ALLEN K. WALLACE
CITY OF MEMPHIS
Session January 15, 2019
from the Chancery Court for Shelby County No. CH-16-1782-1
Walter L. Evans, Judge.
of Memphis firefighter was terminated based on alleged
off-duty misconduct. The firefighter appealed his termination
to the Civil Service Commission. After a hearing, the Civil
Service Commission issued a decision recommending that the
firefighter be restored to his previous position with full
back pay and benefits. The City restored the firefighter to
his previous rank and position but refused to pay the back
pay and benefits owed. As a consequence, the firefighter
filed a verified petition in chancery court to enforce the
Civil Service Commission's decision to which the City
filed an answer without raising any affirmative defenses.
Thereafter, the firefighter filed a properly-supported motion
for summary judgment along with a statement of undisputed
facts. Because the City did not file a response to the motion
or the statement of undisputed facts as required by Tenn. R.
Civ. P. 56, and the undisputed facts established that the
firefighter was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the
trial court granted the motion for summary judgment. The
trial court also awarded post-judgment interest from the date
of the trial court's order granting summary judgment but
not from the date of the Civil Service Commission's
decision as requested by the firefighter. Both parties
appealed. We affirm the grant of summary judgment but reverse
and remand for a calculation of post-judgment interest from
the date of the Civil Service Commission's decision.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed in Part; Reversed in Part and
Barbaralette G. Davis, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant,
City of Memphis.
F. Canale, III, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Allen
G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the
Court, in J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S. and William B.
Acree, Senior Judge, joined.
G. CLEMENT JR., P.J., M.S.
K. Wallace was employed by the City of Memphis ("the
City") for thirteen years as a firefighter. While off
duty on October 18, 2014, Mr. Wallace was arrested for
various offenses, including a DUI, in Greenwood, Mississippi.
After a disciplinary hearing on November 17, 2014, Mr.
Wallace was terminated from his position with the Division of
Fire Services with the City. The sole basis for his
termination was the October 2014 arrest. Mr. Wallace timely
appealed his termination to the Civil Service Commission. In
the interim, all charges brought by the City of Greenwood
were dismissed, and the records of Mr. Wallace's arrest
were expunged from the public record by Order of the County
Court of Leflore County, Mississippi.
hearing was held before the Civil Service Commission on May
10, 2016, and the Commission issued its final decision on
September 2, 2016. The Commission found that because the City
based its decision to terminate Mr. Wallace solely on the
arrest that was later dismissed and expunged, the City did
not establish by a preponderance of the evidence that its
termination of Mr. Wallace's thirteen-year employment was
reasonable, under all the circumstances. The Commission
ordered that Mr. Wallace be restored to his previous position
with full back pay and benefits.
thereafter, the City restored Mr. Wallace to his previous
rank of firefighter/paramedic but refused to pay Mr. Wallace
the back pay and benefits owed to him per the
Commission's order, stating that Mr. Wallace failed to
mitigate his damages by seeking other employment/income while
he was terminated.
October 12, 2016, Mr. Wallace moved for the Commission to
enforce the judgment awarding full back pay and benefits;
however, the Commission denied the motion, finding that it
lacked the statutory authority to enforce the order.
result, on November 21, 2016, Mr. Wallace filed a Verified
Petition to Enforce the City of Memphis Civil Service
Commission Judgment and for Injunctive Relief in the Chancery
Court of Shelby County. The City filed its response on
December 22, 2016, in which it raised for the first time the
defense of Mr. Wallace's failure to mitigate his damages.
17, 2017, Mr. Wallace filed a motion for summary judgment,
memorandum of law in support, and a statement of undisputed
facts. He attached as exhibits the hearing transcript from
the Civil Service Commission and a copy of the
Commissioner's decision. In relevant part, the statement
of undisputed facts asserted the following:
8. At no time during the [Civil Service Commission] hearing,
neither before, during or after proof was taken, did [the
City] even raise the issue of mitigation of damages before
the Civil Service Commission.
9. On September 2, 2016, the Civil Service Commission issued
10.The Civil Service Commission held, in part, "The
City's November 17, 2014 disciplinary action terminating
Mr. Wallace's 13 year [Memphis Fire Department]
employment must therefore be reversed, and he should be
restored to his previous position of employment with full
back pay and benefits."
11.On September 19, 2016, counsel for [the City], via email
communication, informed counsel for [Mr. Wallace] that [the
City] would not comply with the Civil Service
Commission's Decision relating to the award of back pay.
Specifically, counsel for [the City] stated, "However,
given that your client has failed to mitigate damages, the
City's position has to be that he is not entitled to a
back pay award."
12.[The City] failed to file a timely petition for appeal or
reconsideration of the Civil Service Commission's
Decision pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 4-5-315 and
317, respectively. Consequently, the Civil Service
Commission's Decision ...