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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:An independent hearing examiner determined that the city of Waco had improperly suspended Louis Bittle from his position as a firefighter and later ordered the city to restore to Bittle the compensation and benefits he lost as a result of the suspension. A dispute arose over the manner in which the city sought to restore Bittle’s compensation and benefits, and Bittle filed suit. The trial court granted Bittle’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the city had failed to comply with the hearing examiner’s decision and with Texas Local Government Code 143.053(f) and that Bittle is entitled to mandamus relief directing the city to pay Bittle the compensation and benefits due him. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. The city contends that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to entertain Bittle’s suit, because governmental immunity bars the suit, and Bittle failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. However, because Bittle’s suit for declaratory relief does not seek to impose liability on the city and because Bittle exhausted all available administrative remedies, the city’s immunity is not implicated, and the trial court had jurisdiction, the court determines. The court distinguishes City of San Benito v. Ebarb, 88 S.W.3d 711 (Tex. App. Corpus Christi 2002, pet. denied). The plaintiffs in that case did not join a request for mandamus relief with their petition for declaratory relief. In addition, the Ebarb court stated that they “did not argue that they were not seeking money damages but instead stoutly asserted that sovereign immunity for municipalities was waived by the UDJA.” Here, Bittle does not make such a broad assertion. Rather, he contends that “a declaratory action, coupled with a petition for mandamus, was appropriate in order to compel the City to act within the requirements of the statute.” Accordingly, the court concludes that immunity from suit does not pose a bar to Bittle’s petition for declaratory relief because he seeks thereby to compel the city to comply with the requirements of 143.053(f) rather than to impose liability on the city. The commission has exclusive jurisdiction only to conduct hearings or appeals regarding the six issues enumerated in Chapter 143. Here, Bittle’s suit seeks to compel the city to comply with the hearing examiner’s order and with 143.053(f). Chapter 143 does not provide an enforcement mechanism for compliance with an order of the commission or a hearing examiner. Section 143.053(f) provides that a suspended firefighter or police officer who is reinstated “is entitled to” the compensation and benefits lost as a result of the improper suspension. The city contends that, because the commission or hearing examiner has exclusive jurisdiction to hear the appeal of a firefighter’s or police officer’s suspension under 143.053, it also has exclusive jurisdiction to award compensation and benefits under subsection (f). The court disagrees. According to 311.016(4) of the Code Construction Act, the phrase “is entitled to” “creates or recognizes a right.” Thus, the hearing examiner’s determination that Bittle should be reinstated necessarily recognized Bittle’s right to compensation and benefits under subsection (f). If the Legislature had intended for the commission or a hearing examiner to also determine whether a reinstated firefighter or police officer is entitled to compensation and benefits under subsection (f), or the amount of such compensation and benefits, it could have easily stated this intent in the statute. Rather, the sole issue to be decided in an appeal under 143.053 is the propriety of a disciplinary suspension or the length of the suspension. Upon reinstatement, the firefighter or police officer has a statutory right to the compensation and benefits lost as a result of the improper suspension. Thus, the commission does not have exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether a reinstated firefighter or police officer is entitled to compensation and benefits under subsection (f) or the amount of such compensation and benefits. Because subsection (f) does not authorize the commission to determine these issues, the commission does not have primary jurisdiction either, the court concludes. Therefore, if a municipality fails to restore the compensation and benefits required by subsection (f), a firefighter or police officer may seek relief in the courts. The court concludes that Bittle did not need to seek further administrative relief before filing this suit. Because the city has paid Bittle more than he is owed for lost compensation, Bittle failed to conclusively establish the city’s non-compliance with subsection (f) (and the hearing examiner’s order), the court holds. OPINION:Reyna, J.; Gray, C.J., Vance and Reyna, JJ.

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