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Georgia Supreme Court Rules Against Ex-Forsyth Deputies

The high court rules against 11 law enforcement officers who were fired by Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper.

Georgia Supreme Court Rules Against Ex-Forsyth Deputies
From the Georgia Supreme Court

The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled against 11 law enforcement officers who were fired by Forsyth County Sheriff Duane Piper. The officers appealed to the high court after a superior court denied their petition to force a hearing of their case by the Forsyth County Civil Service Board.

In Monday’s decision, however, the Supreme Court has dismissed the officers’ appeal because they failed to follow the correct procedure in filing it.

In February 2013, Lieutenant Lisa Frady Selke, four captains, four other lieutenants, and two sergeants employed by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office were terminated as part of a “reduction in force,” according to the Sheriff’s Office. They claimed their termination was a subterfuge for political retaliation and age discrimination. They attempted to appeal their termination to Sheriff Piper, but he said he lacked authority to grant an appeal because layoffs were not appealable. They then tried to appeal to Patricia Carson, the Forsyth County Personnel Services Director, and requested their appeals be forwarded to the Forsyth County Civil Service Board. In March 2013, however, she denied their request to appeal and to send their appeals to the Civil Service Board, also stating that a layoff is not appealable under the Forsyth County Civil Service Handbook and policies. Specifically, the handbook states: “Employees who are covered by the Forsyth County Civil Service System may be subject to reassignment, reclassification, transfer, non-disciplinary demotion, non-disciplinary suspension, administrative leave, and separation resulting from layoff without cause and with no right to appeal.”

Selke and the others then filed a petition for a “Writ of Mandamus” in Forsyth County Superior Court to force Carson to forward their appeals to the Civil Service Board. A writ of mandamus is considered an “extraordinary remedy” that is used to compel a public official to perform a required duty. Following a hearing in July, Superior Court Judge G. Grant Brantley granted the County’s motion to dismiss the law enforcement officers’ appeals. Selke and the other officers then filed a direct appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court. Attorneys for Carson, the Civil Service Board and the County filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, arguing the officers improperly filed a direct – or automatic – appeal with the state Supreme Court when they were required under the law to ask permission to appeal under the discretionary appeal procedures.

“We agree,” Chief Justice Thompson writes for the Court in today’s unanimous decision.

“Generally speaking, judgments or orders granting or refusing to grant mandamus are appealable directly. However, Official Code of Georgia § 5-6-35 (a) (1) requires an appellant to file an application for a discretionary appeal from a decision of a superior court reviewing the decision of a state or local administrative agency.”

“In this case, Carson, the Personnel Services Director, made an administrative department decision refusing to forward appellants’ appeals to the Civil Service Board. Because Carson’s decision was reviewed by the superior court, it was incumbent upon appellants to proceed by discretionary appeal.”

“Appeal dismissed. All the Justices concur.”

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