Session November 13, 2019
from the Chancery Court for Shelby County No. CH-15-0911
JoeDae L. Jenkins, Chancellor
appeal arises from Shelby County's decision to terminate
Appellee's employment for non-compliance with the
County's residency requirement. The Civil Service Merit
Board ("CSMB") reversed the termination of
Appellee's employment and reinstated him with back pay.
On appeal, the Shelby County Chancery Court affirmed the
CSMB's ruling. Finding no error, we affirm the decision
of the Chancery Court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed and Remanded
Bridgett L. Stigger, and Sanjeev Memula, Memphis, Tennessee,
for the appellant, Shelby County, Tennessee.
B. Wells, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Gary Morris,
Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S.,
Gary Morris was an employee of Appellant Shelby County,
Tennessee ("the County"), in its Roads, Bridges,
and Engineering Department. As is relevant to this appeal,
the County's Charter and Policy No. 304 require Shelby
County employees to reside in the County as a condition of
their employment. Specifically, the policy provides that
"[a]ll employees hired after September 1, 1986, must be
residents of Shelby County and shall continue to reside in
said County as a condition of their employment." On
January 15, 2015, the County requested Mr. Morris to provide
a mailing address for his 2014 W-2. Mr. Morris provided the
County with the mailing address of 345 Emma Road, Oakland,
Fayette County, Tennessee, which was his girlfriend's
address. Because of the County's residency requirement,
Mr. Morris' supervisors questioned him about the
out-of-county address he provided for mailing his W-2, and
Mr. Morris immediately submitted a request to update his
address to 5723 Logan Cove, Arlington, Shelby County,
January 16, 2015, the County began an investigation of
whether Mr. Morris was compliant with the residency
requirement. The County requested that Mr. Morris confirm his
compliance (by January 20, 2015) by supplying the County with
three documents from a list of approved documents such as: a
rental/mortgage contract, current driver's license, motor
vehicle registration or title, current voter registration,
W-2 form, current receipt for real estate taxes, or a current
utility bill. On January 20, 2015, Mr. Morris provided a
lease agreement for 6804 North Knoll, Millington, a Shelby
County address. The lease was signed on January 17, 2015, and
was to become effective on February 1, 2015. On January 21,
2015, Mr. Morris tendered three additional documents
reflecting an address of 12466 U.S. Highway 64, a Shelby
County address. These documents included a 2013 application
for vehicle registration, a 2013 W-2 tax form (from another
employer), and a March 2014 receipt for a trailer.
January 28, 2015, the County conducted a Loudermill
hearing to determine whether Mr. Morris was a County
resident. At that time, Mr. Morris submitted an affidavit
from his aunt, Mosie Thomas, in which she stated that Mr.
Morris lived with her at 12611 Highway 64, Shelby County,
Tennessee, from January 1, 2014 through December 2014. On
January 29, 2015, the County terminated Mr. Morris'
employment on the ground that he failed to prove compliance
with the County's residency requirement. Mr. Morris
appealed the termination to the Shelby County Civil Service
Merit Board ("CSMB"). On April 16, 2015, the CSMB
conducted a hearing regarding this termination.
15, 2015, the CSMB found that the Roads, Bridges, and
Engineering Department did not meet its burden of proof on
cause to terminate Mr. Morris' employment. As such, the
CSMB overturned the termination of employment, and reinstated
Mr. Morris with back pay. On July 8, 2015, the County
appealed the CSMB's ruling to the Shelby County Chancery
Court ("trial court"). On December 13, 2018, the
trial court entered an order adopting the CSMB's findings
of fact and conclusions of law. The County appeals.
County raises several issues for review. However, we perceive
that there is one dispositive issue: Whether the trial court
erred in affirming the CSMB's decision to reverse
termination of Mr. Morris' employment and to reinstate
him with back pay.
Standard of Review
review of decisions by civil service boards of a county or
municipality which affects the employment status of a county
or city civil service employee shall be in conformity with
the judicial review standards under the Uniform
Administrative Procedures Act [("UAPA")] . . .
." Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-9-114 (b)(1); City of
Memphis v. Civil Serv. Comm'n of Memphis, 238 S.W.3d
238, 242 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2007). The UAPA provides, in
(a)(1) A person who is aggrieved by a final decision in a
contested case is entitled to judicial review under this
chapter, which shall be the only available method of judicial
review. . . .
(h) The court may affirm the decision of the agency or remand
the case for further proceedings. The court may reverse or
modify the decision if the rights of the petitioner have been
prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences,
conclusions, or decisions are:
(1)In violation of the of constitutional or statutory
(2)In excess of the statutory authority of the agency;
(3)Made upon unlawful procedure;
(4) Arbitrary or capricious or characterized by abuse of
discretion or clearly unwarranted exercise of discretion; or
(5)(A) Unsupported by evidence that is both substantial and
material in the light of the entire record.
(B) In determining the substantiality of evidence, the court
shall take into account whatever in the record fairly
detracts from its weight, but the court shall not substitute
its judgment for that of the agency as to the weight of the
evidence on questions of fact.
(i) No agency decision pursuant to a hearing in a contested
case shall be reversed, remanded or modified by the reviewing
court unless for errors that ...