FROM THE NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF RAPIDES, NO.
260, 789 HONORABLE MONIQUE RAULS, DISTRICT JUDGE.
THEODORE ALPAUGH, III GUSTE, BARNETT, SCHLESINGER, HENDERSON
& ALPAUGH, L.L.P. COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: SABRINA FARACE
F. VILAR AARON L. GREEN COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: CITY OF
composed of Sylvia R. Cooks, Shannon J. Gremillion, and
Phyllis M. Keaty, Judges.
SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE.
Sabrina Farace, an employee of the Pineville Police
Department, appeals the judgment of the trial court affirming
the decision of the Pineville Municipal Fire and Police Civil
Service Board (hereafter Board) to uphold her involuntary
discharge that occurred on November 10, 2016. For the
following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
pertinent time in question, Ms. Farace had been employed as a
police officer with the Pineville Police Department for
approximately seven years. The record established Ms. Farace
was on authorized sick leave from October 26, 2016 through
November 8, 2016 ("Excuse 1"). She was designated
to return to her job on November 9, 2016. Ms. Farace did not
return to work that day, but instead saw her physician, Dr.
Charlotte Merrill, at 8:00 a.m. that morning. Ms. Farace
maintained Dr. Merrill continued her sick leave through
November 22, 2016 ("Excuse 2"). Dr. Merrill
testified that, after seeing Ms. Farace on November 9, she
"decided the best thing for [Ms. Farace] would be to
take an extension and have a two week excuse." Dr.
Merrill testified that she handed Excuse 2 to Ms. Farace, who
then told Dr. Merrill she was "going right now to hand
this in." There was a dispute as to when the City
received Excuse 2.
Farace contends that she contacted Ms. Tammie Connella, the
secretary to Pineville Police Chief Don Weatherford, the two
met in the side parking lot of the police station, and she
handed Excuse 2 to Ms. Connella. This was disputed by the
City of Pineville, which claims that it did not received
Excuse 2 on November 9, 2016. It is not disputed that Ms.
Farace previously handed Ms. Connella Excuse 1, but Ms.
Connella testified that she never received Excuse 2 from Ms.
Farace was called by Deputy Chief of Operations James Rachal
to the Pineville Police Department on November 10, 2016.
Deputy Chief Rachal informed Ms. Farace that her failure to
report on November 9, 2016 constituted a resignation in
accordance with Rule XII, Section P of the Pineville
Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board. Ms. Farace did
not voice any objection or allege any basis existed to extend
her sick leave but signed the resignation notice and left the
premises. Later that day, a Personal Action Form was
submitted to the City, and the Board processed her
to Ms. Farace, following the November 10 meeting, she then
went immediately to see Dr. Merrill, who wrote a letter to
Chief Weatherford explaining that Ms. Farace had not been
released to return to work on November 9, 2016 and was still
on sick leave. Dr. Merrill described Ms. Farace as being
"very distraught," and Ms. Farace told Dr. Merrill
she had been "fired."
Merrill testified that her office attempted to fax the letter
to Chief Weatherford that day; however, the time stamp from
the chief's fax machine shows it was received on November
15, 2016. Dr. Merrill testified she could not explain why the
fax was not received until November 15, 2016, but maintained
that she sent it on November 10, 2016, and received
"verification on our end" in the form of a message
on her fax machine.
Weatherford testified that on November 9, 2016, he was
contacted by the sergeant running the morning shift to ask
why Ms. Farace had not reported for her shift. Chief
Weatherford asked Ms. Connella whether there were any other
excuses to extend Ms. Farace's leave but was told there
were none. According to Chief Weatherford, the department
waited the entire day to see if Ms. Farace would contact them
to explain why she had not appeared for her shift. Chief
Weatherford acknowledged that no attempt was made by the City
to contact Ms. Farace to determine why she had not appeared
Chief Rachal testified he called Ms. Farace into his office
on November 10, 2016 and gave her the "resignation"
letter with instructions to sign. He stated Ms. Farace did
not, at any point during the time she was in his office,
mention anything about a doctor's note extending her sick
leave. Deputy Chief Rachal did acknowledge that Ms. Farace
asked about her gun that had previously been taken from her.
He testified that Ms. Farace was in his office no more than
Farace testified she turned in Excuse 2 on November 9, 2016.
She stated she "physically put it into [Tammie
Connella's] hands" when she met her in the side lot
of the police station. Ms. Farace stated when she turned in
Excuse 1, she did so inside the police station. The City
presented printouts of Facebook Messenger messages between
Tammie Connella and Ms. Farace about meeting in the side lot
to hand over a doctor's slip. These messages were
exchanged on October 31, 2016, which was the date the Excuse
1 was stamped as received. Ms. Farace maintained in her
testimony the only time she handed in a doctor's slip to
Tammie Connella in the side lot was on November 9, 2016.
Farace testified she was called in to the police department
on November 10, 2016. She testified as follows concerning
A. [Deputy Chief Rachal] called and told me that he had some
paperwork for me to sign and I came up to the Police
Department to sign paperwork and when I went into his
office[, ] he had the resignation letter and stuff. He told
me he said, you can read over it and sign. I read over it
quickly and signed and gave it to him and walked out.
Q. Now, you heard him testify that you didn't mention
anything about the doctor or the return to work slip, why
didn't you say anything about that?
A. I don't know why he didn't.
Q. You mean, why you didn't?
A. Why I didn't?
Q. Yes, why you didn't say anything to him?
A. At the time, I mean, I didn't feel as if I had a
choice or an argument in this - the case with him telling me
to sign a resignation form that I did not tell anyone that I
was going to resign or had no intentions of resigning.
Q. Okay. What did you do after that?
A. I went to the doctor's office to try and figure out
what the deal was with ...