Suspended Killeen Police Department officer Tramel Bracey is suing KPD to overturn an arbitrator's ruling and return to the force.
An arbitrator ruled in favor of KPD Sept. 30, sustaining Bracey's indefinite suspension. Bracey, 32, is seeking reinstatement and back pay because KPD allegedly violated Texas Local Government Code in how it handled his suspension, according to a petition filed Oct. 6 with the 169th District Court.
Bracey's attorney, John Cullar, said KPD was required to provide written and signed complaints to Bracey regarding allegations of misconduct and untruthfulness. Those allegations ultimately led to his suspension in December 2010.
The department violated local government code for peace officers when it disciplined him without giving him written complaints, Cullar said.
The petition states that arbitrator Paula Ann Hughes acted outside of the hearing's jurisdiction when she failed to address the violation.
"By ignoring the applicable law and failing to apply it, the hearing examiner became a policy maker, which is a legislative function and is beyond her jurisdiction," the petition states.
Lawyers for the city and KPD have argued that Bracey's claim is invalid because he was well aware of investigations and charges against him.
Police suspended Bracey in connection with an investigation into a bank account he opened in April 2010 at a First National Bank Texas branch in Harker Heights. The account contained some erroneous information, including the Social Security number of Bracey's son and an address that does not exist.
Bracey has maintained that any errors in the account were accidental, despite some testimony from bank employees who stated he verified the information.
A Texas Ranger filed felony bank fraud charges against Bracey in U.S. district court in December 2010 in connection with KPD's investigation. Those charges were later dismissed.
The same Texas Ranger filed misdemeanor charges of theft of property, secure documents by deception and perjury in connection to the same bank account with the county attorney's office in Belton. Those charges were filed one day before Bracey's June 29 arbitration hearing.
The ranger, Jim D. Hatfield Jr., is a former KPD officer whom Chief Dennis Baldwin specifically requested for an investigation of Bracey.
Hatfield typically works on cases in McLennan County. He did not file any arrest affidavits with the county clerk's office regarding the most recent, pending charges. Bracey's case files only contain a statement signed by Hatfield indicating the charges are true.
Cullar said the continued allegations against Bracey reflect an attempt to railroad his client. Bracey has been reinstated from suspension twice since he joined KPD in 2007. When reinstated in May 2010, officials immediately placed him on paid administrative leave and began investigating him.
"I think it's clear that after they were required to reinstate him, they began to look for anything," Cullar said.
Investigators discovered the banking discrepancy while serving a search warrant at Bracey's house for an unrelated investigation.