Colorado Dept. of Personnel v. Alexander, 97SC719

Citation970 P.2d 459
Decision Date30 November 1998
Docket NumberNo. 97SC719,97SC719
Parties98 CJ C.A.R. 5914 The COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF PERSONNEL; Andre N. Pettigrew, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Personnel, The Colorado Department of Revenue; and Terrance Fagan, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, Petitioners, v. Cathy ALEXANDER, John Bailey, Ana C. Bowman, Tom Bovio, Vicki Bunch, Gloria Carino, Joe Chase, Joyce Chevarria, Joann Christensen, Rich Copley, Mike Coulter, Art Crespin, Michele Cyr, Christine Dexter, W. David Driscoll, Felipe Duran, Larry Frazier, Robert L. Glidden, Cynthia A. Granner, Thomas Herman, Louis Hoefer, Bob Jeannelle, Gary Jensen, Karen Jones, Larry Jordahl, Karen Karl, Cary Kelliher, Dave Kennedy, Michelle Kerstann, Kent LeBlanc, Dave Loomis, Gray Maelzer, Dee Malonson, Christina A. Mathey, Joe Markworth, Gary May, Dorothy McKay, Jim McNaught, Jim Meyers, Robert S. Mitchell, John Mohatt, Michelle Mongan, Darlene Muniz, Bruce Nelson, Robert Osborne, Vince Palkovich, John Petersen, Douglas Pollack, Dick Pond, Linda Quade, William Rayner, Mary Robyn, Virginia E. Ruge, Mike Santos, Karen Shaw, Tammy Sorensen, Joseph Soss, Sharon Steher, Phil Stricklan, Dana Summers, Nancy Tanner, August Tilger, Larry Toillion, Gary Toleno, Karen Torsney, John Trujillo, David C. Valenciano, Richard Victorson, Lloyd Wicke, Larry Williams, John Wilton, Trish Windham, Donna Wright, Rebecca Gillespie, Wendell Miller, Raymond A. Cardy, Chris J. Eliopulos, James K. Hinz, Ronald H. Granner, William V. Speckman, and John C. Streeter, Respondents.
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

Gale A. Norton, Attorney General, Martha Phillips Allbright, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Richard A. Westfall, Solicitor General, Paul Farley, Deputy Attorney General, David M. Kaye, First Assistant Attorney General, John D. Baird, Assistant Attorney General, State Services Section, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioners.

James R. Gilsdorf, Denver, Colorado, Attorney for Respondents.

Justice HOBBS delivered the Opinion of the Court.

In this appeal, the Colorado Department of Personnel (Department) challenges the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court and concluding that the Department's failure to obtain gubernatorial approval before implementing pay decreases constituted an abuse of discretion. 1 See Alexander v. Colorado Dep't of Personnel, 952 P.2d 814 (Colo.App.1997). The court of appeals determined that the statewide job evaluation system study conducted by the Department was a reorganization with a fiscal impact requiring approval of the Governor under section 24-50-104(4)(d)(II), 10B C.R.S. (1988 & 1993 Supp.). 2 See Alexander, 952 P.2d at 819. It concluded that the Governor had not approved decreasing the salaries of the revenue agent and tax conferee positions. See id.

We agree with the court of appeals that implementation of the statewide job evaluation study constituted a reorganization requiring gubernatorial approval as contemplated by section 24-50-104(4)(d)(II), 10B C.R.S. (1993 Supp.). However, the Governor transmitted his approval of implementing the statewide job evaluation study through his letter of January 14, 1994 to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC) in connection with the annual salary and fringe benefit survey which became effective July 1, 1994, under section 24-50-104(5)(g)(I), 10B C.R.S. (1993 Supp.). Consequently, we reverse the judgment of the court of appeals.

I.

Based upon a number of independent salary survey performance audits, the Governor's Commission on Productivity, in the late 1980s, recommended studying and undertaking major revisions to the state's job evaluation system. In response, the Department initiated a statewide revision of the job evaluation system in 1991, referred to as the Job Evaluation System Redesign Project (statewide job evaluation system study). Among its objectives were: (1) to write fewer, broader class descriptions with accurate, updated concepts using consistent job evaluation factors; (2) to have subject matter experts participate in the actual evaluation of jobs in the classes; and, (3) to review the salary relationship of all classes using market data provided by the Department's compensation unit.

The Department conducted the statewide study under its statutory responsibility for maintaining and revising the system of classes covering all positions in the state classification system. See § 24-50-104(3), 10B C.R.S. (1993 Supp.). The System Maintenance Questionnaire (SMQ) served as the Department's primary data collection tool for obtaining information on jobs and salaries. The Department requested a sample of positions representing all agencies and classes and used the results of the SMQs to draft new class descriptions.

The statewide job evaluation system study involved extensive research in the field of job evaluation, surveys, and assessments of alternative systems for the purpose of developing a job evaluation strategy. The project also included reviewing salary relationships of all job classes through the use of market data provided by the Department's compensation unit. The objective was to revise salaries in accordance with market standards.

On June 1, 1993, Shirley Harris, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Personnel (Director), issued a Proposed Job Evaluation Project Narrative Report (Narrative Report) and Class Series Descriptions for the positions of revenue agent and tax conferee. The pay grade changes recommended by the Narrative Report impacted thousands of state employees, not just the revenue agent and tax conferee positions. The report proposed new titles for the positions of revenue agent and tax conferee, and also proposed pay grade decreases for seven of the eight classes within these two jobs. The Director declared the pay grade adjustments to be effective September 1, 1993.

Cathy Alexander and other employees in the positions of revenue agent and tax conferee (Alexander) appealed the Director's Job Evaluation and Class Series Descriptions for the positions of revenue agent and tax conferee. The Director reviewed the appeal, pursuant to section 24-50-104(4)(d)(I), 10B C.R.S. (1993 Supp.), and issued her decision regarding the job evaluation system on September 16, 1993 and September 20, 1993 (September 1993). Although the Director denied Alexander's request for relief, she remanded the issue to the Department for further review because she deemed the use of certain data to be arbitrary.

In October 1993, Alexander filed a complaint in the district court; the district court dismissed the complaint without prejudice because the agency action was not then final.

In response to the Director's September 1993 decision, the Department convened a mini-panel to evaluate and revise the job descriptions. Additionally, the Department reviewed salary surveys performed by the Federation of Tax Administrators in Washington, D.C.; however, the Department could not rely on this data because it was five years old. As an alternative, the Department's compensation unit obtained permission from the Total Compensation Advisory Council to perform numerous direct surveys of other states.

After receiving responses from forty-three states and the District of Columbia, the Department utilized salary data for classes from twenty-eight states it determined to be proper matches. Upon analyzing the data received, as well as annual local salary surveys, the Department recommended new pay grades for a number of positions, including the revenue agent and tax conferee positions.

During the time period that the Department was collecting further data as ordered by the Director, the Director reported the pay grade changes for the positions of revenue agent and tax conferee in the annual salary and fringe benefits survey 3 to the Governor. This survey, referred to as the 1994 Total Compensation Survey (survey), indicated that "[t]he two events causing the greatest impact on this year's survey have been a legislative change, House Bill 93-1008, and the Department of Personnel's implementation of a new job evaluation system. The most significant impact on the survey has been the implementation of an entirely new job evaluation system in September 1993." The Department noted in the survey that the "change in the job evaluation system had several significant impacts on the cash survey process and the recommendations." (Emphasis added.)

Upon reviewing the 1994 salary and fringe benefits survey, the Governor approved the study's recommendations and results. The survey contained job classifications and salary adjustments that the Director had declared to be effective as of September 1, 1993. The Governor submitted the annual survey to the JBC; it included the proposed compensation plan for fiscal year 1994-95 and the job classification titles as revised by the statewide job evaluation system study, including the positions at issue in this case, not the titles that existed prior to the system study.

In his January 14, 1994 letter to Representative Tony Grampsas, the Chairman of the JBC, 4 the Governor endorsed the statewide job evaluation system study and its competitive labor market approach:

I support the statutory philosophy that total compensation for classified employees be comparable to our competitive labor market. The salary and benefit recommendations contained in the report are consistent with that philosophy. I support full funding of these recommendations and implementation without any delays; July 1, 1994, for salary and premium pay adjustments and December 1994 employer premiums for benefit enhancements. I hope we are able to work together to implement as many of these recommendations as possible.

Attached to the Governor's letter was the 1994 Total Compensation Survey summary report, referencing and incorporating the Department's new job evaluation system.

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