of Ethics and Compliance, with a determination of “no probable cause” that discrimination laws have been violated, the Commission will report those findings at a public meeting. Should OEC’s report conclude, and/or should the Commission find that there is “probable cause” for a finding of discrimination, a hearing will be scheduled.

The Commission may issue such orders as are necessary to maintain the status quo, to bar further actions relative to the employment process in issue, or to avoid potential continuing damages. At the conclusion of the matter, the Commission also has certain authority to remedy violations, as set forth in the rules.

There is a form that may be used for filing a discrimination complaint.  The Discrimination Complaint Form is available on the Forms page.

The Complainant bears the burden of proof In a Rule VI hearing.

Reports of investigations done by the Office of Ethics and Compliance are considered confidential when there is a finding of no probable cause to believe that discrimination occurred. Reports of findings of probable cause will be released to the parties.

Compulsory Leave

Under Compensation Ordinance Section 4.3.3, the Commission has authority to review the determination of an appointing authority to place an employee on compulsory leave. An appeal must be filed within ten (10) calendar days of the beginning of the leave. Often, treating and evaluating physicians will be present to testify. The appointing authority has the burden of proof to show that the action taken was appropriate and was handled properly under the Compensation Ordinance, the Administrative Manual and DHR Policies & Procedures. These hearings are generally closed to the public due to the evidence typically involving medical and psychological records and reports.

Liberty Interest

Probationary employees who are dismissed during their probationary periods generally do not have appeal rights. However, a probationary employee who alleges facts showing that his or her liberty interest has been violated, is entitled to a name-clearing hearing before a hearing officer. An appeal must be filed within sixty (60) days from the date of failure of probation. The appellant has the burden of proof to show that their liberty interest was violated. Liberty interest is not violated if an employee is terminated for incompetency or inefficiency. The Commission does not have the authority to reinstate an individual who has been dismissed during his or her probationary period.

Investigations

For purposes of protecting the merit basis of the personnel system, the Commission may, at its discretion, investigate the conduct and operations of any department. Investigations of issues arising under this rule are somewhat uncommon, but the Commission does utilize its authority under this rule to review alleged merit-based violations.

Rule XI investigations are informal. The Commissioner appointed to conduct the investigation generally takes evidence outside of the presence of other persons, and may make inquiries and do research independently. After review of the findings and proposed decision, the Commission may make any necessary orders, including but not limited to, back pay and classification adjustments, to carry out the provisions of the Charter and the Civil Service Rules.

Classification Review

An employee who can demonstrate that he or she has been assigned and is regularly performing duties and responsibilities outside of his or her class specifications on an involuntary basis for at least fifty percent (50%) of a continuous six (6) month period preceding the request, may, within 60 days of such six month period, begin an appeal process.

There are five (5) steps in the Classification review process. The appeal to the Commission is step 5. Please refer to Rule XII, Section 12.5 for an explanation of each step. A hearing shall be scheduled once all five steps have been completed. The Commission has certain authority to remedy such issues, as further set out in the Rules.

The Complainant bears the burden of proof In a Rule XII hearing.

CLERB Appeals

A peace officer may, within fifteen (15) calendar days, appeal sustained findings of misconduct by the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board (CLERB) as outlined in Civil Service Rule XV. The written request for an appeal shall specify the allegation(s) sustained by CLERB which is (are) being appealed. If the peace officer files a timely appeal, the Commission appoints a hearing officer and a hearing will be scheduled. The hearing is closed to the public unless the peace officer requests an open hearing.

The burden of proof shall be on CLERB to demonstrate, through a preponderance of the evidence, that the incident or act, which was the basis for the complaint sustained by CLERB, occurred and did constitute improper conduct.

Confidentiality

The name of an employee, former employee, or applicant filing an appeal or complaint, will be replaced with a number on Commission agendas and on minutes reporting Commission actions. The hearing will be open to the public and the resulting report (and most associated documents) is considered a public record and will be released to the public upon request.

A peace officer filing an appeal or complaint with the Commission will be identified by a number on all agendas, minutes and reports and the hearing will be closed to the public, unless otherwise requested.

The above is a basic guideline to hearings held by the Commission. Staff is available to answer any procedural questions.