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MARY VIRGINIA KNEBEL v. CITY OF BILOXI AND CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION

AUGUST 08, 1984

MARY VIRGINIA KNEBEL
v.
CITY OF BILOXI AND CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION



BEFORE WALKER, BOWLING AND HAWKINS

HAWKINS, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

Mary Virginia Knebel appeals from a judgment of the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial District of Harrison County, upholding the Civil Service Commission of the City of Biloxi in approving her discharge as a city patrolman.

The issue before us is the right of a police department under certain circumstances to order an employee to take a polygraph test, the refusal of which authorizes the department to discharge the employee.

 We hold the facts of this case justified such order and affirm.

 On Tuesday, June 29, 1982, the Narcotics Units

 of the Biloxi Police Department was in the process of searching a residence and making arrests of two female occupants. Knebel, driving her private automobile, and accompanied by Pat Blanchard, a police dispatcher, stopped. She asked Officer Richard L. Giraud what he was doing there, prompting the response from the latter of what she was doing there. Knebel either said she was visiting friends, or there to pick up a friend. Giraud then asked her if it was the house he pointed to (the house being searched), and she said it was. Whereupon Giraud told her that her friend had been "busted" , and again upon inquiry from Knebel, he said it was for a narcotics violation. Knebel's curiosity persisted, what kind of violation? The reply: marijuana. Felony or misdemeanor? Felony. Knebel then said she had better leave, and she drove off with Blanchard.

 Upon being questioned, the women in the house told the officer that Knebel had upon occasion visited the house, had purchased marijuana, and had smoked it in the house.

 Giraud reported this to his superior which resulted in a department investigation. The Director of Public Safety of the Biloxi Police Department, Giraud's superior, directed an adminstrative investigation, but no criminal proceeding. Thereafter, upon being questioned, Knebel said the two occupants of the house were friends, but she denied she had bought or used any marijuana. When asked if she would take a polygraph test, she said she would have to consult an attorney.

 Officer Blanchard admitted when she was questioned she had been to the house and had one time seen some marijuana. Blanchard refused outright the request to take a polygraph test.

 Knebel was told the investigation was administrative, not criminal, and nothing she said would be used against her in a criminal proceeding.

 A few days later Knebel reported to Director Lower that she would not take a polygraph test. She was ordered to take one, and upon her refusal, she was suspended.

 A departmental hearing was conducted, resulting in a vote of three-to-two to discharge her. Knebel appealed to the city's civil service commission, which upheld her termination. She then appealed to the Circuit Court, and from the adverse decision of that court she

 has appealed.

 There were in effect regulations of the city which require that under certain circumstances an employee may be directed to take a polygraph test, and refusal to do so will constitute ground for discharge. The reason the officer gave for her ...


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