City of Casper v. Utech, No. 93-186

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore GOLDEN; THOMAS; GOLDEN, Chief Justice, dissenting, with whom MACY
PartiesThe CITY OF CASPER, Appellant (Petitioner), v. Michael UTECH, Appellee (Respondent).
Decision Date11 May 1995
Docket NumberNo. 93-186

Page 449

895 P.2d 449
The CITY OF CASPER, Appellant (Petitioner),
v.
Michael UTECH, Appellee (Respondent).
No. 93-186.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
May 11, 1995.

Gayla Lou Daniels, Deputy City Atty., Casper, for appellant.

Harry G. Bondi, P.C., Casper, for appellee.

Before GOLDEN, C.J., and THOMAS, CARDINE, * MACY and TAYLOR, JJ.

THOMAS, Justice.

The controversy in this appeal centers upon the articulation of findings of fact by an administrative agency when the party holding the burden of proof fails to sustain that burden. In a post-termination hearing, the Personnel Review Panel (Board) ruled the City of Casper (Casper) had failed to establish the asserted grounds for discharge of its employee, Michael Utech (Utech) by admissible, relevant, and credible evidence. Its finding as to each ground was that there was insufficient evidence. Casper sought review in the district court where the Board's decision was affirmed. Complaining the Board failed to make findings of basic facts, and the Board's findings of fact and conclusions of law were not supported by sufficient evidence,

Page 450

Casper appealed. We affirm the decision of the district court.

Casper, in its Brief of Appellant states the issues to be:

I. Whether the Personnel Review Panel made findings of basic facts upon which their ultimate findings of facts were based as required by WYO.STAT. § 16-3-110?

II. Whether the Personnel Review Panel's findings of fact and conclusions of law are supported by substantial evidence?

The counterstatement of the issues by Utech is:

I. Did the panel make sufficient findings of basic fact to permit meaningful court review?

II. Is there substantial evidence in the record to support the panel's findings that the city did not prove just cause for the employee's termination?

At the time of his discharge, Utech had been employed for sixteen years by Casper and was superintendent of the city garage. The preceding October, the city manager had received a memo from Utech's supervisor in which termination of Utech's employment was recommended. The city manager conducted a pre-termination hearing, at which Utech was not allowed representation by counsel, to determine the basis for this recommendation. The city manager then addressed a letter of termination to Utech.

In that letter, which was given to Utech on January 24, 1992, Casper notified him his employment would be terminated because of his actions with respect to supervisory practices, personal problems brought to the job, and use of city-owned property. Specifically, the letter stated:

Supervisory Practices

1. Threatening employees, under your supervision, both verbally and physically.

2. Creating or allowing to exist, an atmosphere that's detrimental to the work site that you are responsible for supervising.

3. Inconsistent treatment of employees under your supervision.

Personal Problems Brought to the Job

1. Harassment of City Employees

A. 06-10-91 Written reprimand.

B. 08-26-91 Citizen complaint.

C. Criminal Action No. 91-17212.

Use of City-owned Property

1. Unauthorized use of City-owned property, by yourself and by employees under your supervision.

Utech's employment was terminated, according to the letter, the same day.

Utech requested, and received, a post-termination hearing before the Board. The parties stipulated that the structure of the hearing imposed the burden of proof upon Casper. We have defined the concept of burden of proof in this way:

The phrase "burden of proof" is often used as meaning the necessity of establishing a fact to a legally required extent, or the necessity of finally establishing a fact. 31 C.J.S. Evidence § 103, p. 709.

Tench v. Weaver, 374 P.2d 27, 29 (Wyo.1962).

The encyclopedia tells us:

The term burden of proof has been used to describe two related but distinct concepts: the burden of production and the burden of persuasion.

* * * * * *

The burden of persuasion aspect of the burden of proof describes the obligation of a party to introduce evidence that persuades the factfinder, to a requisite degree of belief, that a particular proposition of fact is true.

The burden of persuasion has two components; first, the facts a party must plead and prove in order to prevail on a particular issue, and second, how persuasively it must prove those facts.

29 AM.JUR.2D Evidence § 155, 181-82 (1994) (footnotes omitted).

Casper was required to submit sufficient evidence of just cause to terminate Utech's employment, and it was charged with doing so by a preponderance of the evidence.

Following a lengthy hearing in which numerous witnesses testified and a number of

Page 451

exhibits were introduced, the Board made these conclusions of law pertinent to this appeal:

6. The City has presented insufficient admissible, relevant and credible evidence to conclude that there was just cause to terminate the employment of Michael Utech.

7. The Personnel Review Panel concludes, as a matter of law, that the City of Casper has not met its burden of proving that there was just cause for the termination of the employment of Michael Utech.

The Board's findings of fact with respect to these conclusions of law were:

11. Insufficient evidence was received by the Panel to find that while Michael Utech was the Superintendent of the Garage he threatened employees under his supervision.

12. Insufficient evidence was received by the Panel to find that Michael Utech created or allowed to exist an atmosphere detrimental to the work site.

13. Insufficient evidence was received by the Panel to find that Michael Utech was responsible for inconsistent treatment of employees under his supervision.

14. Insufficient evidence was received by the Panel to find that Michael Utech harassed City employees.

15. Insufficient evidence was received by the Panel to find that Michael Utech used city property without authorization.

The Board ordered that the decision of the city manager be reversed.

Casper asserted the findings of fact did not comply with WYO.STAT. § 16-3-110 (1990), and it requested the Board to specify the basic facts which led to its findings of insufficient evidence on these points. While the Board's ruling was pending, Casper appealed the Board's decision to the district court, where Casper asserted the identical issue. The district court ruled the findings provided a reasonable basis for the decision of the Board, and it affirmed that decision. Casper has appealed from the Order Affirming entered in the district court.

Casper relies fiercely upon the decision of this court in Pan American Petroleum Corp. v. Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Comm'n, 446 P.2d 550 (Wyo.1968). We there articulated the requirement that an agency must encompass in its decision findings of basic facts sufficient to assist the court in applying the substantial evidence standard. Casper bolsters its reliance upon Pan American by citation to a number of other cases which have reiterated the requirement for findings of basic facts. Holding's Little America v. Bd. of County Comm'rs of Laramie County, 670 P.2d 699 (Wyo.1983). See Campbell County v. Wyoming Community College Comm'n, 731 P.2d 1174 (Wyo.1987); Mountain Fuel Supply Co. v. Pub. Serv. Comm'n of Wyoming, 662 P.2d 878 (Wyo.1983); Larsen v. Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Comm'n, 569 P.2d 87 (Wyo.1977); Powell v. Bd. of Trustees of Crook County Sch. Dist. No. 1, 550 P.2d 1112 (Wyo.1976); Geraud v. Schrader, 531 P.2d 872 (Wyo.1975), cert. denied sub nom., Wind River Indian Educ. Ass'n,...

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  • State ex rel. Wyo. Dept. of Revenue v. UPRC, No. 02-70
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 30, 2003
    ...been any transfer of title or possession to the "construction" ballast in Wyoming under the circumstances. 6. See City of Casper v. Utech, 895 P.2d 449, 451 (Wyo.1995); Campbell County v. Wyoming Comty. College Comm'n, 731 P.2d 1174, 1176 (Wyo.1987) and Holding's Little America v. Bd. of Co......
  • Newman v. STATE EX REL. WORKERS'SAFETY AND COMPENSATION DIVISION, No. 01-191.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 19, 2002
    ...Mekss v. Wyoming Girls' School, State of Wyoming, 813 P.2d 185, 201-02 (Wyo.1991). [¶ 17] In 1995, in the case City of Casper v. Utech, 895 P.2d 449, 452 (Wyo.1995), we first definitively held the arbitrary or capricious test should apply exclusively in circumstances where a claimant is fou......
  • Vance v. City of Laramie, S–16–0057
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • November 7, 2016
    ...similarly advanced by giving the city the right to judicial review of commission decisions. But , see generally , City of Casper v. Utech, 895 P.2d 449 (Wyo. 1995) (considering, without a discussion of jurisdiction or the applicable statutes, city's appeal from decision of personnel board (......
  • Hat Six Homes v. STATE, DOE, No. 99-102.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 6, 2000
    ...an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law" language of Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-114(c)(ii) (1990). City of Casper v. Utech, 895 P.2d 449, 452 (Wyo.1995). On appeal the complainant, Pederson in this instance, has the burden of proving arbitrary administrative action. Knight v. ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • State ex rel. Wyo. Dept. of Revenue v. UPRC, No. 02-70
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • April 30, 2003
    ...of title or possession to the "construction" ballast in Wyoming under the circumstances. 6. See City of Casper v. Utech, 895 P.2d 449, 451 (Wyo.1995); Campbell County v. Wyoming Comty. College Comm'n, 731 P.2d 1174, 1176 (Wyo.1987) and Holding's Little America v. Bd. of County Com......
  • Newman v. STATE EX REL. WORKERS'SAFETY AND COMPENSATION DIVISION, No. 01-191.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 19, 2002
    ...Mekss v. Wyoming Girls' School, State of Wyoming, 813 P.2d 185, 201-02 (Wyo.1991). [¶ 17] In 1995, in the case City of Casper v. Utech, 895 P.2d 449, 452 (Wyo.1995), we first definitively held the arbitrary or capricious test should apply exclusively in circumstances where a claimant is fou......
  • Vance v. City of Laramie, S–16–0057
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • November 7, 2016
    ...similarly advanced by giving the city the right to judicial review of commission decisions. But , see generally , City of Casper v. Utech, 895 P.2d 449 (Wyo. 1995) (considering, without a discussion of jurisdiction or the applicable statutes, city's appeal from decision of personnel board (......
  • Hat Six Homes v. STATE, DOE, No. 99-102.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 6, 2000
    ...of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law" language of Wyo. Stat. § 16-3-114(c)(ii) (1990). City of Casper v. Utech, 895 P.2d 449, 452 (Wyo.1995). On appeal the complainant, Pederson in this instance, has the burden of proving arbitrary administrative action. Knight v. Envi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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