Man must repay unemployment benefits, Court rules

By Steve Korris | Feb 11, 2010

CHARLESTON – Ten years after Perry Davidson neglected to mention two days of work when applying for unemployment compensation, he must repay $1,962 in benefits.

The Supreme Court of Appeals stuck him with the bill on Jan. 29, rewarding the patience of the Bureau of Employment Programs.

The Justices reversed Cabell Circuit Judge John Cummings, who ruled in 2008 that the bureau failed to establish the amount of overpayment.

Davidson started receiving unemployment compensation in July 2000.

That September, he began working for a company called Clientlogic.

"Mr. Davidson apparently believed that the new job would require his skills working with computers," the Justices wrote in an unsigned opinion.

The job involved answering telephones, they wrote, "and for a lower pay rate than he says he had been told."

His next application for benefits stated that he didn't work that week.

The bureau discovered that he worked at Clientlogic and that he quit.

The bureau commissioner proposed to terminate Davidson's eligibility.

The commissioner moved to recover benefits from the week he worked and the four weeks after that.

A deputy commissioner held a hearing and the commissioner ruled that Davidson knowingly made a false statement.

The commissioner required repayment of $1,962.

From 2001 through 2007, the commissioner sent Davidson 13 letters and generated eight computer notices.

The commissioner sued him in magistrate court in 2007, easily within the 10-year limit on recovery of unemployment benefits in cases of fraud.

A magistrate entered judgment for the commissioner, adding $85 in court costs.

Davidson, without a lawyer, appealed to Cummings and won.

Cummings wrote that employment programs commissioner Ronald Radcliff failed to produce evidence establishing the amount of damages.

On appeal, the Justices agreed with Radcliff that Cummings was clearly wrong.

"The record in the trial court plainly establishes that Mr. Davidson was overpaid $1,962," they wrote.

He didn't challenge the determination of the amount, they wrote, centering instead on the fairness of finding his application fraudulent.

They sent the case back to Cabell County with directions to enter judgment for Radcliff, but Cummings won't take the case because he retired.

The Justices didn't mention interest, but they advised that state law allows Radcliff to recover attorney's fees and costs.

Mary Blaine McLaughlin of the unemployment compensation division represented Radcliff. Davidson represented himself, without a lawyer.

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