Chilton County Board of Education v. Benita Cahalane Reversed And Remanded.

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rel: 08/24/2012 Notice: T h i s o p i n i o n i s s u b j e c t t o formal r e v i s i o n b e f o r e p u b l i c a t i o n i n t h e advance s h e e t s o f Southern R e p o r t e r . R e a d e r s a r e r e q u e s t e d t o n o t i f y t h e R e p o r t e r o f D e c i s i o n s , Alabama A p p e l l a t e C o u r t s , 300 D e x t e r A v e n u e , M o n t g o m e r y , A l a b a m a 3 6 1 0 4 - 3 7 4 1 ((334) 2 2 9 - 0 6 4 9 ) , o f a n y t y p o g r a p h i c a l o r o t h e r e r r o r s , i n o r d e r t h a t c o r r e c t i o n s may b e made b e f o r e t h e o p i n i o n i s p r i n t e d i n Southern R e p o r t e r . ALABAMA COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS SPECIAL TERM, 2012 2110532 C h i l t o n County Board o f Education v. B e n i t a Cahalane THOMPSON, P r e s i d i n g J u d g e . The Chilton County Board appeals a d e c i s i o n of a hearing of Education ("the B o a r d " ) o f f i c e r r e v e r s i n g the Board's d e c i s i o n t o suspend i t s employee, D r . B e n i t a Cahalane, f o r 9 0 days w i t h o u t pay. appeal occurred The e v e n t s that a f t e r J u l y 1, 2011, S t u d e n t s F i r s t A c t ("the form the basis of this the e f f e c t i v e date o f t h e S F A " ) , § 16-24C-1 e t s e q . , A l a . Code 2110532 1975, which, among o t h e r t h i n g s , former F a i r D i s m i s s a l Act e t s e q . , A l a . Code 1975. r e p e a l e d and replaced the ("the FDA"), see f o r m e r § 36-26-100 See § 16-24C-14, A l a . Code 1975 e f f e c t i v e d a t e o f t h e SFA i s J u l y 1, (the 2011). I t i s u n d i s p u t e d t h a t Cahalane i s a " c l a s s i f i e d employee" o f t h e B o a r d as t h a t t e r m i s d e f i n e d u n d e r because of her length of service with t h e SFA the Board, a t t a i n e d the s t a t u s of " n o n p r o b a t i o n a r y employee." 2 4 C - 3 ( 2 ) , A l a . Code 1975 § 16-24C-4(2) terms of (setting forth the the status). rights of the conditions she has See § 16- for attaining We n o t e t h a t t h e SFA parties employment i s " t e r m i n a t e d " p u r s u a n t t o t h a t SFA, that, ( d e f i n i n g " c l a s s i f i e d e m p l o y e e " ) ; and nonprobationary-employee in and when a act. speaks person's Under the h o w e v e r , a s u s p e n s i o n w i t h o u t p a y o f t h e employment o f a n o n p r o b a t i o n a r y e m p l o y e e f o r more t h a n 20 d a y s i s subject to r e v i e w u n d e r t h e SFA i n t h e same manner as i s a t e r m i n a t i o n of employment. The the § 1 6 - 2 4 C - 6 ( I ) , A l a . Code 1975. r e c o r d i n d i c a t e s t h a t on J u l y 26, 2011, superintendent of the Chilton County Dave Hayden, schools, acting p u r s u a n t t o § 1 6 - 2 4 C - 6 ( c ) o f t h e SFA, n o t i f i e d C a h a l a n e o f h i s intention t o recommend t h a t the Board 2 suspend her from her 2110532 employment violation for 90 days without pay; that o f B o a r d p o l i c y as t h e r e a s o n notice f o r the Cahalane t i m e l y c o n t e s t e d t h a t suspension, 6(c), and the Board evidence. conducted the Board a suspension. see § 16-24C- a h e a r i n g at which On S e p t e m b e r 20, 2011, cited i t received issued a decision u p h o l d i n g t h e s u p e r i n t e n d e n t ' s r e c o m m e n d a t i o n t h a t C a h a l a n e be suspended without pay f o r 90 seeking days. review a Cahalane by Board's decision, pursuant t o § 16-24C-6(e) o f t h e a appealed hearing the officer SFA. The h e a r i n g o f f i c e r c o n d u c t e d the a h e a r i n g at which i t heard arguments r e c e i v e d no February reversing of 6, the p a r t i e s 2012, the the decision appealed pursuant but hearing of the officer Board. evidence. issued The t o § 16-24C-12, A l a . Code a which the e d u c a t i o n are l a r g e l y undisputed. field for approximately decision Board timely 1975. The e v i d e n c e p r e s e n t e d t o t h e B o a r d r e v e a l s t h e facts, On following C a h a l a n e has w o r k e d i n 30 y e a r s , and b e e n e m p l o y e d by t h e B o a r d f o r a p p r o x i m a t e l y 20 y e a r s . time of the i n c i d e n t t h a t g i v e s r i s e to t h i s appeal, she has At the Cahalane was e m p l o y e d as t h e B o a r d ' s c o o r d i n a t o r f o r s p e c i a l e d u c a t i o n , and her office was located in 3 the Board's main office 2110532 building. I t i s undisputed that the Board forbidding the possession of i l l e g a l drugs has a policy on t h e B o a r d ' s property. On t h e m o r n i n g of July 21, 2011, Cahalane discovered a s m a l l bag c o n t a i n i n g a green, l e a f y substance i n h e r v e h i c l e . Cahalane testified borrowed the vehicle, Cahalane parked that her daughter, history removed t h e s u b s t a n c e f r o m h e r v e h i c l e , w h i c h was employee p a r k i n g Once i n h e r o f f i c e , of recently problems. into her o f f i c e . a had drug i n t h e Board's had who l o t , and c a r r i e d i t Cahalane p l a c e d t h e bag c o n t a i n i n g the substance i n a p r e s c r i p t i o n - m e d i c a t i o n bottle b e a r i n g h e r name a n d t h e name o f a m e d i c a t i o n t h a t h a d b e e n prescribed to her. I t i s u n d i s p u t e d t h a t , because o f h e r daughter's h i s t o r y of drug police use, Cahalane station intended t o take the substance for testing. While i n her o f f i c e to a on t h e m o r n i n g o f J u l y 2 1 , 2 0 1 1 , C a h a l a n e showed t h e s u b s t a n c e t o a c o w o r k e r , Mandy V a r d e n , s u b s t a n c e was m a r i j u a n a . Cahalane nor Varden marijuana. and asked Varden The r e c o r d was c e r t a i n i f she t h o u g h t t h e indicates whether that neither t h e s u b s t a n c e was Cahalane i n f o r m e d Varden t h a t she p l a n n e d t o t a k e 4 2110532 the substance t o the p o l i c e s t a t i o n d u r i n g her lunch hour t o determine Varden whether testified the that substance was, in she w a r n e d C a h a l a n e fact, that marijuana. i f she were c a u g h t w i t h t h e s u b s t a n c e i n h e r p u r s e o r i n h e r v e h i c l e , she c o u l d go t o jail. L a t e r on t h e m o r n i n g o f J u l y 21, 2011, C a h a l a n e a telephone c a l l from her d o c t o r doctor's office to discuss Cahalane explained that asking received h e r t o come t o t h e t h e r e s u l t s o f some b l o o d she has a serious liver work; condition. Cahalane t e s t i f i e d t h a t , a f t e r r e c e i v i n g t h a t telephone c a l l , she a r r a n g e d t o l e a v e h e r o f f i c e a t 11:30 off work t o c o n s u l t h e r d o c t o r . t o t a k e "a h a l f d a y " Cahalane l e f t her o f f i c e to a t t e n d t h a t d o c t o r ' s a p p o i n t m e n t , b u t she l e f t t h e p i l l b o t t l e c o n t a i n i n g the substance i n a drawer i n her o f f i c e V a r d e n t e s t i f i e d t h a t l a t e r on t h e a f t e r n o o n desk. o f J u l y 21, 2011, she became c o n c e r n e d t h a t , b e c a u s e o f t h e B o a r d ' s d r u g p o l i c y , h e r employment m i g h t be h a d k n o w l e d g e t h a t t h e s u b s t a n c e was terminated because i n the Board's anti¬ she offices. Therefore, V a r d e n s t a t e d , she i n f o r m e d a n o t h e r c o w o r k e r , P a u l a Thornton, that Varden Cahalane had and T h o r n t o n v e r i f i e d shown that 5 the substance to her. the substance remained i n 2110532 C a h a l a n e ' s o f f i c e , and T h o r n t o n i n f o r m e d W i l l i e Mae W h i t e , t h e a s s i s t a n t s u p e r i n t e n d e n t o f the C h i l t o n County S c h o o l s , o f the presence o f the substance i n Cahalane's office. White, i n t u r n , n o t i f i e d Hayden, who c a l l e d p o l i c e c h i e f B r i a n S t i l w e l l . Hayden, S t i l w e l l , and a n a r c o t i c s o f f i c e r w i t h a d r u g - s n i f f i n g dog met a t t h e B o a r d ' s m a i n o f f i c e s on t h e e v e n i n g o f J u l y 21, 2011, and testified the that dog alerted on Cahalane's t h e s u b s t a n c e was desk. not v i s i b l e Stilwell on Cahalane's d e s k and t h a t , b e c a u s e t h e y were n o t c e r t a i n t h e y h a d p r o b a b l e cause to conduct a search, drawers of Cahalane's The the o f f i c e r s d i d not search the desk. n e x t m o r n i n g , J u l y 22, 2011, Hayden met and T h o r n t o n , and he t h e n met w i t h C a h a l a n e . with Varden Hayden t e s t i f i e d t h a t he t o l d C a h a l a n e t h a t he h a d b e e n i n f o r m e d t h a t she something i n her o f f i c e Cahalane responded, "You c h a r a c t e r i z e d Cahalane she l e f t that s h o u l d n o t be mean the there, marijuana?". as " f o r t h c o m i n g , " and he and had that Hayden stated that t h e i r m e e t i n g t o go t o h e r o f f i c e and r e t u r n e d with the s u b s t a n c e . A p o l i c e o f f i c e r c a l l e d t o the Board's offices c o n d u c t e d a f i e l d t e s t on t h e s u b s t a n c e and c o n f i r m e d t h a t i t was m a r i j u a n a . 6 2110532 At the h e a r i n g b e f o r e the Board, Cahalane explained that she had p l a n n e d t o t a k e t h e s u b s t a n c e t o t h e p o l i c e t o have i t tested to determine drugs. Cahalane whether her daughter was again using s t a t e d , h o w e v e r , t h a t she h a d n o t w a n t e d t o a s k t o l e a v e w o r k b e c a u s e she h a d t a k e n a number o f d a y s o f f w o r k b e c a u s e o f h e r h e a l t h c o n d i t i o n and she d i d n o t want t o miss she any more w o r k . had not m a r i j u a n a and known Cahalane with that, " i f also testified, certainty that the however, that substance was [ s h e had] even thought t h a t i t was" m a r i j u a n a , she w o u l d have i m m e d i a t e l y t a k e n t h e s u b s t a n c e to have i t t e s t e d a t t h e p o l i c e s t a t i o n , e v e n i f t h a t r e s u l t e d i n her having to take time o f f work. On q u e s t i o n i n g by the s u p e r i n t e n d e n t , Cahalane admitted t h a t she c o u l d have a s k e d t o l e a v e w o r k t o have t h e substance t e s t e d . Cahalane admitted that the s u p e r i n t e n d e n t had r e f u s e d h e r r e q u e s t s t o l e a v e w o r k and never t h a t she b e l i e v e d w o u l d have a l l o w e d h e r t o do so h a d she a s k e d . She a l s o he later s t a t e d t h a t she " c o u l d n o t have t o l d [ t h e s u p e r i n t e n d e n t ] t h a t it was marijuana because then police." 7 [he] would have called the 2110532 Cahalane s t a t e d t h a t s h e "made a b a d d e c i s i o n " i n t a k i n g the substance i n t o h e r o f f i c e a t t h e Board's main o f f i c e . also stated that she b e l i e v e d that She t h e s u b s t a n c e was more s e c u r e i n h e r o f f i c e a t t h e Board's main o f f i c e than i t would have b e e n i f s h e h a d l e f t i t i n h e r v e h i c l e . Cahalane o u t t h a t i t w o u l d a l s o have b e e n a v i o l a t i o n pointed of Board p o l i c y t o l e a v e t h e s u b s t a n c e i n h e r v e h i c l e , w h i c h was p a r k e d on t h e B o a r d ' s p r o p e r t y on t h e m o r n i n g o f J u l y 21, 2011. S t i l w e l l t e s t i f i e d that Cahalane's daughter admitted that she l e f t t h e s u b s t a n c e i n C a h a l a n e ' s v e h i c l e a n d t h a t he f o u n d t h a t a d m i s s i o n t o be c r e d i b l e . S t i l w e l l t e s t i f i e d t h a t , based on h i s i n v e s t i g a t i o n , he b e l i e v e d the substance from her vehicle daughter about h e r drug use. t h a t Cahalane so s h e c o u l d h a d removed confront her According to S t i l w e l l , Cahalane had i n f o r m e d h i m t h a t h e r d a u g h t e r had t e s t e d p o s i t i v e f o r t h e u s e o f m a r i j u a n a on a "home" d r u g t e s t a d m i n i s t e r e d d u r i n g t h e weekend b e f o r e t h e J u l y 21, 2 0 1 1 , i n c i d e n t . Stilwell test, that, i n response t o t h e r e s u l t s o f t h e home her daughter had i n s i s t e d synthetic marijuana that Cahalane had t o l d that drug she had u s e d a form o f was l e g a l i n A l a b a m a a t t h e t i m e . 8 2110532 S t i l w e l l t e s t i f i e d , h o w e v e r , t h a t s y n t h e t i c m a r i j u a n a does n o t contain s u b s t a n c e s t h a t make i t d e t e c t a b l e In response testified Cahalane to questioning by on d r u g t e s t s . Cahalane, Stilwell t h a t t h e p o l i c e w o u l d have t e s t e d t h e s u b s t a n c e i f had brought the substance t o the p o l i c e s t a t i o n i n order to a s s i s t her i n seeking use. Stilwell t o stop her daughter's agreed t h a t , t e c h n i c a l l y , Cahalane's drug bringing t h e s u b s t a n c e t o t h e p o l i c e w o u l d mean t h a t she h a d an i l l e g a l substance i n her possession. the However, S t i l w e l l stated that p o l i c e d i d not charge people i n such s i t u a t i o n s because "we have t o u s e common s e n s e sometimes." We n o t e t h a t C a h a l a n e was n o t c h a r g e d w i t h result of Further, had the marijuana i t does n o t a p p e a r Cahalane's Cahalane In having i n her from t h e r e c o r d a c r i m e as a possession. on a p p e a l that c o w o r k e r s o r t h e members o f t h e B o a r d d i s b e l i e v e d that the marijuana belonged t o her daughter. h i s decision, the hearing officer acknowledged that d e f e r e n c e was t o be a f f o r d e d t o t h e d e c i s i o n o f t h e B o a r d , b u t he reversed decision decision, was the Board's decision, concluding a r b i t r a r y and c a p r i c i o u s . the hearing officer found 9 that that that I n reaching that Cahalane d i d not 2110532 i n t e n d t o have an and that she illegal s u b s t a n c e on determined employment was The the that the action, FDA governs and the f o r an a c t i o n by a school hearing," the h e a r i n g Teacher A l a . Code 1975. 2 The f o r m e r FDA custody of the The 36-26-102, A l a . officer enacted a hearing to Act ("the sets SFA forth to review f o r a "de novo a f t e r which t o determine whether the d e c i s i o n Code 1975. or p e r s o n a l Under the reasons." TTA, an a v a i l a b l e under f o r m e r § 36-26-104, A l a . Code 1975, "for p o l i t i c a l a Cahalane's Tenure provided of facts. was b o a r d t h a t were f o r m e r l y o f f i c e r was t h e B o a r d was former employee t o o b t a i n t h e TTA. see this property hearing suspension which procedures and The given T T A " ) , § 16-24-1 e t s e q . , t h e FDA 90-day 1 "manifestly unjust," SFA, replace Board's " a c c i d e n t a l l y found h e r s e l f with s u s p i c i o u s s u b s t a n c e on s c h o o l g r o u n d s . " also the of Former § a teacher could a p p e a l a t r a n s f e r o r a t e r m i n a t i o n o f h i s o r h e r employment t o The B o a r d ' s m a i n o f f i c e s , a t w h i c h C a h a l a n e ' s o f f i c e l o c a t e d , a r e n o t on t h e g r o u n d s o f a s c h o o l . 1 was T h e SFA a l s o s e t s f o r t h p r o c e d u r e s f o r n o t i f y i n g t h e e m p l o y e e o f t h e s c h o o l b o a r d ' s i n t e n d e d a c t i o n and o f i t s decision a f t e r a hearing. See § 16-24C-6. C a h a l a n e does n o t a l l e g e t h a t she d i d n o t r e c e i v e p r o p e r n o t i c e p u r s u a n t t o t h e requirements of the SFA. 2 10 2110532 d e t e r m i n e i f t h a t a c t i o n was " a r b i t r a r i l y u n j u s t . " See f o r m e r § 16-24-7 a n d f o r m e r § 1 6 - 2 4 - 1 0 ( a ) , A l a . Code 1975. U n d e r t h e FDA, a n d u n d e r t h e TTA, t h e h e a r i n g o f f i c e r was t h e f i n d e r o f fact, and the hearing officer's d i s p u t e d f a c t s was e n t i t l e d 962 So. 2d 814, 823-24 16-24-10(a) hearing deferential t o deference. ( A l a . 2007) o f t h e TTA officer regarding See Ex p a r t e (reiterating authorized of a school review decision de board's novo Dunn, t h a t former § review by t h e d e c i s i o n and a f f o r d e d to the d e c i s i o n of the hearing b a s e d on t h e e v i d e n c e the officer i t r e c e i v e d ) ; Montgomery C n t y . Bd. o f E d u c . v. Webb, 53 So. 3d 96, 114 n. 3 ( A l a . C i v . App. 2 0 0 8 ) , rev'd on o t h e r 2009) (under t h e FDA, t h e h e a r i n g fact, g r o u n d s , Ex p a r t e Webb, 53 So. 3d 121 officer (Ala. was t h e f i n d e r o f a n d h i s o r h e r d e c i s i o n was e n t i t l e d t o d e f e r e n c e ) ; s e e a l s o Ex p a r t e C i t y o f B i r m i n g h a m , 7 So. 3d 3 6 3 , 368-69 ( A l a . Civ. App. 2008) (a p a n e l tenus h e a r i n g before deference which the record a hearing o f f i c e r of the hearing the hearing officer from t h e o r e d i d not afford to the d e c i s i o n of the hearing b a s e d on t h a t e v i d e n c e ) . decisions reviewing officer that proper was The a p p e l l a t e c o u r t s r e v i e w e d t h e officers cases, i.e., in was t h e f i n d e r o f f a c t , u n d e r an 11 i n those 2110532 " a r b i t r a r y and 3d a t 127; In § c a p r i c i o u s " standard. Ex p a r t e Dunn, 962 this case, 16-24C-6(c). So. Ex p a r t e Webb, 53 2d a t So. 816-17. the Board conducted a h e a r i n g pursuant The SFA also provides in the the d e c i s i o n of a s c h o o l board; e v e n t an e m p l o y e e a p p e a l s for a hearing to the relevant provision states, i n pertinent p a r t : " E x c e p t as h e r e i n a f t e r p r o v i d e d , t h e a p p e a l s h a l l be submitted to the h e a r i n g o f f i c e r . The hearing o f f i c e r s h a l l h o l d a hearing. Deference i s given to t h e d e c i s i o n o f t h e e m p l o y e r . ... " § 1 6 - 2 4 C - 6 ( e ) , A l a . Code 1975. A t t h e a p p e a l b e f o r e t h e h e a r i n g o f f i c e r , t h e p a r t i e s and the hearing officer discussed whether h e a r i n g b e f o r e the h e a r i n g o f f i c e r presented, argued Rather, the as that had the i t or she FDA was and the SFA authorized at which evidence TTA. might However, n e i t h e r entitled to a de novo presented at the hearing before hearing. the a v a i l a b l e to t e s t i f y should the h e a r i n g n e e d c l a r i f i c a t i o n on any e v i d e n c e matter was submitted of the p a r t i e s , and or i s s u e . to the h e a r i n g o f f i c e r neither party 12 objected. that officer Accordingly, on t h e with Board, although Cahalane's a t t o r n e y a d v i s e d the h e a r i n g o f f i c e r C a h a l a n e was be party b o t h p a r t i e s i n d i c a t e d t h a t t h e y were s a t i s f i e d evidence a the arguments 2110532 The B o a r d a r g u e s on a p p e a l t h a t t h e h e a r i n g o f f i c e r i n r e v e r s i n g i t s d e c i s i o n u n d e r t h e SFA; hearing officer decision. the FDA, fails to afford i t contends t h a t the proper deference to i t s As t h e B o a r d p o i n t s o u t , t h e SFA i s d i f f e r e n t which would have applied to set forth a s p e c i f i c hearing o f f i c e r SFA failed erred specifies "deference" the l e g i s l a t u r e i n that i t standard pursuant to which the i s t o review the d e c i s i o n of the Board. only that i s t o be § 16-24C-6(e). to Cahalane, "a from hearing" be conducted a f f o r d e d to the d e c i s i o n and of the The that Board. With r e g a r d to the i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the SFA, stated: "The r e p e a l e r p r o v i s i o n s o f A c t 2 0 1 1 - 2 7 0 [ , w h i c h enacted the SFA and repealed the FDA,] n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g , and e x c e p t as e x p r e s s l y p r o v i d e d o t h e r w i s e i n t h i s c h a p t e r , t h e t e r m s and p h r a s e s u s e d i n s u b s e c t i o n (a) t o i d e n t i f y t h e r e a s o n s on w h i c h t e r m i n a t i o n may be b a s e d and i n s u b s e c t i o n ( f ) t o d e s c r i b e t h e s t a n d a r d s by w h i c h d e c i s i o n s o f t h e e m p l o y e r a r e t o be r e v i e w e d by h e a r i n g o f f i c e r s s h a l l be deemed t o c a r r y t h e m e a n i n g t r a d i t i o n a l l y a c c o r d e d t h e t e r m s and p h r a s e s by t h e a p p e l l a t e c o u r t s of t h i s s t a t e under p r i o r law." § 1 6 - 2 4 C - 6 ( n ) , A l a . Code 1 9 7 5 . 16-24C-6 does n o t contain 3 However, s u b s e c t i o n a reference to the (f) of § " s t a n d a r d s by T h e s u b s e c t i o n s r e f e r e n c e d i n § 6 o f A c t No. 2011-270, A l a . A c t s 2011, t h e l e g i s l a t i o n t h a t e n a c t e d t h e SFA, a r e i d e n t i c a l t o t h o s e c o d i f i e d a t § 16-24C-6, A l a . Code 1975. 3 13 2110532 w h i c h d e c i s i o n s o f t h e e m p l o y e r a r e t o be r e v i e w e d by officers." Thus, "deference" other than the to the d e c i s i o n of the Board, e n a c t i n g t h e SFA, and hearing o f f i c e r capricious" decision. although its The the l e g i s l a t u r e , i n Board to case a p p l i e d the his that agrees review that of that standard. agrees that the standard I n her hearing Board's brief officer applies, reversal on the Board's decision. Accordingly, appeal, t h i s court w i l l determine properly a p p l i e d the "arbitrary in correctly review resolving whether the h e a r i n g and capricious" of appeal, a p p l i e d t h e " a r b i t r a r y and c a p r i c i o u s " s t a n d a r d t o h i s of the "arbitrary the i t d i s a g r e e s w i t h the h e a r i n g o f f i c e r ' s also affording reviewed. in this standard d e c i s i o n under Cahalane to s e t f o r t h no e x p l i c i t s t a n d a r d by w h i c h a c t i o n s o f t h e B o a r d a r e t o be The reference hearing this officer standard in h i s review of the Board's d e c i s i o n . In from the this case, position r e g a r d t o such the this review, hearing court this officer occupied c o u r t has reviewed under the the matter FDA. With held: "In employing the a r b i t r a r y - a n d - c a p r i c i o u s s t a n d a r d of review, the l e g i s l a t u r e i n t e n d e d t h i s c o u r t t o be ' e x t r e m e l y d e f e r e n t i a l ' t o t h e h e a r i n g o f f i c e r ' s d e c i s i o n i n an FDA c a s e . See Ex p a r t e 14 2110532 Dunn, 962 So. 2d 814, 816 ( A l a . 2007) ( c o n s t r u i n g a r b i t r a r y - a n d - c a p r i c i o u s s t a n d a r d o f r e v i e w mandated by T e a c h e r T e n u r e A c t ) . As o u r supreme c o u r t h a s stated: " ' [ T ] h e r e v i e w i n g c o u r t may n o t s u b s t i t u t e its judgment f o r that of the hearing officer. ... [ w ] h e r e " r e a s o n a b l e p e o p l e c o u l d d i f f e r as t o t h e wisdom o f a h e a r i n g o f f i c e r ' s d e c i s i o n [ , ] ... t h e d e c i s i o n i s not a r b i t r a r y . " " ' " I f t h e d e c i s i o n - m a k e r has '"examined t h e r e l e v a n t d a t a a n d articulated a satisfactory explanation f o r i t s action, including a 'rational connection between t h e f a c t s found and t h e c h o i c e made,'"' i t s d e c i s i o n i s not a r b i t r a r y . See A l a b a m a Dep't o f Human R e s . v. Dye, 921 So. 2d [421, 426 ( A l a . C i v . App. 2 0 0 5 ) ] ( q u o t i n g Prometheus R a d i o P r o j e c t v. FCC, 373 F.3d [372, 389 (3d Cir. 2004)] (quoting i n turn B u r l i n g t o n T r u c k L i n e s , I n c . v. U n i t e d S t a t e s , 371 U.S. 156, 168 (1962)))."' "Ex p a r t e Dunn, 962 So. 2d a t 816-17 (quoting with a p p r o v a l , b u t r e v e r s i n g on o t h e r g r o u n d s , B o a r d o f Sch. Comm'rs o f M o b i l e C o u n t y v . Dunn, 962 So. 2d 805, 809, 810 ( A l a . C i v . App. 2 0 0 6 ) ) . Pursuant t o the a r b i t r a r y - a n d - c a p r i c i o u s standard of review, t h i s c o u r t may ' d i s a g r e e w i t h t h e w i s d o m o f t h e d e c i s i o n , [but] we may n o t s u b s t i t u t e o u r j u d g m e n t for that of the hearing o f f i c e r . ' Ex p a r t e Dunn, 962 So. 2d a t 823-24." Bishop State Civ. Cmty. C o l l . App. 2 0 0 8 ) . As v. Thomas, 13 So. 3d 978, 986 ( A l a . noted above, 15 o u r supreme court has 2110532 s t a t e d t h a t , "[w]here 'reasonable people c o u l d d i f f e r as t o t h e w i s d o m o f a h e a r i n g o f f i c e r ' s d e c i s i o n [ , ] ... t h e d e c i s i o n i s not a r b i t r a r y . ' " Ex p a r t e Dunn, 962 So. 2d a t 816 ( q u o t i n g w i t h a p p r o v a l B o a r d o f S c h . Comm'rs o f M o b i l e 962 So. 2d a t 809, r e v ' d on o t h e r g r o u n d s ) ; Coll. Ex parte evidence the v. Dunn, B i s h o p S t a t e Cmty. v. Thomas, 13 So. 3d a t 986. In b o t h B i s h o p and Cnty. S t a t e Community C o l l e g e v. Thomas, Dunn, supra, a n d was t h e t r i e r hearing officer's the hearing of f a c t , decision officer received and t h e c o u r t s based on that reviewed receipt evidence under the a r b i t r a r y - a n d - c a p r i c i o u s s t a n d a r d . case, the Board r e c e i v e d evidence The h e a r i n g o f f i c e r was a s k e d b a s e d on t h a t e v i d e n c e . officer i n this decision different of a n d was t h e t r i e r of fact. t o review the Board's d e c i s i o n Thus, as i n d i c a t e d a b o v e , t h e h e a r i n g the Board, than of In t h i s c a s e was r e q u i r e d t o a f f o r d d e f e r e n c e result supra, even i f he d i d the Board. would have to the reached § 16-24C-6(e); a Bishop S t a t e Cmty. C o l l . v. Thomas, s u p r a ; Ex p a r t e Dunn, s u p r a . In o t h e r words, t h e h e a r i n g o f f i c e r i n t h i s case d i d n o t r e c e i v e evidence, before and, i n reviewing the Board, the record of the he was i n no b e t t e r p o s i t i o n 16 proceeding than i s this 2110532 court t o review presentation t h e d e c i s i o n reached by t h e Board a f t e r t h e of evidence. The B o a r d c o n t e n d s , among o t h e r o f f i c e r erred i n determining Board's a n t i - d r u g p o l i c y . must be a f f o r d e d things, that the hearing t h a t i n t e n t was an e l e m e n t o f t h e As t h e B o a r d p o i n t s o u t , d e f e r e n c e t o the Board's i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f i t s own p o l i c y , i f that i n t e r p r e t a t i o n i s reasonable. of S c h . Commr's 2001). of Mobile (Ala. a copy o f i t s However, t h e f a c t t h a t t h e B o a r d ' s p o l i c y is a "zero-tolerance" p o l i c y , i . e . , one t h a t p r o h i b i t s d r u g s c o n t r o l l e d substances reason, Board 824 So. 2d 759, 761 The B o a r d d i d n o t s u b m i t as e v i d e n c e anti-drug policy. or Cnty., Ex p a r t e was n o t i n d i s p u t e . on the Board's The t e s t i m o n y premises f o r any of the witnesses, i n c l u d i n g C a h a l a n e , a l l o f whom were e m p l o y e e s o f t h e B o a r d , i n d i c a t e s that those witnesses understood that i l l e g a l drugs were n o t a l l o w e d t o be b r o u g h t o n t o t h e B o a r d ' s p r o p e r t y . findings i n the hearing hearing officer effectively hearing o f f i c e r ' s decision i n d i c a t e that the acknowledged that h a d no p r o v i s i o n r e g a r d i n g interpretation of The i t spolicy was the Board's policy i n t e n t and t h a t i t s not unreasonable: the o f f i c e r s t a t e d i n h i s F e b r u a r y 6, 2012, d e c i s i o n t h a t 17 2110532 "[f]or the superintendent zero-tolerance alone, [anti-drug] erroneous." We and t h e B o a r d t o s t r i c t l y policy agree and r u l e with that apply a i s not, standing finding, a n d we c o n c l u d e t h a t t h e B o a r d ' s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f i t s own a n t i - d r u g p o l i c y as a " z e r o - t o l e r a n c e " p o l i c y was n o t u n r e a s o n a b l e . p a r t e B o a r d o f S c h . Commr's o f M o b i l e However, determination policy regardless that forbidding erroneous, the illegal hearing officer's o f i t s own drugs officer supra. interpretation the Board's the hearing used by S t i l w e l l of Cnty., Ex on then i n h i s testimony, i t sproperty was n o t stated, c i t i n g a phrase that t h e B o a r d must u s e "common s e n s e " i n a p p l y i n g i t s a n t i - d r u g p o l i c y . The h e a r i n g o f f i c e r concluded extenuating circumstances t h a t because of t h e p u r p o r t e d l y of t h i s case, the Board erred z e r o - t o l e r a n c e p o l i c y t o d i s c i p l i n e Cahalane. however, i n applying By i t s t e r m s , a "common-sense" a p p r o a c h a l l o w i n g e x c e p t i o n s disciplinary rule the interpretation, Board's reasonable, under c e r t a i n facts which drugs. because i t s i n t e r p r e t a t i o n to a may n o t be a p p l i e d t o we have determined i s of i t s zero-tolerance p o l i c y concerning substances and i l l e g a l a controlled We a g r e e w i t h t h e B o a r d t h a t , o f i t s own a n t i - d r u g p o l i c y 18 as a 2110532 zero-tolerance p o l i c y i s reasonable, in concluding must be that considered the h e a r i n g o f f i c e r fact-dependent exceptions and to that erred policy t h a t the Board e r r e d i n f a i l i n g to do so. Furthermore, even assuming that the hearing c o r r e c t l y determined t h a t the Board's z e r o - t o l e r a n c e policy required a showing of intent and was officer anti-drug subject "common-sense" e x c e p t i o n , we c o n c l u d e t h a t t h e h e a r i n g erred was i n determining that the i n reaching "without i n t e n t i o n t o p o s s e s s a c o n t r o l l e d s u b s t a n c e " and making on those school grounds." determinations, appropriate deference evidence i t received. The evidence before Cahalane d i d not that that Cahalane " a c c i d e n t a l l y found h e r s e l f w i t h custody of a substance give found case hearing officer, she decision, The the daughter. As The the to Board hearing i t s decision in failed to on the agree. t h e B o a r d does t e n d t o i n d i c a t e t h a t i n t e n d t o have m a r i j u a n a i n h e r v e h i c l e m a r i j u a n a was that that, based i s e x p l a i n e d b e l o w , we was suspicious argues officer a officer Board's d e c i s i o n i n t h i s a r b i t r a r y and c a p r i c i o u s , g i v e n t h e e v i d e n c e . his to placed i n Cahalane's v e h i c l e by However, as t h e B o a r d d e t e r m i n e d , t h e 19 and her i n c i d e n t of 2110532 J u l y 21, 2 0 1 1 , was c a u s e d b y C a h a l a n e ' s It i s not clear the substance from a c t i o n s and c h o i c e s . the r e c o r d whether Cahalane i n her vehicle before or after discovered she a r r i v e d on the Board's p r o p e r t y , b u t Varden's t e s t i m o n y i n d i c a t e s t h a t i t might have property. o c c u r r e d b e f o r e Cahalane Varden testified: arrived "[Cahalane] on t h e B o a r d ' s told me g o i n g t o [ t a k e t h e s u b s t a n c e t o have i t t e s t e d ] t h a t she was morning b e f o r e she came i n b u t t h a t she was r u n n i n g l a t e a n d d i d n o t do i t . " she Cahalane's t e s t i m o n y does n o t c l e a r l y i n d i c a t e when d i s c o v e r e d the substance i n her v e h i c l e . Regardless, r a t h e r t h a n l e a v i n g t h e B o a r d ' s p r o p e r t y upon t h e d i s c o v e r y o f the substance i n her vehicle, Cahalane elected t o take the s u b s t a n c e , w h i c h she s u s p e c t e d was m a r i j u a n a , i n t o t h e B o a r d ' s offices. On a p p e a l C a h a l a n e insists that on t h e m o r n i n g of July 21, 2 0 1 1 , she d i d n o t know w i t h c e r t a i n t y t h a t t h e s u b s t a n c e was, i n fact, marijuana. Cahalane t e s t i f i e d before the Board t h a t i f she h a d t h o u g h t t h e s u b s t a n c e was m a r i j u a n a , she w o u l d have immediately testimony taken i t for testing. However, i s n o t c o n s i s t e n t w i t h much o f t h e e v i d e n c e . evidence i n d i c a t e s t h a t Cahalane 20 that The b e l i e v e d that the substance 2110532 likely was an illegal substance. For example, Cahalane t e s t i f i e d t h a t , because of her daughter's h i s t o r y of drug use, she p l a n n e d t o t a k e t h e s u b s t a n c e t o t h e p o l i c e s t a t i o n f o r testing, and she had asked Varden i f Varden thought the s u b s t a n c e was m a r i j u a n a . S t i l w e l l t e s t i f i e d t h a t Cahalane had informed daughter for him that her had tested positive m a r i j u a n a on a "home t e s t " t h e weekend b e f o r e J u l y 21, The s u p e r i n t e n d e n t t e s t i f i e d t h a t on t h e m o r n i n g 2011. of J u l y 22, 2011, when he met w i t h C a h a l a n e , she h a d a n s w e r e d h i s i n q u i r y about whether asking she h a d any i m p r o p e r m a t e r i a l s i f he was i n her o f f i c e r e f e r r i n g t o "the m a r i j u a n a " i n her by office. She a l s o t o l d t h e s u p e r i n t e n d e n t d u r i n g h e r t e s t i m o n y t h a t i f she h a d t o l d h i m a b o u t t h e " m a r i j u a n a " on t h e m o r n i n g o f J u l y 21, 2011, evidence, correct he we would cannot have called conclude the that i n determining that the the police. Given that hearing officer decision of the Board was was a r b i t r a r y and c a p r i c i o u s . We n o t e t h a t , b e f o r e t h e h e a r i n g o f f i c e r and i n h e r b r i e f submitted to this court, Cahalane "perfectly l o g i c a l explanation with argues she had f o r her f a i l u r e t o f o l l o w removing the substance from the Board's 21 that a up" o f f i c e s t o have 2110532 it tested. Cahalane argues that she made a "rational and r e a s o n a b l e " c h o i c e t o l e a v e t h e B o a r d ' s o f f i c e s on t h e m o r n i n g of July 21, request. to 2011, to attend an She c o n t e n d s , t h e r e f o r e , s u s p e n d h e r employment was It does not reasonableness doctor's issue appointment at her appear or before the Board, party of Cahalane's the morning however, marijuana i n Cahalane's o f f i c e . indicates that, has q u e s t i o n e d the of J u l y was the decision capricious. any necessity a p p o i n t m e n t on t h a t the Board's a r b i t r a r y and that doctor's attending 21, 2011. presence of the The the The e v i d e n c e b e f o r e t h e B o a r d although Cahalane acknowledged the s u p e r i n t e n d e n t w o u l d have a l l o w e d h e r t o l e a v e work i f she h a d a s k e d , C a h a l a n e e l e c t e d n o t t o do s o . not R a t h e r , b e c a u s e she d i d want t o m i s s any more t i m e f r o m work, C a h a l a n e e l e c t e d t o w a i t t o have t h e s u b s t a n c e t e s t e d . She later left work f o r the d o c t o r ' s a p p o i n t m e n t and l e f t t h e s u b s t a n c e i n h e r d e s k a t the Board's o f f i c e s . The r e c o r d c o n t a i n s no e x p l a n a t i o n as t o why C a h a l a n e d i d n o t remove t h e s u b s t a n c e when she went t o t h e doctor's office. Regardless, i t i s u n d i s p u t e d the Cahalane b r o u g h t t h e m a r i j u a n a o n t o t h e B o a r d ' s p r o p e r t y , and she it there overnight. 22 left 2110532 We recognize Cahalane stated, appear found herself on July she made a m i s t a k e . that the Board circumstances to the d i f f i c u l t y of t h i s her s i t u a t i o n . 21, We failed of the s i t u a t i o n 2011, a l s o note and t h a t , as she t h a t i t does n o t to recognize the s i t u a t i o n o r t h a t i t was Cahalane t e s t i f i e d i n which extenuating unsympathetic t h a t she was relieved t h a t h e r employment h a d n o t been t e r m i n a t e d o v e r t h e i n c i d e n t , an o p t i o n t h a t was a v a i l a b l e t o t h e B o a r d . (a "nonprobationary [or suspended] insubordination, perform just classified at any neglect e m p l o y e e " may time of ...."). 4 The ... duty, duties i n a satisfactory cause See § 16-24C-6(a) record for be "terminated incompetency, immorality, failure manner, o r o t h e r indicates that good to and Cahalane's I n h e r b r i e f on a p p e a l , C a h a l a n e a r g u e s , as s u p p o r t f o r t h e h e a r i n g o f f i c e r ' s d e c i s i o n , t h a t t h e 90-day s u s p e n s i o n o f h e r employment was t o o h a r s h a s a n c t i o n , g i v e n t h e f a c t s . However, C a h a l a n e d i d n o t f i l e a c o n d i t i o n a l c r o s s - a p p e a l t o r a i s e t h a t i s s u e i n the event t h i s c o u r t r e v e r s e d the d e c i s i o n of the h e a r i n g o f f i c e r . B e s s v. W a f f l e House, I n c . , 824 So. 2d 783, 787 ( A l a . C i v . App. 2001) (an a p p e l l e e may f i l e a c o n d i t i o n a l c r o s s - a p p e a l i n o r d e r t o p r e s e r v e an argument f o r a p p e a l i n t h e event t h e a p p e l l a t e c o u r t r e v e r s e s t h e judgment b a s e d on an argument o f t h e a p p e l l a n t ) ; see a l s o F i r s t P r o p s ., L.L.C. v. B e n n e t t , 959 So. 2d 653, 657 ( A l a . C i v . App. 2006) ("Because we have c o n c l u d e d t h a t t h e j u d g m e n t i s due t o be r e v e r s e d as a r e s u l t o f t h e a p p e a l , t h e c o n d i t i o n s p e c i f i e d i n t h e owner's c o n d i t i o n a l c r o s s - a p p e a l has o c c u r r e d , and t h a t c r o s s - a p p e a l i s r i p e f o r r e v i e w . " ) . A c c o r d i n g l y , t h e r e i s no 4 23 2110532 c o w o r k e r s and t h e s u p e r i n t e n d e n t d i d n o t b e l i e v e t h a t C a h a l a n e had used o r was using illegal drugs. However, the Board determined t h a t Cahalane's b r i n g i n g the substance t h a t , given the facts, she knew m i g h t be an i l l e g a l drug onto the Board's p r o p e r t y a n d l e a v i n g i t t h e r e was a v i o l a t i o n o f t h e B o a r d ' s anti-drug policy. Given the evidence p r e s e n t e d t o the Board, we c o n c l u d e t h a t t h e B o a r d ' s d e c i s i o n t o s u s p e n d C a h a l a n e f o r 90 days w i t h o u t p a y was n o t a r b i t r a r y therefore, we substituting standard. conclude that h i s judgment Accordingly, the hearing o f f i c e r f o r that we and c a p r i c i o u s , of the Board and, erred i n under reverse the February that 6, 2012, decision of the hearing o f f i c e r . REVERSED AND REMANDED. P i t t m a n a n d Thomas, J J . , c o n c u r . Bryan and Moore, J J . , concur i n the r e s u l t , without writings. p r o p e r argument f o r t h i s c o u r t t o r e v i e w as t o t h a t 24 issue.