DECISION AND ORDER
WILLIAM R. STOKES, JUSTICE.
matter is before the court on an appeal by Emmanuel Quaqua
(Claimant) from the decision of the Maine Unemployment
Insurance Commission (Commission) which dismissed, for lack
of jurisdiction, the Petitioner's appeal of an
administrative Hearing Officer's ruling denying him
unemployment compensation benefits on the ground that he
refused to accept an offer of suitable employment. This
appeal has been brought in accordance with 26 M.R.S.
§1194 (a), 5 M.R.S. §§1101-1108
(Administrative Procedure Act), and M.R.Civ.P. 80C.
Deputy's decision dated February 8, 2017, the Petitioner
was awarded benefits from December 11, 2016. The employer
(Goodall Landscaping, Inc.) filed a timely appeal. A
telephone hearing was scheduled for March 6, 2017 at 2:00
p.m. (R. at 32). The notice of hearing was provided to both
the Petitioner and the employer and listed the telephone
contact numbers for each of them. The notice informed the
parties that they would be called "within 15 minutes of
the scheduled hearing time, " and that if the correct
telephone number was not listed, "please inform us of
your correct number by calling .... at least,
ONE WORKING DAY PRIOR TO the time of your
hearing." (Id.) (emphasis in original). The
notice also expressly stated that the "unavailability of
a party at the time the Hearing Officer places a call to the
party's telephone number, " would be treated as
"a failure to appear and may result in dismissal of the
appeal." (Id.) Finally, the notice, in bold
letters, stated: "Failure to appear at the
hearing may result in dismissal of the appeal, denial of
benefits, increased unemployment insurance taxes and loss of
any right of further legal review."
day and at the time scheduled for the hearing, (March 6, 2017
at 2:00 p. m.), the Hearing Officer called both the employer
and the Petitioner. The Petitioner did not answer, but the
following message was received by the Hearing Officer:
"I'm sorry, but the person you called has a
voicemail that has not been set up yet. Goodbye." (R. at
17). Thereafter, the hearing continued with the
employer's representative providing testimony. The
Petitioner did not call in to the hearing and the evidence
was closed and the hearing concluded at 2:21 p. m. (R. at
decision dated and mailed on March 10, 2017, the Hearing
Officer found that the Petitioner had refused to accept an
offer of suitable work within the meaning of 26 M.R.S.
§1193(3) and was, therefore, disqualified from benefits.
(R. at 11). The Hearing Officer found that the Petitioner had
been erroneously awarded benefits in the amount of $3, 432.00
that constituted an overpayment, "which must be
repaid." (R. at 12).
Petitioner filed a timely appeal to the Commission. (R. at
8). In his statement of reasons for the appeal, he wrote:
I talked to someone from the State that called from a career
center that day but never the deputy for the appeals hearing.
I would very much like to dispute some 'facts' from
my former employer.
(R. at 8).
Decision dated April 28, 2017, the Unemployment Insurance
Commission dismissed the appeal on the basis that it lacked
jurisdiction to consider it because the Petitioner had failed
to appear at the telephone hearing held on March 6, 2017 at
2:00 p.m., and he had not shown "good cause" for
his failure to appear. (R. at 1-5).
Petitioner filed a timely appeal to this court on May 26,
2017. Briefing was completed on September 18, 2017. The State
waived oral argument. The Petitioner could not be reached to
determine his position regarding oral argument.
Court has recently reaffirmed the principle that judicial
review of administrative agency decisions is
"deferential and limited." Passadumkeag
Mountain Friends v. Bd. of Envtl. Prot,2014 ME 116,
¶ 12, 102 A.3d 1181 (quoting Friends of Lincoln
Lakes v. Bd. of Envtl. Prot.,2010 ME 18, ¶ 12, 989
A.2d 1128). The court is not permitted to overturn an
agency's decision "unless it: violates the
Constitution or statutes; exceeds the agency's authority;
is procedurally unlawful; is arbitrary or capricious;
constitutes an abuse of discretion; is affected by bias or
error of law; or is unsupported by the evidence in the
record." Kroger v Departmental of Environmental
Protection,2005 ME. 50, ¶ 7, 870 A.2d 566. The