Judge sides with former Kernersville Fire Fighter, orders city to provide full personnel file

WINSTON-SALEM — It was a step in the right direction today for a former Kernersville Fire Fighter, the Kernersville Professional Fire Fighters Association and the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics of North Carolina as a Forsyth County Superior Court judge ordered the town manager and town of Kernersville to provide Bray with his full, unredacted personnel records and documents, as required by the state laws that apply to municipal employees.  This includes more than 40 pages of notes from 17 interviews that formed the basis of the decision to discharge Bray.  Those documents had been provided to him with approximately ninety percent of the words blocked out.

The ruling came at about 4 p.m. Monday after Bray, represented by PFFPNC attorney Travis Payne of Edelstein Payne & Lucas out of Raleigh, and the town manager and town of Kernersville presented their cases earlier in the morning.

In addition to ordering the town manager to provided Bray with his complete personnel file, the judge directed the town manager to hold a new grievance hearing, after Bray has been provided with all of his documents and records and has had an opportunity to use them in preparing his response to the discharge.

Bray and the Kernersville Professional Fire Fighters Association filed a lawsuit on Bray’s behalf regarding the town of Kernersville’s violation of North Carolina General Statute 160A-168. Under that statue, an employee is entitled to receive all of their personnel files and documents from municipalities upon request. When an employee has been disciplined, as was the case with Bray, the employee is entitled under that statute to the entire investigative file relied upon to justify the discipline, as well as drafts of the disciplinary documents and communications among municipal officials concerning the investigation and the decision to impose discipline.

Following his discharge from the Kernersville Fire Department and before his grievance hearing, Bray made a written request for all his personnel documents, records and investigation files. The town manager, in return, only provided Bray with copies from the investigation file that had large portions of the information redacted or blacked out. Also, the town manager did not provide Bray with any of the drafts of disciplinary documents or the communications among town officials. The town manager’s actions are a clear violation of North Carolina law.  Because Bray was never given all of his personnel documents, he was deprived of a fair opportunity to present his case in the grievance procedure.

The PFFPNC, on behalf of Bray and the Kernersville association, are pleased with the judge’s ruling and look forward to Bray finally getting a fair opportunity to review his personnel file and investigation documents so he can accurately and fairly present his case before a grievance hearing. There’s been no word from the town of Kernersville on a date for Bray’s grievance hearing.