Gibson v. Ada County Sheriff's Dept.

Decision Date28 May 2003
Docket NumberNo. 27605.,27605.
Citation139 Idaho 5,72 P.3d 845
PartiesStacy GIBSON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ADA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Defendant-Respondent.
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

Vernon K. Smith Jr., Boise, argued for appellant.

Greg H. Bower, Ada County Prosecutor, Boise, for respondent. Kelli B. Ketlinski argued.

KIDWELL, Justice.

The Ada County Sheriff's Department (ACSD) terminated Stacy Gibson (Gibson) for making material misstatements on official records, detrimental conduct, and conduct unbecoming of a county employee. Gibson sought administrative review. The county personnel hearing officer affirmed the ACSD's decision. The district court reviewed and affirmed the county personnel hearing officer's findings of fact and conclusions of law. Gibson appeals.


On July 23, 1997, Gibson began working for the ACSD as a Records Technician II (records tech). The ACSD paid Gibson a base salary of $1,500 per month plus overtime. Gibson made it through her probationary period and became a tenured employee terminable only for cause.

Approximately one week prior to receiving each of her paychecks, Gibson signed a pay voucher stating:


In May 1998, Gibson submitted an Automatic Paycheck Deposit Authorization in order to participate in the ACSD's direct deposit program. It authorized the ACSD to "initiate credit entries and, if necessary, debit entries and adjustments for any credit entries in error to [her] account...." Thereafter, Gibson did not receive a traditional paycheck. Gibson did, however, continue to receive and sign pay vouchers approximately one week prior to each payday.

In fall 1998, at Gibson's request, the ACSD made her a Jail Technician II (jail tech). As a jail tech, the ACSD paid Gibson $1,550 per month plus overtime, a $50 per month increase over her base salary as a records tech. In the course of changing Gibson's pay rate, an error occurred. The error combined Gibson's base pay for the jail tech and records tech positions. As a result, beginning with her pay for November 1998, the ACSD paid Gibson her base pay for her jail tech position, $1,550, plus base pay for the records tech position, $1,500, and overtime. From November 1998 through June 1999, Gibson signed pay vouchers authorizing the ACSD to pay her $3,050, plus overtime equaling $100 to $700, per month. The ACSD paid in accordance therewith.

In June or July 1999, the ACSD discovered that it had overpaid Gibson $12,000 over the course of eight months. Believing that Gibson's act of signing pay vouchers authorizing the overpayments for eight months might constitute a crime, the ACSD assigned Detective Arvinn Glenn (Glenn) to investigate the matter.

On July 20, 1999, Glenn summoned Gibson to his office. When asked what the base salary for a jail tech was, Gibson responded that it was $1,550 per month. Then, Glenn asked Gibson what she was paid. Gibson stated, "I have no idea. I mean, I sign my cards, I never pay attention to [th]em. I work so much overtime.... I been putting in sixty, who knows, how many hours of overtime." Gibson also stated that she didn't ever balance her checkbook; rather, she would call the bank a couple of times a month to check her balance and avoid overdrafts. Also, when Gibson was a records tech, she carefully reviewed her pay vouchers and reported errors. After reassignment as a jail tech, however, she discontinued this practice.

The ACSD concluded that Gibson had knowingly signed pay vouchers indicating that her base salary was $3,050 when she knew her base salary was only $1,550. On August 2, 1999, Sheriff Vaughn Killeen (Killeen) sent Gibson a letter expressing his intent to terminate her on the grounds that she: (1) conducted herself in a "manner as to be detrimental to the good order and discipline of the department;" (2) "made a materially misleading statement in an official report;" and (3) "conducted [her]self in such a manner as to reflect unfavorably on th[e] department and [her]self." The letter stated that the facts giving rise to Gibson's termination were: (1) she knowingly accepted salary overpayments; and (2) she did nothing to correct the overpayments or repay the monies erroneously paid to her. The letter also advised Gibson of her right to appeal.

Gibson appealed. The Ada County personnel hearing officer heard the matter on January 25 and 26, 2000. On February 17, 2000, the hearing officer's findings of fact, conclusions of law and decision affirmed Killeen's decision to terminate Gibson. The hearing officer found Gibson's conduct "detrimental to the good order and discipline in the (ACSD) department or office, or conduct unbecoming of a county employee" in violation of Ada County Code (ACC) § 1-7G-3A(5). The hearing officer also found that Gibson's conduct violated ACSD Policy Manual § 9.04 because it could bring the ACSD into disrepute. The hearing officer, however, found that Gibson did not violate ACC § 1-7G-3A(20)—allowing termination for material misrepresentations in "official reports" because the pay vouchers did not constitute "official reports."

Gibson sought judicial review of the county personnel hearing officer's decision pursuant to A.C.C. § 1-7(G)-3(o) on the grounds that she was denied due process, the hearing officer's findings were not based on substantial, competent evidence, and the decision was arbitrary and capricious. The district court addressed the matter under the standard of review set forth in the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (IAPA), I.C. §§ 67-5277 and -5279, and affirmed the hearing officer's decision.

Gibson timely filed this appeal.

A. The Idaho Administrative Procedure Act Does Not Govern This Action.

The IAPA and its judicial review standards apply to agency actions. I.C. §§ 67-5201, -5270.

"Agency" means each state board, commission, department or officer authorized by law to make rules or to determine contested cases, but does not include the legislative or judicial branches, executive officers listed in section 1, article IV, of the constitution of the state of Idaho in the exercise of powers derived directly and exclusively from the constitution, the state militia or the state board of correction.

I.C. § 67-5201(2). This Court has held that "[t]he language of the IAPA indicates that it is intended to govern the judicial review of decisions made by state administrative agencies, and not local governing bodies." Idaho Historic Preservation Council v. City Council of Boise, 134 Idaho 651, 653, 8 P.3d 646, 648 (2000); see also Petersen v. Franklin County, 130 Idaho 176, 182, 938 P.2d 1214, 1220 (1997); Arthur v. Shoshone County, 133 Idaho 854, 859, 993 P.2d 617, 622 (Ct.App. 2000). Counties and city governments are considered local governing bodies rather than agencies for purposes of the IAPA. Idaho Historic Preservation Council, 134 Idaho at 653, 8 P.3d at 648; Petersen, 130 Idaho at 182, 938 P.2d at 1220; Arthur, 133 Idaho at 859, 993 P.2d at 622.

Though the IAPA and its judicial review provisions are generally inapplicable to local government actions, a statute may provide for judicial review of local government actions pursuant to the IAPA. Idaho Historic Preservation Council, 134 Idaho at 653-54,8 P.3d at 648-49; see Petersen, 130 Idaho at 182,938 P.2d at 1220. Absent a statute invoking the IAPA's judicial review provisions, local government actions may not be reviewed under the IAPA. Idaho Historic Preservation Council, 134 Idaho at 653-54,8 P.3d at 648-49.

B. A County Personnel Hearing Officer's Action Is Not Subject To Judicial Review Pursuant To I.R.C.P. 84.

Statutes may also authorize judicial review without invoking the provisions of the IAPA. I.R.C.P. 84(a)(1). The rule, however, states "actions of a local government, [or] its officers ... are not subject to judicial review unless expressly authorized by statute." I.R.C.P. 84(a)(1). There is no statute authorizing judicial review of a decision by the county personnel hearing officer. Therefore, this matter is not subject to review pursuant to I.R.C.P. 84.

Idaho Historic Preservation Council might appear, at first glance, to support application of the general standards of judicial review found in I.R.C.P. 84(a)(1) to this matter. Idaho Historic Preservation Council is, however, distinguishable from this case. In Idaho Historic Preservation Council, the council petitioned for review of a decision of the Boise city council. 134 Idaho at 652, 8 P.3d at 647. The district court determined that the IAPA provided the correct standard of review for the matter. Id. This Court found that the IAPA was inapplicable, nonetheless it proceeded to review the matter using the generally applicable standards of review under I.R.C.P. 84(a)(1). Id. The distinction between this matter and Idaho Historic Preservation Council was that the Idaho Preservation of Historic Sites Act, the controlling law in Idaho Historic Preservation Council, expressly authorized judicial review. See I.C. § 67-4610. In the present matter, there is no statute authorizing judicial review. Without such a statute, the approach in Idaho Historic Preservation Council is inapplicable.

Notably, had Gibson appealed the county personnel hearing officer's decision to the Ada County Board of Commissioners (board), the board's decision would be an appropriate subject for judicial review and the IAPA standard of review would apply. I.C. § 31-1506(1). Without action of the board, however, the judicial review provisions of I.C. § 31-1506(1) are inapplicable.

C. A County Ordinance Cannot Authorize Judicial Review.

ACC § 1-7G-3(o) states that a party may "appeal the...

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