DALLAS — For the first time, under oath, Joel Fitzgerald got to share Tuesday why he believes he was fired as Fort Worth police chief and tell about the professional damage his public dismissal six months ago has caused him.
Fitzgerald told Dallas County district judge Gena Slaughter his firing has made it impossible to find employment in law enforcement.
“I’d equate it, your honor, to being a death sentence,” Fitzgerald said.
On the stand, Fitzgerald said he was fired for being a whistleblower.
Fitzgerald, 48, testified he was let go moments before he was set to meet with the FBI over alleged improper access to a sensitive federal criminal database by city employees.
The city of Fort Worth sees it differently.
In his termination memo, the assistant city manager said Fitzgerald showed an “increasing lack of good judgment” and had a “track record of making decisions that are more focused on his best interest instead of the best interest of the city.”
In addition to disagreeing with the contents of the termination memo, Fitzgerald said Tuesday its public release destroyed his reputation.
“I compare it going from a Google stock to a penny stock,” Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald and his attorneys want Slaughter to continue a temporary restraining order preventing Fort Worth from hiring a permanent police chief.
During questioning Tuesday, Fitzgerald testified to his attorney Stephen Kennedy that getting his old job back is his only way to restore his good name.
“Can money restore your reputation?” Kennedy asked.
“No,” Fitzgerald said.
“Can money buy back those references you’ve lost?”
“What do you believe will restore your reputation, if anything?” Kennedy asked.
“Two things, well three things,” Fitzgerald said. “The truth, an apology and being sworn back in as the chief of police.”
Attorneys for the city are arguing that Fitzgerald’s civil suit shouldn’t be allowed to keep the city from moving forward with a permanent chief job search.
Fitzgerald, who was on the stand all day on Tuesday, says if the city is allowed to move forward, it will cause him irreparable harm.
He added he wants to return to the job, despite the difficulty and strained relationships with city leadership.
“I feel like I let the people down because I got fired,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve heard it put that I can’t come to grips with the fact I was terminated. Well you’re right, because I didn’t deserve to be terminated.”
Testimony resumes Wednesday at 9 a.m. with Fitzgerald back on the stand.