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Prendergast v. City of Waveland

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 9, 2014

MICHAEL PRENDERGAST, BRETT LADNER, MALCOLM COWAND AND HOWARD PARKER, APPELLANTS/CROSS-APPELLEES
v.
CITY OF WAVELAND AND THE WAVELAND CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION, A SUBDIVISION OF THE CITY OF WAVELAND, APPELLEES/CROSS-APPELLANTS

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HANCOCK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/04/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROGER T. CLARK. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DISMISSED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS.

FOR APPELLANTS: RUSSELL S. GILL, ANDREW AUSTIN CLARK.

FOR APPELLEES: GARY MCKAY YARBOROUGH JR.

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ROBERTS AND CARLTON, JJ. LEE, C.J., GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES, ISHEE, CARLTON, MAXWELL, FAIR AND JAMES, JJ., CONCUR. IRVING, P.J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

Page 1022

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

ROBERTS, J.

¶1. This is an appeal of the Hancock County Circuit Court's decision to dismiss a petition for a writ of mandamus filed by former employees of the City of Waveland, Mississippi. The Waveland Board of Aldermen (the Board) voted to discharge Michael Prendergast, Brett Ladner, Malcolm Cowand, and Howard Parker (Appellants[1]) from their employment as police officers due to budgetary constraints. They attempted to appeal their discharge to the Waveland Civil Service Commission (the Commission), which is unique in that it was created by way of a municipal ordinance. After the Commission failed to respond to Appellants' request for prospective hearing dates, they filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the circuit court. The City moved to dismiss the petition and filed a counterclaim for damages under the Mississippi Litigation Accountability Act.

¶2. The circuit court found that Appellants could have appealed the Board's decision to the circuit court. Because an adequate remedy had been available to Appellants, the circuit court dismissed their petition for a writ of mandamus. And although the parties had not argued the City's counterclaim during the hearing on its motion to dismiss, the circuit court dismissed it, as well. On appeal, Appellants claim the circuit court erred when it dismissed their petition for a writ of mandamus. The City also appeals the circuit

Page 1023

court's decision to dismiss its counterclaim under the Mississippi Litigation Accountability Act. Finding no error, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶3. On January 4, 2011, the Board met and voted to terminate eleven city employees from five different departments for budgetary reasons. Appellants were among the terminated employees. The Board also voted to have the department heads inform the eleven employees that they had been terminated. The next day, Police Chief James Varnell complied with the Board's instructions by sending Appellants each a letter informing them of the Board's decision.

¶4. On January 12, 2011, Appellants faxed documents styled " Appeal of Termination" to the Commission. Appellants' letters stated that they demanded an investigation and hearing " concerning [their] termination by the Waveland Police Department." The Commission did not respond. On February 23, 2011, Appellants sent a letter to the Commission and ...


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