Before Prather, C.j. , Roberts And Mills, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mills, Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/16/96
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM F. COLEMAN
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - CONTRACT
DISPOSITION REVERSED AND RENDERED - 11/12/98
¶1. Raymond Baum was terminated from employment with the Mississippi Department of Human Services on June 22, 1994. On November 10, 1994, a hearing officer for the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board rendered a decision reinstating him to his former position. The full Board affirmed the hearing officer's decision on August 30, 1995. ¶2. On September 21, 1995, the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County granted the appellant's petition for writ of certiorari. The Circuit Court affirmed the decision of the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board on December 16, 1996. Aggrieved, the Department of Human Services assigns the following issues for error.
I. WHETHER THE MISSISSIPPI EMPLOYEE APPEALS BOARD HAD JURISDICTION OVER THIS APPEAL.
II. WHETHER THE HEARING OFFICER'S REFUSAL TO CONSIDER THE APPELLANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS WAS ARBITRARY AND CAPRICIOUS.
III. WHETHER THE DECISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI EMPLOYEE APPEALS BOARD WAS AGAINST THE OVERWHELMING WEIGHT OF THE EVIDENCE.
¶3. Raymond Baum was terminated from his employment as a Child Support Attorney for Region III of the Mississippi Department of Human Services on June 22, 1994. He was an at-will employee. Less than a month later, Mr. Baum filed a Notice of Appeal to the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board alleging that his termination was the result of reverse racial discrimination.
¶4. A hearing was held on November 8-10, 1994 in which a number of witnesses testified for both parties. The Agency's primary witness to testify was its Chief Legal Counsel, Earl Scales. His testimony began with recounting numerous times throughout his tenure that white attorneys had been guilty of either poor performance or failing to follow Agency procedures. In some cases termination was recommended, and in other cases rehabilitative procedures were implemented. Each case was highly fact specific, and was dealt with carefully. Scales testified that in none of these cases was race a cognitive, determinative factor. The disciplinary action given to attorney, Bruce Harris, drew the majority of focus, however, for he was the African-American that Baum alleges was shown racially discriminatory favoritism. The following colloquy traces Scales' handling of the specific circumstances surrounding the corrective action plan implemented for Harris.
Q: Briefly relate to the Hearing Officer the circumstances surrounding Bruce Harris being placed under a corrective action plan.
A: Okay. Uh - Mr. Harris' Senior Attorney, who is a Supervisor, uh - wrote him a letter - a memorandum I do believe he said it had come to his attention - - that certain cases that were allegedly filled out on his 645-A, which is an activity report; that is a report that I am able to track what the staff is doing in the field, what cases they are doing; and that attorney had falsified -uh - certain documents on that 649-A. This was a memorandum from the Senior Attorney to Mr. Harris.
A: When I received that, of course, I was shocked by that, and I called Mr. Harris. Mr. Harris at that time had just left State Office because I had put him on a special assignment in the State Office, and I asked him what was the problem. He said, I would prefer to speak to my Supervisor first, and I said, well, fine, because that is the recommended chain, that you deal with your Supervisor and then come up. Uh - and Mr. Harris did talk to Mr. Jones about it, but Mr. Jones said that he was not satisfied at that time that Mr. Harris had not, in fact, falsified those documents. So, I instructed at that point Mr. Jones, who is a Senior Attorney to go and see what documentation that we ...