City employee under suspension following accident

By Bonnie Culverhouse

A City of Minden superintendent is in his second week of suspension without pay.

Street Department head Terry Combs and his wife were in a crash on Interstate 20 around 2 p.m. Friday, July 14, while Combs was driving his city-issued vehicle.

“Terry had taken his wife to the doctor in Shreveport and they were coming home when he was distracted and ran into the back of another pick-up truck,” said Mayor Nick Cox. “It was a serious wreck, and his wife was injured.”

Cox said it is against city policy to take a vehicle outside city limits without permission.

“It’s against city policy to use your vehicle for personal use, and it’s against city policy to have a non-city employee in the vehicle,” he said. “We knew Terry was going to the doctor, but we didn’t know he was going in a city vehicle.”

Cox and Public Works Director Tyler Wallace went to the accident scene where there is road work on I-20. Together, they drove Combs to a local hospital for drug testing. He tested negative.

“Terry has been a really solid employee who made a bad decision,” Cox said. “He understands the consequences for his actions could have been much worse, and he’s remorseful for what happened. Right now, he is home with no pay and no pick-up truck, and the fact is, we really need him on the job.”

Cox said the city has plans to put GPS trackers on all public works vehicles to avoid future issues.

“Department heads can track city vehicles, and they will receive an alert if an employee takes their vehicle out of the boundaries,” he said. “With this case, we just want to move on. Terry is a valuable employee of the city.”

 Webster Parish Journal’s attempts to obtain an accident report from Louisiana State Police Troop G were unsuccessful. LSP-G requests 15 business days after the accident for the information to be searchable. Combs was not available for comment.

Human Resources Director April Aguilar said there is not yet a link for the employee handbook, however all current employees were issued the new handbook in February 2023. Any revisions were sent to each employee internally with a required acknowledgement page to be returned to Personnel. 

Employee handbook:

12-8.     Disciplinary Action Guideline/ Driving Offenses and Accidents

All driving offenses and accidents, as determined by the department head, Human Resources and the Mayor, shall be reviewed for possible disciplinary action within the guidelines of this policy.  The decision of the Mayor shall be final. The Termination Appeal Procedure is available to the full-time employee.  

Any accident involving City vehicles or other City owned property/ moveable stock shall require the employee and city employee passengers to submit to an immediate drug screen and alcohol test. Failure to report an accident involving a City vehicle or other City owned property/ moveable stock, at the time of its occurrence or as soon thereafter as possible shall be considered a Class 2 Offense under the Standards of Conduct, Disciplinary Action Guideline/Class Offenses. Failure to submit to an immediate drug screen and alcohol test shall result in immediate termination and forfeiture of appeal process.

The Mayor shall be given a copy of the incident report and all related facts available.  The employee must appear before the Mayor to explain his/her account of the incident and be prepared to answer questions from the Mayor.

This format shall be followed for an internal investigation conducted by the department head and Human Resources:

1.   Review of the report

  1. Interview(s)
  2. Enforce disciplinary action if necessary determined by the Mayor after his review of the investigation findings.

Disciplinary action is as follows:

First Offense (within a one-year period):

The employee shall be placed on notice that he/she is now subject to “Second Offense” disciplinary action under the guidelines of this policy.  Should the investigation determine gross negligence existed on the part of the employee; the employee shall be suspended, without pay, for a period of three (3) days.

Second Offense (within a three-year period):

Five (5) days suspension, without pay.

Third Offense (within a three-year period):

Ten (10) days suspension, without pay.  However, if the Mayor determines that gross negligence existed on the part of the employee, additional suspension without pay or termination may be recommended.  In the situation, termination is recommended by the Mayor, the Termination Appeal Procedure is available to the full-time employee.