FROM CITY CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION ORLEANS
Donovan A. Livaccari LIVACCARI LAW LLC COUNSEL FOR
Goudeau ASSISTANT CITY ATTORNEY Elizabeth S. Robins DEPUTY
CITY ATTORNEY Sunni J. LeBeouf CITY ATTORNEY COUNSEL FOR
composed of Judge Terri F. Love, Judge Joy Cossich Lobrano,
Judge Tiffany G. Chase
TIFFANY G. CHASE JUDGE
a civil service case. Randi Gant (hereinafter "Sgt.
Gant") appeals the June 6, 2019 judgment of the Civil
Service Commission (hereinafter "the Commission")
which upheld her dismissal by the New Orleans Police
Department (hereinafter "the NOPD"). After
consideration of the record before this Court and the
applicable law, we affirm the decision of the Commission.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Gant, a fifteen-year veteran of the NOPD, was assigned to an
administrative position within the NOPD's Investigation
and Support Bureau (hereinafter "ISB"). Her duties
included fleet management wherein she was responsible for
tracking and reporting the mileage of city owned vehicles
assigned to ISB personnel. In addition, Sgt. Gant was
responsible for monitoring compliance with NOPD's
policies regarding take-home vehicles.
Policy 705.2 of the NOPD Policy Manual mandates that a
"take-home vehicle shall not be assigned to an employee
when the one-way driving distance from the employee's
actual domicile to the employee's primary reporting to
work site is greater than 40 miles." NOPD Policy 705.2
also mandates that "[a] department member assigned a
take home vehicle shall complete a City of New Orleans Take
Home Vehicle Add/Delete/Change Form" (hereinafter
"take-home vehicle form"). A payroll deduction is
required for use of a take-home vehicle and an accompanying
policy of the City of New Orleans sets the rates at which
employees, who make use of a take-home vehicle, receive a
deduction in their payroll. Employees who live within 0-20
miles of their work site receives a $24.04 weekly deduction
while employees who live greater than twenty miles from their
work site receive a $72.12 weekly deduction.
Gant is married to Victor Gant (also a sergeant in the NOPD)
and, since 2007, the couple maintained a marital residence in
Covington (hereinafter "the marital residence").
The ISB offices are located at 715 South Broad Street in New
Orleans. The parties stipulated the distance between the
marital residence and the ISB offices is greater than forty
or 2014, Sgt. Gant's husband was added to the lease on an
apartment rented by one of his friends on Emerald Forest
Boulevard (hereinafter "the Emerald Forest
address"). The parties stipulated that the Emerald
Forest address is less than forty miles from the ISB offices.
Sgt. Gant's husband testified that he would occasionally
stay at this apartment to better respond to emergency calls
to report to duty although he acknowledged the marital
residence was his primary address. He confirmed that Sgt.
Gant never lived at the Emerald Forest address and that her
name did not appear on the lease. He further testified that
Sgt. Gant never had a key although she did have an access
card to the apartment complex's parking lot. In September
2015, the lease ended and Sgt. Gant's husband no longer
had access to the Emerald Forest address.
30, 2016, Sgt. Gant executed a take-home vehicle form. She
listed her address as the Emerald Forest address. Sgt. Gant
signed and initialed the form affirming she was aware of the
policies regarding take-home vehicles and that the one-way
driving distance between her actual domicile and her primary
work site was 37.4 miles.
2018, Sgt. Gant was investigated for irregularities in the
NOPD's payroll system regarding her take-home vehicle.
Lt. Precious Banks (hereinafter "Lt. Banks") of the
NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau conducted the
investigation. The three charges investigated were premised
on Rule 4, Paragraph 2 (Instructions from an Authoritative
Source) with one charge pertaining to take-home vehicles.
During the course of the investigation, Lt. Banks confirmed
that Sgt. Gant did not reside at the Emerald Forest address.
Lt. Banks further discovered that Sgt. Gant had been using
the log-in of a subordinate to access the NOPD's payroll
system and enter mileage ranges associated with her take-home
vehicle. Sgt. Gant had manually selected the 0-20
miles range option instead of the 20-40 miles range option.
When giving her statement to Lt. Banks, Sgt. Gant contended
the erroneous payroll entries were an unintentional mistake,
and filed a series of payroll adjustment forms to repay the
monetary amounts that should have been properly deducted from
August 31, 2018, Sgt. Gant was issued a Notice to the Accused
of Completed Investigation and Notice of Pre-Disciplinary
Hearing form. Lt. Banks recommended that the original Rule 4,
Paragraph 2 charges be dismissed. Three additional charges
were also listed: 1) Rule 4, Performance of Duty, Paragraph
2: Instructions from an Authoritative Source (NOPD Policy 705
Take Home Vehicles); 2) Rule 6: Official Information, Paragraph
2: False or Inaccurate Reports (City of New Orleans Take Home
Vehicle Add/Delete/Change Form and NOPD Vehicle Inventory
Reporting Form); and 3) Rule 6: Official Information,
Paragraph 2: False or Inaccurate Reports (ADP Payroll
Records, 44 payroll periods). Lt. Banks recommended these
charges be sustained.
November 14, 2018, the NOPD conducted a Superintendent's
Disciplinary Committee pre-disciplinary hearing. The NOPD did
not sustain the Rule 4, Paragraph 2 charge. However, it
sustained the Rule 6, Paragraph 2 charges as to the take-home
vehicle form and payroll entries. The penalty for these
violations was dismissal. Sgt. Gant appealed this decision to
the Civil Service Commission.
hearing was conducted by a Civil Service Commission Hearing
Examiner at which testimony was heard from Sgt. Gant, her
husband, Lt. Banks, Deputy Superintendent John Thomas
(hereinafter "Deputy Superintendent Thomas"),
former Deputy Superintendent Rannie Mushatt (hereinafter
"Deputy Superintendent Mushatt"). Evidence
introduced into the record included the take-home vehicle
form, documentation of the investigation and resulting
discipline, and the NOPD's rules, policies, and penalty
matrix. On June 6, 2019, the Commission rendered its decision
denying Sgt. Gant's appeal. Sgt. Gant filed her appeal to
courts review an appeal of a decision by the Civil Service
Commission under a multifaceted standard of review.
In Banks v. New Orleans Police Dep't.,
2001-0859, p. 3 (La.App. 4 Cir. 9/25/02), 829 So.2d 511,
513-14, we articulated the standard of review in civil
service cases. First, the review by appellate courts of the
factual findings in a civil service case is governed by the
manifest error or clearly erroneous standard. Second, when
the Commission's decision involves jurisdiction,
procedure, and interpretation of laws or regulations,
judicial review is not limited to the arbitrary, capricious,
or abuse of discretion standard. Instead, on legal issues,
appellate courts give no special weight to the findings of
the trial court, but exercise their constitutional duty to
review questions of law and render judgment on the record. A
legal error occurs when a trial court applies the incorrect
principles of law and such errors are prejudicial. Finally, a
mixed question of fact and law should be accorded great
deference by appellate courts under the manifest error
standard of review. See Stern v. New Orleans City
Planning Comm'n, 2003-0817, pp. 5-6 (La.App. 4 Cir.
9/17/03), 859 So.2d 696, 699-700.
Russell v. Mosquito Control Bd., 2006-0346, pp. 7-8
(La.App. 4 Cir. 9/27/06), 941 So.2d 634, 639-40.
Gant presents three assignments of error on appeal. The first
two assignments of error relate to the substantive findings
of the Commission challenging the existence of cause for Sgt.
Gant's dismissal and that her dismissal was commensurate
with the offense. The third assignment of error is a
procedural challenge wherein Sgt. Gant seeks to have her
dismissal declared an absolute nullity. We organize our
discussion of these assignments of error into two sections,
addressing the procedural challenge first.
Gant argues that because the NOPD did not comply with the
notice requirements of La. R.S. 40:2531(B)(1),  her discipline of
dismissal should be deemed an absolute nullity pursuant to
La. R.S. 40:2531(C). At the Commission hearing, the following