By Bill Rankin
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Four lieutenants who were demoted were denied due process, court says.
A Georgia Supreme Court ruling on Monday cleared four Atlanta firefighters who had been found to be "probable cheaters" on their promotional exams, attorneys for the men said.
Lts. Carlos Barham, William Edwards, Royce Turner and Derrick Dabney had appealed a decision by a Fulton County judge that subjected them to demotion.
"Our clients really feel vindicated, and they're just as thrilled as we are," said Cheryl Legare, one of the firefighters' lawyers. "The court recognized that a shadow had been cast on all of the lieutenants who had been accused of cheating."
The ruling stems from allegations brought by three other firefighters who led a class-action lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, contending fire chiefs had given the test's contents to their favored firefighters before they took the exams. A Fulton jury, after hearing evidence, found that the exams were tainted. The city is appealing.
After the trial, Superior Court Judge Kelly Lee issued a permanent injunction with instructions for how the city must conduct a re-test.
Lee said that all firefighters who scored 84 or higher on the first exam would be ineligible for promotion if their re-test score was two standard deviations lower than their first test score. Lee also said any firefighters who scored 90 or better on the first exam would immediately have their promotions revoked.
The four lieutenants, all of whom scored better than 90 on the first test, appealed. "The jury was never asked to find who cheated — just whether there was cheating," said Atlanta lawyer Steven Wolfe, who also represents the four men.
Justice Hugh Thompson, writing for a unanimous court, agreed that the four lieutenants were denied due process and cannot be treated differently than the others who took the test.
Copyright 2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution