Conover v. Board of Education of Nebo School Dist., 6937

CourtSupreme Court of Utah
Writing for the CourtLarson, Chief Justice.
Citation110 Utah 454,175 P.2d 209
Docket Number6937
Decision Date13 December 1946

Rehearing denied November 24, 1947.

Appeal from District Court, Fourth District, Utah County; Wm Stanley Dunford, Judge.

Mandamus by Harrison Conover against Board of Education of the Nebo School District and others, to require respondent district to publish a financial report of the affairs of the district in conformity with statute. From an order denying a writ petitioner appeals.

Reversed with directions.

Ned Warnock, of Salt Lake City, for appellant.

Elias Hansen, of Salt Lake City, for respondent.

Larson Chief Justice. McDonough, Pratt, Wade, and Wolfe, JJ., concur.


Larson, Chief Justice.

This is an appeal on the judgment roll from an order of the district court denying the appellant a Writ of Mandate against the Nebo School District and the individual members thereof.

The appellant, Harrison Conover, a resident taxpayer in the Nebo School District, petitioned the district court for a writ of mandamus to require the school district to publish a financial report of the affairs of the district for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1945, in conformity with Sec. 75-11-15, U. C. A. 1943. The school district published a financial statement on December 27, 1945. The appellant alleged in his petition that the publication did not comply with the statute in that there were not set forth in the statement the moneys paid out and for what paid and to whom paid. Respondents demurred to the appellant's petition claiming that the petition did not state a cause of action because the statement as published was a substantial compliance with the statute, also, that Sec. 75-11-15 was unconstitutional because it violated Art. VI, Sec. 26, Subsections 18, 17, and 16.

The statute in controversy, Sec. 75-11-15, in substance, provides that an annual statement prepared and submitted to the board shall be published in a newspaper having general circulation in the district, showing

"(3) The moneys paid out, and for what paid, and in county school districts, also to whom paid." (Italics ours.)

In the statement as published the respondents broke the expenditures down under general headings. For example: The first heading is titled "General Control" under which is a long list of names with no amounts listed after the name, and at the end of the list is the total sum of $ 15,178.84. It is impossible to determine the amount each or any person was paid from the total listed at the bottom of the heading.

The same is true of the other headings which are titled, "Instructional Expense, Maintenance of School Plant, Operation of Plant Expense, Debt Service, Capital Assets and Improvements."

Respondents argue that this statement which is specific as to the persons paid, but which is general as to the amount paid, is a substantial compliance with the statute. This poses the principal issue of this case: Did the respondents comply with the statute in respect to the requirement as "to whom paid" in that the amount of expenditure to each person is not shown?

In the case of Crockett v. Board of Education of Carbon County, 58 Utah 303, 199 P. 158, 159, this court had under consideration similar issues which necessitated the consideration of the design as well as the purpose of this statute. We quote from that opinion:

"It is apparent from a reading of the statute that it was designed for the benefit and interests of the citizen taxpayer so that they may be informed as to whether or not the financial affairs of the school district each year have been properly and lawfully conducted on the part of the board of education.

"It is one of the cardinal rules of construction that a statute must be construed with reference to the objects sought to be accomplished by it. The mere general statement that certain sums of money were received and certain sums paid out on account of the support and maintenance of the public schools affords no information to the taxpayer and subserves none of the purposes intended by the enactment of the statute under consideration * * *.

"We think the statute is mandatory in its requirements and that its plain and positive provisions manifest its purpose so clearly that the contention made by the defendants that they have substantially complied with it must fail."

The statute is clearly construed. We have a concise statement of the law -- that general statements that certain sums were received or paid out affords very little information to the taxpayer and does not subserve the purposes of the statute. With the statute and this construction firmly in mind, let us explore the published statement. In each category we find a long list of names of persons at the end of which is a general total. The question immediately arises concerning the purpose of statute: Is the taxpayer informed as to the moneys paid out, to whom and for what paid? We think not. The only information that could possibly be gleaned from the statement is that John Doe received something. Not in one single instance does the statement show the amount a person or a firm was paid. There is merely a general statement as to the moneys paid. Respondent argues if more detailed information is desired the taxpayer can easily obtain it by going to the district clerk and obtaining the records and examining them. We are not impressed by this conclusion or the argument used to support it. The plain meaning of the statute is: Since the school district pays out money, it must annually publish not only a list of the persons to whom the money was paid but the amount paid to each. Crockett v. School Board, supra. It cannot be doubted that one of the principal reasons for requiring a publication of the financial statement is to provide the taxpayers with the information and thereby save them the necessity of journeying to the office of the board to examine the records. We must construe these provisions in the light of the general purpose and object so as to give effect to the main intent and purpose of the legislature. Dunn v. Bryan, 77 Utah 604, 299 P. 253. It is settled law that an interpretation which defeats any of the manifest purposes of the statute cannot be accepted. 25 R. C. L. 1015; Dunn v. Bryan, supra.

We conclude that the respondents' statement contains nothing more than a general statement that certain sums were paid which does not afford the information to the taxpayer, required by the statute.

It is next contended by the respondents that Sec. 75-11-15 is unconstitutional because it violates Art. VI, Sec. 26, Subsections 18, 17, and 16.

In support of this contention respondents argue, that there is no basis for the law requiring Boards of Education of school districts within cities of the first and second class to merely publish a financial statement of moneys paid out and for what paid and to cast...

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2 cases
  • Bement v. Bement
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • December 16, 1946
  • Conover v. Board of Education of the Nebo School District
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • November 24, 1947
    ...1947 Appeal From District Court, Fourth District, Utah County; William S Dunford, Judge Rehearing denied. For original opinion see 110 Utah 454, 175 P.2d 209. Warnock, of Salt Lake City, for appellant. Elias Hansen and C. N. Ottosen, both of Salt Lake City, for respondents. OPINION PER CURI......

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