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Jackson County Bd. Sup'rs v. Mississippi Employment Sec. Com'n

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

December 12, 2013


Page 179

Kathy B. Parker, Pascagoula, Angela E. Broun, attorneys for appellant.

Albert B. White, Madison, Leanne F. Brady, attorneys for appellee.


CHANDLER, Justice, for the Court:

¶ 1. The Jackson County Board of Supervisors terminated June Seaman, and she applied to the Mississippi Employment Security Commission (MESC) for unemployment benefits. At the MESC, a claims examiner, an administrative-law judge, and the Board of Review determined that Seaman was entitled to unemployment benefits because Jackson County had failed to prove by clear and convincing, substantial evidence that Seaman had been terminated for misconduct. The Circuit Court of Jackson County affirmed the

Page 180

agency's decision. But the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the employer had proven misconduct by substantial evidence. We granted the MESC's petition for certiorari and hold that the Court of Appeals improperly reweighed the evidence before the MESC. Therefore, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstate and affirm the judgment of the Circuit Court of Jackson County.


¶ 2. The following facts were presented at a telephonic hearing before an administrative-law judge. Seaman worked in two capacities for Jackson County. She worked forty hours per week for the Jackson County Community Center as an administrative assistant to Jim Hart. She also worked as a carnival coordinator in her capacity as a member of the Jackson County Fair Association. The Fair Association organized the eight-day county fair every October. Seaman testified that she performed her fair work on nights and weekends. She submitted time sheets showing that she regularly worked thirty to forty hours per week for the fair during 2008-2009. Jackson County terminated Seaman, claiming that she could not have worked that many hours for the fair, and that she had falsified her time sheets, constituting misconduct disqualifying her for unemployment benefits under Mississippi Code Section 71-5-513(A)(1)(b) (Rev.2011).

A. Seaman's fair work

¶ 3. Seaman testified that she had been with the fair association for twenty-six years and had worked as a carnival coordinator for fifteen years. She testified that she worked year-round to coordinate the fair. Her duties included submitting contracts to and coordinating with more than 100 vendors. This involved multiple phone calls and written correspondence. She testified that she spent hours on the phone discussing vendors with her Fair Association supervisor, Eddie Russell. She and Russell also coordinated meeting agendas for eight to ten Fair Association meetings per year. She contacted fifty to seventy-five schools per year. Before the fair, she made sure all contract labor was in place and that the barn and ticket office were ready. She worked with another Fair Association member to coordinate judges for various contests. After the fair, she typed and proofed the Fair Book, a project that took several weeks. She testified that, while she was allowed to perform fair work during her community-center job, her community-center job duties did not leave much time for fair work, so she did the bulk of it after hours. Seaman testified that no one else put in as much time preparing for the fair as she did.

¶ 4. Allen Smith, a member of the Fair Board, disputed the amount of time Seaman legitimately could have spent on fair work. He testified that the Fair Board is a policymaker for the fair and oversees the Fair Association, which actually puts on the fair. Smith testified that he was familiar with the duties of a Fair-Association member. He testified that Seaman's fair work was part-time and not year-round. Smith stated that, for the combined months of August, September, and October, Seaman should have worked only twenty to thirty hours total. In November, she should have worked fifteen to twenty hours in one two-week pay period. In January, February, and March, it was time to complete the Fair Book, requiring fifteen to twenty hours for all three months. In contrast with Seaman's testimony, Smith testified that completion of the Fair Book merely required editing last year's version. In April, her fair work should have taken five to ten hours. Smith testified that Seaman should have

Page 181

had no fair work at all in the months of December, May, ...

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