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Bates v. City of Natchez, Mississippi

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 8, 2018

VINCE BATES APPELLANT
v.
CITY OF NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/03/2016

          ADAMS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. FORREST A. JOHNSON JR. JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: PAUL ANDERSON KOERBER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: EDGAR HYDE CARBY

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., CARLTON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. In this appeal, we must determine whether there was substantial evidence to support the decision of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) of the City of Natchez to suspend and demote Vince Bates, a Natchez police officer.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On June 19, 2014, Bates placed a personal tracking device on a fellow officer's patrol car. This officer, Elvis Prater, filed an offense report, and Bates was charged with trespass and disturbing the peace. These charges were later dismissed. After an internal investigation and a pre-termination hearing, the City of Natchez recommended terminating Bates's employment. The City determined that Bates had violated the City's personnel policy by exhibiting conduct unbecoming for an officer and improper use of a City vehicle. Bates then appealed to the CSC. After a hearing, the CSC determined that Bates should not have been terminated and modified the City's termination order. The CSC suspended Bates for four months without pay and demoted him to a patrolman with no supervisory duties.

         ¶3. Bates appealed to the Adams County Circuit Court. After reviewing the record, the trial found that substantial evidence existed to support the CSC's decision and that the CSC acted in good faith.

         ¶4. Bates now appeals, asserting that the CSC's decision lacked substantial evidence and that his due-process rights were violated. Finding no error, we affirm.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶5. A CSC's review of a city's decision to remove, suspend, demote, or discharge a civil-service employee is limited to determining whether the "disciplinary action was or was not made for political or religious reasons and was or was not made in good faith for cause." Miss. Code Ann. § 21-31-23 (Rev. 2015). A trial court's review of the CSC's decision is limited to a review of the transcript of the proceedings before the Commission to determine "whether the judgment or order of removal, discharge, demotion, suspension[, ] or combination thereof made by the Commission, was or was not made in good faith for cause . . . ." Id.

         ¶6. Our standard of review is limited to "whether or not the action of the [CSC] was in good faith for cause." Necaise v. City of Waveland, 170 So.3d 616, 618 (¶9) (Miss. Ct. App. 2015) (quoting City of Vicksburg v. Lane, 11 So.3d 162, 165 (ΒΆ10) (Miss. Ct. App. 2009)). "Intertwined with this question is whether or not there was substantial evidence before the [CSC] to support its ...


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