Hunter v. County of Morgan

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtEdwin H. Smith; Ulrich, P.J., and Howard
Citation12 S.W.3d 749
Parties(Mo.App. W.D. 2000) Clark Hunter and Kathy Francis, Appellants, v. County of Morgan, et al., Respondents. WD57120 0
Decision Date22 February 2000

12 S.W.3d 749 (Mo.App. W.D. 2000)
Clark Hunter and Kathy Francis, Appellants,
v.
County of Morgan, et al., Respondents.
WD57120
Missouri Court of Appeals Western District
02/22/2000

Appeal From: Circuit Court of Morgan County, Hon. James A. Franklin, Jr.

Counsel for Appellant: Michael L. McDorman

Counsel for Respondent: Lori A. Kowalski

Opinion Summary: This appeal arises out of a dispute over the annual compensation that was to be paid to the deputies and assistants of the county collector's office of Morgan County, Missouri, for the county budget years of 1989-1997. The county collector and deputy county collector sought a declaratory judgment that: (1) Hunter, as the county collector, had the exclusive statutory authority and discretion to set the annual compensation of his deputies and assistants, and (2) the commission was required, by law, to appropriate annually a minimum amount of funds for this purpose, but for the specified years failed to do so. Francis, the deputy county collector sought a declaration that she was entitled to back compensation from the county, representing the difference between the amount Hunter had agreed to pay to her as annual compensation for her services and the amount of funds the commission was required by law to appropriate for this purpose. Both also sought injunctive relief prohibiting the commission from attempting to set the compensation of the collector's deputies and assistants. In addition, Hunter sought a mandatory injunction compelling the commission, in the future, to annually appropriate the minimum amount of funds required by law and as requested by him for the purpose of compensating his deputies and assistants. Finally, Francis sought a judgment for "damages" in the amount determined, in the declaratory judgment, to be owed her as back compensation for the years in question. The trial court denied their request for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief and Francis's claim for "damages."

AFFIRMED IN PART AND REVERSED AND REMANDED IN PART.

Division III holds:

Giving the language of the applicable statutes its plain and ordinary meaning, the court finds that Hunter, as the county collector, had the exclusive statutory authority to set the compensation of his deputies and assistants, including that of Francis.

With respect to appropriations for compensation of deputies and assistants in Hunter's office, the commission does not dispute that section 52.271 required it to appropriate a minimum amount based on appropriations for the prior specified years. The appropriation dispute centers on what was intended by the legislature as to the amount of the required minimum appropriation. Giving the language of section 52.271 its plain and ordinary meaning, the court finds that, for the budget years 1989 through 1993, the legislature intended that the Commission's minimum appropriation be no less than the amount of the appropriation allowed by it in 1988. For the budget years 1994 through 1997, the Commission's minimum appropriation was to be no less than the amount of the appropriation allowed by it in 1992. The Commission was also required to make these appropriations in a lump sum so that once the appropriations were fixed and the appropriation order entered, the Commission could not control the spending decisions of Hunter, other than to require him to expend the funds for the purpose of compensating his employees.

Edwin H. Smith, Judge

This appeal arises out of a dispute over the annual compensation that was to be paid to the deputies and assistants of the county collector's office of Morgan County, Missouri, for the county budget years of 1989-1997. The dispute is between the appellants, Clark Hunter (Hunter) and Kathy Francis (Francis), who were, at all times pertinent herein, the county collector and deputy county collector for Morgan County, respectively, and the respondents, Morgan County and the duly elected county commissioners thereof, Stanley Merriott, Rodney Schad, and Allen Nolting (hereinafter collectively referred to as the commission). In the trial court below, the appellants both sought a declaratory judgment, declaring that: (1) Hunter, as the county collector, had the exclusive statutory authority and discretion to set the annual compensation of his deputies and assistants, including for the years 1988 through 1997; and (2) the commission was required, by law, to appropriate annually a minimum amount of funds for this purpose, but for the specified years failed to do so. Francis sought further declaratory relief, declaring that she was entitled to back compensation from the county, representing the difference between the amount Hunter had agreed to pay to her as annual compensation for her services, rendered from September 1990 through December 1997, and the amount of funds the commission was required by law to appropriate for this purpose. Both appellants also sought injunctive relief prohibiting the commission, in the future, unless subsequently authorized by statute, from attempting to set the compensation of the collector's deputies and assistants. In addition, Hunter sought a mandatory injunction compelling the commission, in the future, to annually appropriate the minimum amount of funds required by law and as requested by him for the purpose of compensating his deputies and assistants. Finally, Francis sought a judgment for "damages" in the amount determined, in the declaratory judgment, to be owed her as back compensation for the years in question. The trial court denied the appellants' request for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief and Francis's claim for "damages."

The appellants raise five points on appeal. In all five points, they claim that the trial court erred in denying their requested relief because, in doing so, it erroneously declared and applied the law as found in sections 52.281, RSMo Supp. 1987,1 and 52.271, RSMo Supp. 1988, RSMo Supp. 1993, and RSMo 1994.

We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

Facts

At the time of trial, Hunter had served since 1983 as the duly elected county collector for Morgan County, a third-class county. As the county collector, he had the authority to hire deputies and assistants for his office. In March 1983, he hired Francis to serve as his deputy collector. She was still serving in this position at the time of trial. Francis generally worked thirty-five hours per week and, on occasion, worked overtime hours. For overtime hours in excess of thirty-five up to forty hours per week, she was paid at her normal hourly rate. For hours worked over forty per week, she was paid at an hourly rate of time and a half. In addition to Francis, Hunter also hired temporary part-time assistants during tax season each year.

In January of 1988 through January of 1997, Hunter submitted his annual revenues and expenditures request form to the commission, requesting, inter alia, funds for the purpose of compensating Francis, his deputy collector, and his assistants. The table, infra, reflects these amounts and, in addition, the amounts actually appropriated by the commission and expended by Hunter for such compensation.

Year Requested Appropriated Expended
                 Total Francis TotalFrancisTotalFrancis
                1988 $25,000 $16,500 $19,700 $21,729.76 $14,942.84
                1989 $25,000 $16,000 $22,316 $22,869.95 $17,215.84
                1990 $24,500 $17,200 $22,316 $22,972.95 $16,549.11
                1991 $25,000 $17,500 $25,000 $19,936.67 $16,361.61
                1992 $23,500 $17,500 $20,500 $19,811.26 $16,112.24
                1993 $25,000 $25,000 $20,350 $20,480.55 $16,287.76
                1994 $25,000 $18,000 $23,500 $21,686.25 $16,685.61
                1995 $30,000 $18,800 $23,500 $24,451.51 $16,604.61
                1996 $31,750 $20,750 $25,287 $17,137 $24,718.92 $17,272.94
                1997 $38,000 $24,637 $17,137 $25,501.01 $18,510.51
                

The expenditures, as reflected in the table, were allowed pursuant to "payroll authorizations[s]" signed by the commission. From 1988 through 1997, the commission authorized the county clerk to pay Francis as follows: 1988 - $995 per month or $6.56 per hour; 1989 - $6.76 per hour; 1990 - $1,137.53 per month; 1991 - $7.50 per hour; 1992 - $7.50 per hour; 1993 - $7.70 per hour; 1994 - $1,183 per month; 1995 - $1,183 per month or $7.80 per hour; 1996 - $1,220.91 per month or $8.05 per hour; and 1997 - $1,258.83 per month or $8.30 per hour.

On September 26, 1997, the appellants filed their first amended two-count petition.2 In Count I, Hunter sought: (1) a declaration that "Defendants are without authority to deny Plaintiff Clark Hunter an appropriation in an amount less than provided by Section 52.271 RSMo for purposes of compensating his Deputy Collector and other clerical employees"; (2) a declaration that "Defendants are without authority to set the salaries of the employees of the County Collector's office and that said salaries should be entirely within the discretion of Plaintiff Clark Hunter as long as same may be paid from his approved budget"; (3) a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the Commission from "continuing to appropriate such sums to Plaintiff Clark Hunter's budget as are less than requested by Plaintiff . . . as long as such request is within the amount allowed by Section 52.271 RSMo"; and (4) a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the commission "from determining the salaries to be paid to the employees of Plaintiff Clark Hunter's office." In Count II, Francis sought: (1) a declaration that "Defendants are without authority to set Plaintiff Kathy Francis' salary, and that said salary is entirely within the discretion of the Morgan County Collector so long as same may be paid from the Morgan County Collector's approved budget"; and (2) a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining the Commission from continuing to determine her salary; and (4) "[r]equiring [the Commission] to pay to Plaintiff [Francis] the sum represented by the difference between the salary agreed upon between Plaintiff and her employer and the salary...

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3 practice notes
  • Pavlica v. Director of Revenue, No. WD 59790.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 19, 2002
    ...as here, the issue presented is one of statutory interpretation, a question of law, our review is de novo. Hunter v. County of Morgan, 12 S.W.3d 749, 755 In interpreting statutes, we are to ascertain the intent of the legislature. Habjan v. Earnest, 2 S.W.3d 875, 881 (Mo. App.1999). In doin......
  • State ex rel. Thomas v. Neeley, No. 26108.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 23, 2004
    ...is the appropriate action when seeking to require the performance of an official of a ministerial act. Hunter v. County of Morgan, 12 S.W.3d 749, 764 (Mo.App.2000). A writ of mandamus will lie to compel a public official to do that which he or she is obligated by law to do and undo that whi......
  • Kelly v. Nelson, No. WD 67374.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 19, 2007
    ...ambiguous, the trial court erred when it found that the two statutes should be construed together. See Hunter v. County of Morgan, 12 S.W.3d 749, 757 (Mo.App. W.D.2000) (only when legislative intent cannot be ascertained from plain and ordinary meaning of language is statute ambiguous and r......
3 cases
  • Pavlica v. Director of Revenue, No. WD 59790.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 19, 2002
    ...as here, the issue presented is one of statutory interpretation, a question of law, our review is de novo. Hunter v. County of Morgan, 12 S.W.3d 749, 755 In interpreting statutes, we are to ascertain the intent of the legislature. Habjan v. Earnest, 2 S.W.3d 875, 881 (Mo. App.1999). In doin......
  • State ex rel. Thomas v. Neeley, No. 26108.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • March 23, 2004
    ...is the appropriate action when seeking to require the performance of an official of a ministerial act. Hunter v. County of Morgan, 12 S.W.3d 749, 764 (Mo.App.2000). A writ of mandamus will lie to compel a public official to do that which he or she is obligated by law to do and undo that whi......
  • Kelly v. Nelson, No. WD 67374.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 19, 2007
    ...ambiguous, the trial court erred when it found that the two statutes should be construed together. See Hunter v. County of Morgan, 12 S.W.3d 749, 757 (Mo.App. W.D.2000) (only when legislative intent cannot be ascertained from plain and ordinary meaning of language is statute ambiguous and r......

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