Holland v. Career Service Review Bd.

Decision Date30 June 1993
Docket NumberNo. 920486-CA,920486-CA
Citation856 P.2d 678
PartiesKevin HOLLAND, Petitioner, v. CAREER SERVICE REVIEW BOARD, State Office of Education, and Department of Human Resource Management, Respondents.
CourtUtah Court of Appeals

J. Kent Holland and Gordon J. Swenson, Salt Lake City, for petitioner.

Jan Graham and Stephen G. Schwendiman, Salt Lake City, for respondents.

Before BENCH, BILLINGS and RUSSON, JJ.

RUSSON, Associate Presiding Judge:

Kevin Holland seeks review of a decision of the Career Service Review Board of the State of Utah denying a grievance filed by Holland against the Utah State Office of

Education and the Department of Human Resource Management. We affirm.

FACTS

Holland was employed as an apprentice graphic arts camera specialist with the State Printing Office from January 1985 until May 1990. In May 1990, Holland was laid off as part of a reduction in force (RIF). Holland was offered a bindery operator position and another position involving inventory and press work at no reduction in pay, but he declined these offers. At the time of the RIF, his position was on the State's Trade and Craft Pay Plan, and not on the State's Classified Pay Plan. However, the Work Force Adjustment Plan associated with the RIF listed his position as "approximately [G]rade 19 [on the classified pay plan]." The mid-point of his salary range was $10.84 per hour and the maximum was $12.67 per hour.

On May 22, 1990, Holland signed a Reappointment Option Form, which stated: "I understand that I am eligible only for those career service positions which are of the same or lower grade as the last career service ... position held and for which I meet minimum qualifications as determined by the Division of Personnel Management." He listed Grade 19 as the minimum grade level that he was willing to accept, but later changed this to Grade 17.

Holland was placed on the statewide reappointment register for a period of one year, and applied for various positions during the next several months, but was unsuccessful in securing employment. In January 1991, a Graphic Arts Specialist 19 position with the Office of Education became available, and Holland applied for it. The mid-point of the position's salary range was $10.94 per hour and the maximum was $13.06 per hour. On the January 11, 1991, reappointment register, Holland's last position was listed, but no grade level was included because it was not on the State's Classified Pay Plan. The minimum grade level he was willing to accept was listed as Grade 17.

On February 19, 1991, an interview panel of the State Office of Education interviewed six applicants for the position, one of whom was Holland. The results of the interview scores were tabulated, and Holland received the second highest score. The applicant who received the highest score was hired for the position. Holland was not considered an applicant with reappointment rights because the midpoint and maximum of the salary range of his previous position were lower than those of the Education position, and because his previous position required only one year of prior experience, whereas the Education position required four years of experience. Holland filed a grievance with the Career Service Review Board on March 13, 1991, claiming that he should have been hired for the position because of his status on the reappointment register.

On May 22, 1991, Holland was informed by the executive director of the Department of Human Resource Management that because of inadequate communication and delay, he would be placed on the reappointment register for an additional three months. The executive director further informed Holland that his previous position would be listed as Grade 18 on the classified pay plan.

A hearing officer of the Career Service Review Board conducted an administrative hearing on November 15, 1991, and denied Holland's grievance. Holland then appealed to the Career Service Review Board, which sustained the hearing officer's decision and denied Holland's appeal.

Holland seeks review of that decision, claiming that: (1) the Office of Education and the Department of Human Resource Management violated mandatory rules regarding priority in hiring from the statewide reappointment register, thereby impairing his rights as a RIF'd employee; and (2) the Career Service Review Board improperly rejected his equitable estoppel claim. 1

REAPPOINTMENT DETERMINATION
Standard of Review

The Utah Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA) is applicable to all proceedings commenced on or after January 1, 1988. Utah Code Ann. § 63-46b-22(2) (1989). We therefore review Holland's petition under post-UAPA law.

Utah Code Ann. § 63-46b-16(4) (1989) provides:

The appellate court shall grant relief only if, on the basis of the agency's record, it determines that a person seeking judicial review has been substantially prejudiced by any of the following:

. . . . .

(h) the agency action is:

. . . . .

(ii) contrary to a rule of the agency....

In construing this section, the Utah Supreme Court has previously held that appellate courts "will ... employ an intermediate standard (one of some, but not total, deference) in reviewing [the petitioner's] claim that [the agency] erred in applying its rules." Union Pac. R.R. v. Utah State Tax Comm'n, 842 P.2d 876, 879 (Utah 1992) (citation omitted); accord SEMECO Indus., Inc. v. Utah State Tax Comm'n, 849 P.2d 1167, 1174 (Utah 1993) (Durham, J., dissenting). Accordingly, we review the agency's application of its rules for reasonableness and rationality. See Union Pac. R.R., 842 P.2d at 879.

Analysis

Holland claims that the Office of Education and the Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM) violated his rights as a RIF'd employee by not following mandatory rules regarding priority in hiring. Specifically, Holland argues that the respondents did not comply with Rule R468-5-4 of the Utah Administrative Code, which provides, in pertinent part:

R468-5-4. Order of Selection For Career Service Positions.

....

5-4. (3) Third, appointment shall be made from the statewide reappointment register containing the names of employees who meet the minimum qualifications for the position and who have previously attained the same salary range as the vacant position.

Utah Code Admin.P. R468-5-4. (3) (1991). Holland contends that DHRM incorrectly determined that he was not eligible to be considered as an applicant with reappointment rights for the Graphic Arts Specialist 19 position with the Office of Education, thus violating his reappointment rights under Rule R468-5-4. The respondents reply that Utah Code Ann. § 67-19-8 (Supp.1992) grants DHRM broad discretion to certify employees' eligibility for reappointment, and therefore, DHRM's determination must be upheld. 2

Section 67-19-8 states that "[t]he following functions shall be performed by the department and may not be contracted or otherwise delegated to another state agency ... (4) maintenance of registers and certification of eligible applicants...." Thus, according to the plain language of that section, certification of employees' eligibility for reappointment is within the sole province of DHRM.

However, it does not follow that such certification is subject to the agency's unfettered discretion. The Utah Administrative In the present case, the salary range of Holland's previous employment as an apprentice graphic arts camera specialist with the Division of State Printing had a mid-point of $10.84 per hour and a maximum of $12.67 per hour. By comparison, the salary range of the Graphic Arts Specialist 19 position with the Office of Education had a mid-point of $10.94 per hour and a maximum of $13.06 per hour. Applying the clear and unambiguous language of Rule R468-5-4. (3) to the facts of this case, Holland's previous employment did not have the same salary range as the vacant position. Thus, DHRM's application of that rule was reasonable and rational. Accordingly, we conclude that DHRM did not abuse its discretion in determining that Holland was not eligible for automatic reappointment under that rule.

                Code provides mandatory procedures which must be followed with regard to RIF'd employees.  As noted by Holland, pursuant to Rule R468-5-4.  (3) of the Utah Administrative Code, individuals listed on the statewide reappointment register are granted hiring preference so long as they "meet the minimum qualifications for the position and ... have previously attained the same salary range as the vacant position."   Utah Code Admin.P. R468-5-4.  (3) (1991) (emphasis added). 3
                
EQUITABLE ESTOPPEL

Holland argues that the Career Service Review Board (CSRB) improperly concluded that his claim for equitable estoppel was without merit. Since the doctrine of equitable estoppel involves principles of general law, we review CSRB's conclusion for correctness, granting no deference to that agency's decision. See Questar Pipeline Co. v. Utah State Tax Comm'n, 817 P.2d 316, 318 (Utah 1991); Savage Indus. v. Utah State Tax Comm'n, 811 P.2d 664, 670 (Utah 1991).

The elements necessary to invoke equitable estoppel are:

(1) a statement, admission, act, or failure to act by one party inconsistent with a claim later asserted; (2) reasonable action or inaction by the other party taken on the basis of the first party's statement, admission, act, or failure to act; and (3) injury to the second party that would result from allowing the first party to contradict or repudiate such statement, admission, act, or failure to act.

Eldredge v. Utah State Retirement Bd., 795 P.2d 671, 675 (Utah App.1990) (citations omitted).

Moreover, it is well settled that equitable estoppel is only assertible against the State or its institutions in unusual situations in which it is plainly apparent that failing to apply the rule would result in manifest injustice. See, e.g., Anderson v. Public Serv. Comm'n, 839 P.2d 822, 827 (Utah 1992); Utah State Univ. v. Sutro & Co., 646 P.2d 715, 718 (...

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