Fisher v. Chickasaw County, 95-580

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation553 N.W.2d 331
Docket NumberNo. 95-580,95-580
PartiesConnie FISHER, Jerry Fisher, Larry Fisher and Nancy Fisher, Appellants, v. CHICKASAW COUNTY and Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors, Appellees.
Decision Date18 September 1996

Page 331

553 N.W.2d 331
Connie FISHER, Jerry Fisher, Larry Fisher and Nancy Fisher, Appellants,
CHICKASAW COUNTY and Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors, Appellees.
No. 95-580.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Sept. 18, 1996.

Page 332

Ronald J. Wagenaar, Mason City, for appellants.

Richard TeKippe, County Attorney, New Hampton, for appellees.



The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors (Board) ordered the transfer of Connie, Jerry, Larry, and Nancy Fisher (Fishers) from Liberty Square Care Center (Liberty Square) in Nora Springs, Floyd County, Iowa, to Heritage Residential Facility (Heritage) in New Hampton, Chickasaw County, Iowa. The Fishers challenge the legality of the Board's action in a certiorari proceeding. The district court sustained the action of the Board. We conclude the Board acted legally and its decision is supported by substantial evidence. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

The Fishers are adult mentally disabled family members who have legal settlement in Chickasaw County. See Iowa Code § 252.16 (1993). Their parents are deceased. In 1976, the Fishers, along with their mother, were privately placed in Liberty Square. They have lived in the facility since being placed there and continue to require supervised care and training. Each of them received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and State Supplemental Assistance (SSA), which paid for their room and board at Liberty Square.

Prior to August 1993, Chickasaw County did not fund or provide any mental health or vocational services for the Fishers. In August 1993, Gary Ammen, the new director of Liberty Square, notified Chickasaw County of its statutory obligation to provide services for the Fishers. As the county of legal settlement, Chickasaw County has the duty to fund services for the Fishers as mentally disabled individuals. See id. § 222.60.

As a result, the Fishers began receiving additional services paid by Chickasaw County to facilitate their transition to a less structured or independent living arrangement. Since February 1994, the Fishers have attended living skill training activities at Liberty Square and have worked, with supervision, at Comprehensive Systems in Charles City, Floyd County, Iowa. Although the Fishers

Page 333

may be able to live in a less restrictive environment in the future, they now require a supported living environment and supervised sheltered employment.

In February, the Board contacted Ammen and notified him of its intention to transfer the Fishers to Heritage. The Fishers requested a hearing on the proposed transfer, which was held with the Board on May 16. Those in attendance included the Fishers, the Chickasaw county auditor, the Chickasaw county attorney, Ammen, representatives of Comprehensive Systems, and the attorney for the Fishers. No verbatim record was made of the hearing.

At the hearing, the Fishers presented evidence showing that they were opposed to being removed from Liberty Square and that the transfer was not in their best interests. There was also evidence that the transfer would be more cost effective for Chickasaw County. On May 24, the Board passed a resolution stating that it was in the Fishers' best interests to be transferred to Heritage and that the transfer was scheduled for June 13.

On June 13, the Fishers filed a petition for writ of certiorari in district court. The transfer was stayed pending final disposition of the certiorari action. Trial on the writ of certiorari began on December 6. The Fishers again testified that they were opposed to the transfer and that it was not in their best interests. The district court allowed Chickasaw County and the Board to present testimony explaining the reasons for the transfer, despite Fishers' objection that the evidence was not presented at the hearing before the Board. This evidence included testimony from the board chairman, the mental health judicial advocate, the Fishers' case manager, the administrator of Heritage, and the vocational supervisor of Comprehensive Systems.

On March 28, 1995, the district court entered an order sustaining the action of the Board, thereby annulling the writ of certiorari. The court concluded that the Board did not exceed its proper jurisdiction or act illegally, and that the Board's decision was supported by substantial evidence.

On appeal, the Fishers challenge the district court's admission of additional evidence at the hearing and the legality of the Board's resolution transferring them to Heritage.

II. Scope of Review.

Certiorari is an action at law which tests whether a lower board, tribunal, or court exceeded its proper jurisdiction or otherwise acted illegally. Iowa R. Civ. P. 306; French v. Iowa Dist. Ct. for Jones County, 546 N.W.2d 911, 913 (Iowa 1996). Our review of the judgment entered by a district court in a certiorari proceeding is governed by the rules applicable to appeals in ordinary actions. Iowa R. Civ. P. 318. Thus, review is for correction of errors at law, not de novo. City of Des Moines v. Civil Serv. Comm'n, 540 N.W.2d 52, 55 (Iowa 1995). The factual findings of the district court have the effect of a jury verdict and are binding upon us if supported by substantial evidence. Iowa R.App. P. 14(f)(1); Grinnell Mut. Reins. Co. v. Voeltz, 431 N.W.2d 783, 785 (Iowa 1988). The court's legal conclusions, however, are not. We will sustain a writ of certiorari where the board acted beyond its authority or jurisdiction. City of Des Moines, 540 N.W.2d at 55; see Iowa R. Civ. P. 306.

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