O'Connor v. Fulton Cnty., S17A0880.

CourtSupreme Court of Georgia
Writing for the CourtHunstein, Justice.
Citation805 S.E.2d 56
Parties O'CONNOR v. FULTON COUNTY et al.
Docket NumberS17A0880.
Decision Date13 September 2017

302 Ga. 70
805 S.E.2d 56

O'CONNOR
v.
FULTON COUNTY et al.

S17A0880.

Supreme Court of Georgia.

Decided: September 13, 2017


J. Matthew Maguire, Jr., PARKS, CHESIN & WALBERT, P.C., 75 Fourteenth Street, 26th Floor, Atlanta, Georgia 30309, for Appellant.

Jerolyn Webb Ferrari, Kristen Boyd Williams, Paula Rafferty Miller, Kaye Woodard Burwell, Assistant County Attorney, Dominique A. Martinez, OFFICE OF THE FULTON COUNTY ATTORNEY, 141 Pryor Street, S.W., Suite 4038, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, for Appellees.

Hunstein, Justice.

Appellant Patrick J. O'Connor appeals the grant of summary judgment to Appellees Fulton County and its County Manager, Richard Anderson, on his claims for breach of contract, mandamus relief, and attorney fees. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

As found by the trial court, the undisputed facts establish as follows. O'Connor was hired in 1996 as the CFO/Finance Director for Fulton County. At all relevant times, O'Connor was an unclassified, at-will employee, and, though the Finance Director position was originally an "on-range position"—i.e., one that is on a pay scale—it was later changed to a set-rate position, which has a salary specifically approved by either the County Manager or the Fulton County Board of Commissioners ("the Board"). In October 2014, the Board appointed O'Connor as Interim County Manager. Just a few months later, however, O'Connor was removed from that position and given the option to resign as Finance Director or be fired; O'Connor refused to resign, and the Board terminated his employment.

In September 2015, O'Connor filed a three-count complaint against the County and its new County Manager seeking damages for breach of contract from the County, a writ of mandamus compelling Anderson to reinstate O'Connor to the position of Finance Director, and attorney fees from both parties. In his complaint, O'Connor asserted that the Fulton County Personnel Regulations constituted an employment contract and that, pursuant to Fulton County Personnel Regulation 300–4 (7), he was entitled to be returned to his former position as Finance Director after he was removed as Interim County Manager; O'Connor also asserted that, once reinstated to the former position, his employment could only be terminated by the County Manager , not the Board, and, thus, sought a writ of mandamus compelling Anderson to return him to his former position.

The trial court granted summary judgment to Appellees, concluding that the personnel regulations did not create an employment contract and that, even if they had, Personnel Regulation 300–4 (7) did not apply to O'Connor. The trial court also concluded that, because O'Connor could not prevail on his underlying breach-of-contract claim, he was not entitled to mandamus relief or attorney fees. O'Connor now appeals.

1. As O'Connor recognizes in his brief, this appeal turns on whether the Fulton County Personnel Regulations amount to an employment contract and, if they do, whether they apply to him. The issues before this Court are purely legal, see City of Buchanan v. Pope, 222 Ga.App. 716, 717, 476 S.E.2d 53 (1996), and "[o]ur review of the trial court's grant of summary judgment is de novo." See Southern States-Bartow County , Inc. v. Riverwood Farm Homeowners Assn., 300 Ga. 609, 611, 797 S.E.2d 468 (2017).

Generally speaking, the policies and information in personnel or employee manuals1 neither create a contract, see, e.g., Ellison v. DeKalb County, 236 Ga.App. 185 (1), 511 S.E.2d 284 (1999), nor support a claim for breach of contract, see Jones v. Chatham County, 223 Ga.App. 455 (5), 477 S.E.2d 889 (1996). Nevertheless, "an at-will employment relationship can give rise to certain contractual rights." See

805 S.E.2d 59

Shelnut t v. Mayor and Aldermen of City of Savannah, 333 Ga.App. 446, 450, 776 S.E.2d 650 (2015). "[P]rovisions in an employee manual relating to additional compensation plans, of which the employee is aware, may amount to a binding contract between the parties," Ellison, 236 Ga.App. at 186, 511 S.E.2d 284, as may "a promise of future compensation made at the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
5 practice notes
  • Griffin v. Turner, A19A0281
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 21, 2019
    ...terminable at will, such a relationship may give rise to certain contractual rights. See O’Connor v. Fulton County , 302 Ga. 70, 71 (1), 805 S.E.2d 56 (2017) ; Shelnutt v. Mayor & Aldermen of City of Savannah , 333 Ga. App. 446, 450 (2), 776 S.E.2d 650 (2015) ("Although terminable-at-will e......
  • Shelnutt v. Mayor & Aldermen, A18A1667
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 14, 2019
    ...at-will employment contract to be enforceable, it must be made at the beginning of the employment relationship. 302 Ga. 70, 71 (1), 805 S.E.2d 56 (2017) ; see also Arby’s, Inc. v. Cooper , 265 Ga. 240, 241, 454 S.E.2d 488 (1995) (noting that a promise of future compensation must also be for......
  • Funvestment Grp. v. Crittenden, A22A0193
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 23, 2022
    ...is unfavorable to [the Taxpayer] does not in and of itself render it absurd or untenable." O'Connor v. Fulton County, 302 Ga. 70, 73 (1) (805 S.E.2d 56) (2017). 2. The Taxpayer contends that the superior court erred when it reversed the Tax Tribunal's decision without finding, as required b......
  • Anderson v. State, S17A0894.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Georgia
    • September 13, 2017
    ...his wife and the police have to come." Appellant's counsel objected on the ground that the prosecutor referenced facts not in evidence, 805 S.E.2d 56but the trial court stated in the jury's presence, "the jury will be the judge of what's in evidence or not in evidence." After closing argume......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 cases
  • Griffin v. Turner, A19A0281
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 21, 2019
    ...terminable at will, such a relationship may give rise to certain contractual rights. See O’Connor v. Fulton County , 302 Ga. 70, 71 (1), 805 S.E.2d 56 (2017) ; Shelnutt v. Mayor & Aldermen of City of Savannah , 333 Ga. App. 446, 450 (2), 776 S.E.2d 650 (2015) ("Although terminable-at-will e......
  • Shelnutt v. Mayor & Aldermen, A18A1667
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • March 14, 2019
    ...at-will employment contract to be enforceable, it must be made at the beginning of the employment relationship. 302 Ga. 70, 71 (1), 805 S.E.2d 56 (2017) ; see also Arby’s, Inc. v. Cooper , 265 Ga. 240, 241, 454 S.E.2d 488 (1995) (noting that a promise of future compensation must also be for......
  • Funvestment Grp., LLC v. Crittenden, A22A0193
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 23, 2022
    ...[the Taxpayer] does not in and of itself render 875 S.E.2d 443 it absurd or untenable." O'Connor v. Fulton County , 302 Ga. 70, 73 (1), 805 S.E.2d 56 (2017). 2. The Taxpayer contends that the superior court erred when it reversed the Tax Tribunal's decision without finding, as required by O......
  • Funvestment Grp. v. Crittenden, A22A0193
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • June 23, 2022
    ...is unfavorable to [the Taxpayer] does not in and of itself render it absurd or untenable." O'Connor v. Fulton County, 302 Ga. 70, 73 (1) (805 S.E.2d 56) (2017). 2. The Taxpayer contends that the superior court erred when it reversed the Tax Tribunal's decision without finding, as required b......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT