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Bourgeois v. City of Bay St. Louis Civil Service Commission

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 2, 2018

LOUIS EDWARD BOURGEOIS APPELLANT
v.
CITY OF BAY ST. LOUIS CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/03/2017

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HANCOCK COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LAWRENCE PAUL BOURGEOIS JR. TRIAL JUDGE.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: WILLIAM ALEX BRADY II MICHELLE ELIZABETH LUBER.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JENNIFER HUGHES SCOTT.

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., FAIR AND TINDELL, JJ.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. The City of Bay St. Louis fired Louis Bourgeois after he asked a police officer to run a license plate number for him. Bourgeois said a vehicle had been following him, and he feared it related to his job as a fire inspector. But it turned out that the man who owned the vehicle was dating Bourgeois's former girlfriend, and the City concluded that Bourgeois's story about being followed was a pretext to pursue a personal vendetta. The City's civil service commission affirmed Bourgeois's firing, and the circuit court affirmed the commission. We affirm as well.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶2. Bourgeois presents thirteen issues for our review, which we have reorganized and consolidated for clarity and economy.

         1. Controlling Law

         ¶3. Bourgeois and the City disagree as to whether his termination was governed by the Mississippi Code or by a city ordinance. Bourgeois contends that the general civil service statute, Mississippi Code Annotated sections 21-31-1 through 21-31-75 (Rev. 2015) controls, and the City failed to comply with its requirements. The City, however, points out that the statute only applies to certain categories of municipalities, listed in section 21-31-1 (2), and Bay St. Louis does not fit into any of them. The City contends that it is instead governed by a local and private law, House Bill 1367 of the 1989 legislative session, and by the City ordinance implementing a civil service system as permitted by the aforementioned law.

         ¶4. In Laurel v. Samuels, 469 So.2d 530, 531 (Miss. 1985), the Mississippi Supreme Court observed that cities not listed in section 21-31-1(2) are not required to follow the civil service statutes. The court stated that "[f]rom a reading of all of the code section establishing that civil service system, it becomes apparent that it was intended only to cover employees of the fire and/or police departments of the municipalities coming within its purview." Id. Section 21-31-1(2) lists of eight types of municipality that are mandated to create a civil service commission, so long as the municipality has a fully paid fire and police department. Bay St. Louis does not fit into any of the eight classifications.

         ¶5. We encountered the same issue in the recent case of Necaise v. City of Waveland, 170 So.3d 616, 618-19 (¶10) (Miss. Ct. App. 2015), where Waveland's civil service commission was also authorized by a local and private law. We held:

First and foremost, it is necessary to note that this case does not turn on any application of Mississippi statutory law. Mississippi Code Annotated section 21-31-1 (Rev. 2007) mandates that certain municipalities must have a civil service commission. Similarly, Mississippi Code Annotated section 21-31-3 (Rev. 2007) gives qualified municipalities the authority to adopt a civil service commission. The Waveland Civil Service Commission is unique in that it is not a creature of either statute. Instead, the Commission is the product of Waveland City Ordinance 251 ("the ordinance"), which was authorized by House Bill 1770 of the 1994 Mississippi legislative session. Consequently, neither the provisions nor the procedures set forth in the statutes that pertain to civil service commissions apply to this case. Section 10 of the ordinance states that ...

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