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MISSISSIPPI EMPLOYMENT SECURITY COMMISSION v. PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL SEPARATE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF NESHOBA COUNTY

SEPTEMBER 07, 1983

MISSISSIPPI EMPLOYMENT SECURITY COMMISSION
v.
PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL SEPARATE SCHOOL DISTRICT OF NESHOBA COUNTY



BEFORE PATTERSON, ROY NOBLE LEE AND ROBERTSON

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This appeal presents the question whether, under what circumstances, and to what extent the findings of fact of one administrative agency may be binding in subsequent proceedings before another agency when arguably similar fact questions are

 presented.

 The Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Municipal Separate School District, Appellee here (sometimes "PMSSD"), following a hearing held under the School Employment Procedures Law of 1977, Miss. Code Ann. 37-9-101, et seq. (Supp. 1982), determined that Bobby Edsel Winstead should not be reemployed as a math teacher for the 1980-81 school year. The Board found good cause for Winstead's non-reemployment. We are concerned with the effect, if any, of that good cause determination in a subsequent unemployment compensation benefits reimbursement proceeding before the Mississippi Employment Security Commission ("MESC") where the "issue is reason for claimant's separation from work" .

 The Mississippi Employment Security Commission Board of Review affirmed an Appeals Referee's decision that nothing done at the prior non-reemployment proceeding before the Board of Trustees of PMSSD was binding before MESC. The Board of Review ordered that PMSSD reimburse the Employment Security Trust Fund to the extent benefits had been paid to Winstead. On appeal, however, the Circuit Court of Neshoba County reversed. In so doing, the Circuit Court relied heavily upon the prior teacher non-reemployment proceedings before PMSSD which by that time had resulted in an affirmance in the Chancery Court of Neshoba County, Mississippi.

 Arguing that the Circuit Court of Neshoba County has committed serious error in its understanding of the limited scope of review before it, the Mississippi Employment Security Commission appeals to this Court. We reverse.

 II.

 Unemployment insurance claimant Bobby Edsel Winstead had been employed as a mathematics teacher by the Philadelphia Municipal Separate School District in Neshoba County, Mississippi, for approximately nine years. As is customary in this state, each year he taught under a one year contract. His last contract with the district was for the 1979-80 school year. Winstead's last day of employment was at the end of that school year on May 23, 1980. He was not offered a contract to teach for the 1980-81 school year.

 In early March of 1980, Winstead was advised by his principal that he would not be offered reemployment. *fn1 Assigned as reasons were Winstead's alleged

 (1) lack of respect for students,

 (2) antagonistic and uncooperative attitude toward school administration,

 (3) violation of rules and regulations prescribed for the conduct and operation of school,

 (4) exhibition of unprofessional conduct, and

 (5) incompetence.

 Despite these serious charges, Winstead was allowed to complete his then existing contract and teach for the remainder of the 1979-80 school year.

 Winstead protested his non-reemployment first through a hearing held by the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Municipal Separate School District under the School Employment Procedure Law of 1977 (Miss. Code Ann. 37-9-101, et seq.) (Supp. 1982) and subsequently on appeal to the Chancery Court of Neshoba County, Mississippi. Pending those proceedings, and following his last day of work on May 23, 1980, Winstead filed a claim with the Mississippi Employment Security Commission seeking unemployment compensation benef its. This claim indicated that Winstead was separated from his employment because of "lack of work" . MESC determined that Winstead was indeed eligible for benefits and his claim was allowed.

 In due course, on June 23, 1980, MESC notified PMSSD that the claim had been allowed and that PMSSD was liable for any benefits paid to the claimant as required by law. 2 An MESC Appeals Referee and the MESC Board of Review affirmed, only to be reversed by the Circuit Court which relied substantially on the Chancery Court's decision in the teacher non-reemployment proceedings.

 III.

 A.

 We first address the collateral estoppel question necessarily at the heart of the Circuit Court's ruling. Our precise context is this: The fact question of why Winstead was not reemployed was originally "litigated" before the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Municipal Separate School District. That Board, acting as an administrative agency, *fn2 held a non-renewal *fn3 hearing pursuant to the provisions of Sections 37-9-101, et seq. Miss. Code Ann. (Supp. 1982). On May 25, 1980, the Board of Trustees released specific and detailed findings of fact. Suffice it to say that the Board found that Winstead was incompetent and unfit and that good cause existed for his non-reemployment with the Philadelphia Municipal Separate School District.

 These findings of fact were immediately challenged in statutorily authorized appeal proceedings before the Chancery Court

 of Neshoba County, Mississippi, in Case No. 11,932. Exercising a very limited power of review, the Chancery Court on April 21, 1981, affirmed. Tracking the statute, *fn4 the Chancery Court held that the decision of the Board of Trustees, necessarily including the findings of fact made in connection therewith, (a) was supported by substantial evidence, (b) was not arbitrary or capricious, and (c) was not in violation of any statutory or constitutional right of Winstead. The Chancery Court rendered its decision fully effective via a final decree entered November 4, 1981. No further appeal was taken.

 At the hearing before the MESC Appeals Referee held September 2, 1980, PMSSD offered into evidence the entire decision of its Board of Trustees rendered May 25, 1980. This decision contains findings of evidentiary facts as well as findings of ultimate facts. The latter amount to little more than a recitation of the original reasons for non-reemployment given by the principal back in March of 1980.

 In making his decision, the MESC Appeals Referee correctly considered as dispositive the question of whether Winstead was discharged for "misconduct" connected with his work. Miss. Code Ann. 71-5-513 (2) (1972). The Appeals Referee's decision of ...


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