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Mississippi Department of Public Safety v. Smith

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

May 24, 2018

MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND ALBERT SANTA CRUZ, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COMMISSIONER OF THE MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY
v.
STACY SMITH, GREG NESTER, AND KRISTOPHER WINGERT

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/06/2016

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

          HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. WILLIAM A. GOWAN, JR. JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS: DENNIS L. HORN PETER W. CLEVELAND

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: WILSON MINOR PETER W. CLEVELAND ANTHONY SCHMIDT JOHN G. SIMS, III

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: DENNIS L. HORN SHIRLEY PAYNE

          CHAMBERLIN, JUSTICE

         ¶1. While we address three issues, only one dispositive issue is before the Court: whether the Employee Appeals Board properly dismissed the Appellees' claims for lack of jurisdiction due to the untimely filing of the appeal. We hold that it properly dismissed the Appellees' claims for lack of jurisdiction. The course of the proceedings, as outlined below, has lead to the argument of issues not properly before the circuit court and, therefore, not properly before this Court.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On December 1, 2005, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) issued notice that eight employees would be transferred from the Mississippi Crime Laboratory/Crime Scene Response Unit to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. The Appellees, Stacy Smith, Greg Nester, and Christopher Winger were included in the list of eight employees. The notice further stated that the employees would retain their positions, salaries, and PIN (Personal Identification Numbers). In 2008, without their knowledge, the Appellees lost their PIN numbers. The other five employees transferred kept their PIN numbers.

         ¶3. On January 18, 2011, the Appellees apparently each wrote a letter to the director of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation. The letter is not in the record, but it appears that the Appellees requested lateral transfers back to the Mississippi Crime Laboratory. The Director of the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation responded and stated that no Crime Laboratory PINS were available. Thereafter, the Appellees began the grievance process. They proceeded with their grievances through the four steps of the administrative grievance process. Their highest supervisor, Stephen Simpson, wrote that no crime lab positions or PINS were available at the current time and, therefore, their request was denied. The next step would have been to appeal the response to the Employee Appeals Board (EAB). However, for reasons unknown, this did not happen, and the case stalled.

         ¶4. More than two years later, on July 9, 2013, the Appellees filed a Petition for Writ of Mandamus in Hinds County Circuit Court. The Petition for Writ of Mandamus was assigned Civil Action No. 251-13-637. The trial court found that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the Petition for Writ of Mandamus because the Appellees had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies by failing to appeal to the EAB. The trial court remanded the claims to the EAB. The EAB held that the appeal was untimely and that the Appellees had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies (by appealing timely to the EAB) before filing in circuit court. Therefore, due to lack of jurisdiction, the EAB dismissed the case.

         ¶5. The Appellees appealed the dismissal by filing an appeal petition in the circuit court. This appeal petition was assigned Civil Action No. 251-15-369. The appeal petition was assigned to a different judge than the original Petition for Writ of Mandamus. Subsequently, the Appellees filed a motion to transfer the case to the circuit court judge who had been assigned the Petition for Writ of Mandamus. The motion was granted. However, the appeal petition (No. 251-15-369) was never consolidated with the petition for Writ of Mandamus (No. 251-13-637). It appears from the record that the remand to the EAB is the last action taken in Cause No. 251-13-637. That case has not been appealed.

         ¶6. Subsequently, in the appeal petition case, the Appellees moved for summary judgment. The circuit court determined it had jurisdiction due to substantial evidence that the MDPS had failed to follow statutory and Mississippi Personnel Board policies and procedures regarding intraoffice ...


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