November 16, 2018
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CAP-4119-16), (Hon. Jeanette J. Clark, Associate Judge),
(Hon. Robert R. Rigsby, Associate Judge)
A. Branch for appellant.
Pittman, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Karl A.
Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Loren
L. Alikhan, Solicitor General, and Stacy L. Anderson, Acting
Deputy Solicitor General, were on the brief, for appellee.
Glickman and Easterly, Associate Judges, and Steadman, Senior
Appellant Yordanos Sium challenges her termination for cause
by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education
("OSSE"). We first conclude that Ms. Siums failure
to file an appeal to the Office of Employee Appeals
("OEA") within thirty days, as specified in D.C.
Code § 1-606.03(a) (2016 Repl.), did not deprive OEA of
jurisdiction to hear her case. We further conclude that,
because the OEA Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
decided not to conduct an evidentiary hearing even though the
parties briefing disputed material facts, the OEA Board
abused its discretion in denying Ms. Siums petition for
review. We therefore vacate and remand.
Sium worked as a school bus driver for OSSE. In January 2011,
her bus made contact with an illegally parked vehicle. She
did not exit her bus and instead left the scene. The
incident, which was recorded on videotape, was reported to
OSSE, and an investigator interviewed Ms. Sium the following
day. According to the investigators report, Ms. Sium
initially told the investigator that she had not made contact
with the illegally parked vehicle, but after the investigator
informed her that she had been seen making contact, she
"changed her story" and apologized. OSSE cleared
Ms. Sium to return to work about a week after the collision.
Almost three months after the incident, OSSE sent Ms. Sium a
notice of proposed termination. It then informed Ms. Sium
that she was terminated for cause in mid-April
2011. By statute, Ms. Sium had thirty days
to appeal her termination to OEA, see D.C. Code §
1-606.03(a), although OSSE did not specify this in its
termination letter. Ms. Sium filed her pro se appeal in
August 2013, using what appears to be an OEA form. No
question on the form asked if Ms. Sium wanted an evidentiary
moved to dismiss Ms. Siums OEA appeal, asserting her failure
to file within the requisite thirty-day timeframe deprived
OEA of jurisdiction. The OEA ALJ did not explicitly rule on
this motion and instead ordered briefing on the merits. In
its brief, OSSE explained that the Division of Transportation
had justifiably terminated Ms. Sium after "conclud[ing]
that Ms. Siums behavior, including hitting a parked car,
fleeing the scene, and lying to the investigator, presented a
threat to the efficiency and discipline of the school
system." The agency also asserted that this was Ms.
Siums second "preventable" collision within twelve
months, although it provided no detail about the earlier
incident and engaged in no analysis of why either collision
was, in its view, "preventable." In her pro se
brief in response, Ms. Sium argued inter alia that
OSSE had "cleared" her after the January 2011
collision and permitted her to return to work. She further
asserted that "[c]ritical facts" alleged by OSSE
had not been "determined conclusively" in its
investigation; in particular, she challenged ...