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Markus Jahr v. District of Columbia Office of Employee Appeals

May 12, 2011

MARKUS JAHR, PETITIONER,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA OFFICE OF EMPLOYEE APPEALS, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CA-2215-07) (Hon. Odessa F. Vincent, Trial Judge)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Washington, Chief Judge:

Argued April 22, 2010

(Amended May 26, 2011)

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, and FISHER and BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, Associate Judges.

Petitioner, Markus Jahr, was terminated from his position as a paramedic with the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department ("Department") for dishonesty and inexcusable neglect of duty. On appeal from an order by the Superior Court affirming the decision of the Board of the Office of Employee Appeals ("OEA") to uphold his termination, Jahr contends that the Superior Court erred in ruling that the District was not bound by a prior decision of the Office of Unemployment Compensation that found that his conduct did not constitute misconduct sufficient to deny him unemployment compensation benefits. Jahr also contends that the Superior Court's order was based on factual findings by the OEA that are not supported by substantial evidence in the record. We disagree and affirm the Superior Court's conclusion that (1) the OEA properly denied the application of preclusive effect to rulings made in the prior unemployment compensation proceeding; and (2) the OEA's decision to terminate Jahr is based on substantial evidence in the record.

I. FACTUAL SUMMARY

A. The Personal Errand.

Jahr worked as an Ambulance Crew Member-Aide paramedic and was assigned to an Advanced Life Support ambulance, Medic Number 18, which provides emergency medical care to injured persons in the District of Columbia. Jahr's responsibilities included administering complex medication and performing advanced emergency medical procedures.

At approximately 4:10 p.m., on January 1, 1999, Jahr and his partner, Robert Aronson, were dispatched to a motor vehicle accident. As the Ambulance Crew Member-In-Charge, Aronson was the driver of the ambulance. Around 4:16 p.m., the medic unit reported by radio to the Department's Communication Division that it had arrived at the scene of the accident. At 4:36 p.m., the unit reported that it had successfully transported the accident victim to the Washington Hospital Center ("WHC"). Pursuant to Department policy, all units are to "immediately return to their respective quarters by the most direct route as soon as they have cleared their assigned response." Notwithstanding this policy, once finished at the hospital, Aronson indicated to Jahr that he needed to fill a personal prescription at a pharmacy. The ambulance proceeded to the Target Store located at the Potomac Yards Shopping Center in Alexandria, Virginia. At 5:25 p.m., while Jahr and his partner were in the Target Store, the ambulance was spotted in the shopping center parking lot by a former employee of the Department who reported the ambulance's location to Lieutenant John Clayton.

At 5:30 p.m., the Department made efforts to locate the ambulance. EMS shift commander, Captain Jerome Stack, contacted the WHC Emergency Department to verify the location of Medic 18. The WHC emergency medical representative responded that Medic 18 was not at WHC. Captain Stack then sent a Lieutenant to WHC, who searched the premises but could not find the ambulance. All attempts to contact Medic 18 through radio proved unsuccessful at that time.

At 5:41 p.m., Jahr contacted the Department's Communications Division to request additional time to retrieve Medic 18's clipboard, which he stated was left at WHC.*fn1 When asked his current location, Jahr stated, "We are located at the Washington Hospital Center." When told that the ambulance was not at WHC, and that a Lieutenant was at the site looking for Medic 18, Jahr insisted that the unit was at the hospital complex. An additional search at WHC found no sign of the ambulance. Jahr later admitted that he was in Alexandria, Virginia with Aronson running a personal errand at the time that the former employee reported seeing Medic 18 at the Target store.

As a result of this incident, Jahr was officially terminated on May 7, 1999, for "dishonesty" and "inexcusable neglect of duty."*fn2 This was Jahr's second instance of dishonesty.*fn3

B. Unemployment Compensation.

While Jahr's appeal of his termination was pending before the OEA, he applied for unemployment benefits with the District of Columbia Office of Unemployment Compensation. Jahr's application for unemployment benefits was initially denied. He appealed and on July 15, 1999, a hearing was held before Appeals Examiner N. Denise Wilson-Taylor, Esq. At the conclusion of the hearing, the appeals examiner found, inter alia, that Jahr was not the driver of the ambulance, and while he exercised bad judgment by ...


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