COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/14/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MICHAEL H. WARD. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: REVERSED DECISION OF MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SECURITY BOARD OF REVIEW.
FOR APPELLANT: LEANNE F. BRADY, ALBERT B. WHITE.
FOR APPELLEE: RYAN A. FREDERIC.
BEFORE IRVING, P.J., ISHEE AND CARLTON, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, CARLTON, MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ., CONCUR. ROBERTS, J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. JAMES, J., DISSENTS WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - STATE BOARDS AND AGENCIES
[¶1] Patrick Arroyo was employed by Jackson County, Mississippi, as the drug-court coordinator for approximately eight months until he resigned in August 2012. Shortly thereafter, he filed for unemployment benefits with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES). An investigation resulted in a denial of the benefits based on the conclusion that Arroyo left his employment for personal reasons. Arroyo appealed the denial, and, after hearing testimony and evidence, an administrative judge (AJ) determined that Arroyo had committed misconduct that disqualified him from receiving the benefits. Arroyo appealed the AJ's decision to the MDES Board of Review, which reversed the AJ's judgment. The Board instead found that sufficient evidence was not presented to prove that Arroyo committed disqualifying misconduct. Jackson County then appealed the Board's decision to the Jackson County Circuit Court. Special Judge Michael H. Ward was appointed to the case, and reversed the Board's judgment on November 11, 2013. Aggrieved, MDES appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.
STATEMENT OF FACTS
[¶2] In 2012, Arroyo worked as the coordinator for the drug-court program in Jackson County. As part of his employment, he was prohibited from using any intoxicating substance at work, including prescribed narcotics. The policy against drug use was clearly communicated to Arroyo. By his own admission, both verbally and in written form, Arroyo acknowledged that he was aware of the policy at all relevant times.
[¶3] Following a random drug screen of drug-court employees, Arroyo tested positive for Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication. Arroyo admitted that he had a prescription for Xanax, but that he was taking the drug for a purpose other than its intended use. Due to Arroyo's history as a drug user and his position as the drug-court coordinator, he was counseled regarding the problem and issued a warning from his superiors.
[¶4] Several months later, Arroyo underwent a second random drug screen. The results were inconclusive. However, possible Lortab usage was indicated. Again, Arroyo completed counseling sessions, during which he was warned that he was not permitted to take narcotics. The record indicates that Arroyo was given an ultimatum during the counseling sessions that he would be terminated the next time he tested positive for any drug usage.
[¶5] In August 2012, Arroyo asserted that he was experiencing back pain and was prescribed Lortab, a controlled narcotic, for the pain. On August 17, 2012, he filled the prescription and took half of a tablet of Lortab. During a meeting that morning, Arroyo showed his supervisor, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Robert Krebs, and a staff attorney, Tommy Laws, his prescription and admitted that he had taken one of the tablets. Judge Krebs conveyed to Arroyo in no uncertain terms that narcotic usage of any kind was not allowed and that Arroyo would not be permitted to take the narcotic and continue in his ...