Article Comment 

City: Terminated firefighter’s appeal missed deadline


Kristin Mamrack



The attorney of a Columbus Fire Department employee terminated by the Columbus City Council, for violation of the city''s zero-tolerance substance abuse policy, has filed an appeal on the firing. But the city, which claims the appeal was not filed in a timely manner to the Civil Service Commission, has moved to dismiss the appeal. 


The council, on Dec. 7, voted to fire Mitchell Banks, who served as a CFD fireman for about 18 months, after Banks reportedly missed part of a training session at the Mississippi Fire Academy in Jackson, was roused by the academy director and found to be intoxicated. 


CFD Fire Chief Ken Moore had suspended Banks for the violation, and the council voted to terminate him. 


Columbus'' Civil Service Commission rules state, "Any person so removed, suspended, demoted or discharged or combination thereof may, within 10 days from the time of such disciplinary action, file with the commission a written demand for an investigation, whereas the commission shall conduct such investigation." 


According to the commission rules, which originate from the Mississippi Code and 1940 legislation to enact the Civil Service Commission, Banks had until Dec. 17 to appeal the termination to the Civil Service Commission, said Commission Chairman Al Hatcher. 


"It does say clearly within 10 days from the time of his removal," Hatcher said, after reading aloud the section of code pertaining to the deadline, noting the Commission met Dec. 17, but no appeal had been filed with any of the three members of the commission. Glenn Jefferson and Thomas Moore Jr. also serve on the commission. 


Attorney Rod Ray, who was retained by Banks on Dec. 16, said he mailed a notice to Columbus Mayor Robert Smith and City Attorney Jeff Turnage, indicating his intent to appeal the council''s ruling on Banks. 


"He hired me and, within minutes, I filed notice (with Turnage and Smith)," he explained, noting he filed an appeal with the city, because the city was the governing body who terminated Banks. 


"If the court rules against you, you appeal with them," he said. "Down the road, I''d file an appeal with the Civil Service Commission. Now, (the city is) filing a motion for dismissal based on the appeal wasn''t filed in a timely manner, which it was." 


"It appears that he mailed the notice of appeal to the physical address of the city and it still hasn''t been received (by the mayor)," Turnage said Monday. "The appeal was supposed to be filed on Thursday and the rules say it should be filed with the Civil Service Commission. This is an important deadline. Once you''ve let a deadline for appeal run, the commission doesn''t have the jurisdiction to decide (the matter)." 


Velma Woodard, secretary to Smith, confirmed by late Monday afternoon, a notice of appeal still had not been received by the mayor. 


"My opinion is the guy works for the city and is covered by the Civil Service Commission," Ray said. "All they can do is make sure he was terminated properly. If they''re so confident they did the right thing, let it be heard by the Civil Service Commission. 


"Where''s the equity in that?" he asked. "I don''t know why you don''t let a guy (be heard). All they''re going to do is decide if he was treated unfairly. It''s not his fault he hired me on the day before they''re saying the appeal was due. Why punish him?" 


The Civil Service Commission meets monthly; the commission could call a special meeting to consider the matter, but two of the three commission members will be out of town for the holiday season, Hatcher said.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment questions? commented at 12/22/2009 2:26:00 PM:

I'm a bit confused! When this man was suspended by the chief, was that his job or just time? So then the council decided his fate?

Was he told or got a letter as to the channels to appeal? If so; then why wait? I would have got a lawyer immediately if I didnt do what was said I did...

Regardless; I believe when these men and women go out of this town for trainings, meetings, whatever be the situation; IT is also their duty to act accordingly with respect. If he wasn't intoxicated, why did he miss the training that taxpayers are paying for? Did he admit to drinking beyond excess the previous evening?

I do believe someone should hear this all; and put it to rest! I do believe the chief did the best he could. I hope he is not punished in the public for actually doing his job. There is probably so much we dont know and are quick to judge I do realize. But I do give Kudos to this DEPT. for not tolerating..., for once~


Article Comment What Happen commented at 12/22/2009 3:17:00 PM:

How can this happen, the lawyer mailed this notice one day before appeal date. Everybodys knows it will never make it , this time of year is busy for postal affairs. maybe hand delivered would have been best in this case. I wonder if it was certified mail and would it make a difference. this guy can't catch a break.


Article Comment Hack commented at 12/22/2009 5:15:00 PM:

I imagine that if it was hand-delivered it still would have somehow come up missing or late.


Article Comment WHAT HAPPEN commented at 12/22/2009 5:21:00 PM:

only in Smithville, oh I mean Columbus.


Article Comment huff commented at 12/24/2009 10:45:00 AM:

The mail doesnt go from the Columbus post office to the adressee's in Columbus. It goes to Greenwood then comes back to Columbus. How Stupid!!
The Attorney should have made sure it got there in time my a hand delivery. This one is the attorneys fault. I would ask for my money back or sue the attorney.


Article Comment Piglet commented at 12/24/2009 4:12:00 PM:

I think the mail goes to Grenada first, not Greenwood.I agree the attorney is at fault.


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