Spaulding v. Bd. of Cty. Com'rs, Kandiyohi County, Minn.

Decision Date09 January 1976
Docket NumberNo. 45639,45639
Citation238 N.W.2d 602,306 Minn. 512
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

County officers are not county employees so as to be included in employment policy established by board of county commissioners for employees.

Absent statutory authorization, counties may not provide severance pay benefits to county officers.

Ronald R. Frauenshuh and Charles B. Fahlberg, Paynesville, for appellant.

Ronald H. Schneider, County Atty., David C. Lingren, Dennis Neeser, Asst. County Attys., Willmar, for respondent.

Heard before ROGOSHESKE, YETKA and AMDAHL, JJ., and considered and decided by the court en banc.


Appeal by Harvey Spaulding, retired sheriff of Kandiyohi County, from an order of the district court denying his alternative motion for amended findings or for a new trial after the court's order dismissing Spaulding's claim against the county for accrued sick leave.

Appellant was the sheriff of Kandiyohi County from January 3, 1958, to January 31, 1972. On February 6, 1968, a policy of employment was adopted by the Kandiyohi Board of County Commissioners. That policy included, among other employee benefits, a sick leave policy providing, so far as material here:

'All regular employees shall be entitled to one day sick leave per month. * * * Upon retirement, either by age or disability, severance pay of accumulated sick leave days shall be paid at the rate of 75% (of accumulated sick leave multiplied by the employee's present hourly rate) * * *.'

Appellant received a copy of the employee policy and assumed he was included. The trial court found:

'There is nothing in the record that the Board of County Commissioners or any member thereof or any one authorized to act on behalf of the Board made any representations to the plaintiff that he would be considered an employee of the County under the Kandiyohi County Policy of Employment.'

Nevertheless, Spaulding included his own sick leave use in periodic reports made to the county regarding sick leave utilization of sheriff's personnel. He argues that by accepting such reports the county incurred a duty to advise him that he was not covered and that, failing in the performance of such duty, it was estopped from denying coverage at the time of his retirement.

Appellant further alleges that upon the assumption he was entitled to the accumulated sick leave benefit upon retirement, he reported to work despite illness in order to save the leave, did not apply for salary increases, and retired before his term expired in the expectation that the accumulated sick leave pay would augment his retirement finances.

The issues here are three:

(1) Was appellant included within Kandiyohi County's employee sick leave policy?

(2) Could the county have included appellant within the policy absent statutory authorization?

(3) Does the doctrine of equitable estoppel apply to estop the county from denying coverage to appellant?

The county sick leave policy does not include appellant. The policy specifically covers 'employees.' There is a well-recognized distinction between county employees and county officers. 4 Antieau, Local Government Law, § 34.00; 3 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (Rev. vol. 1973) § 12.30; Rhyne, Municipal Law, § 8--2. The sheriff is a county officer. Minn.St. 382.01.

Recognizing the overriding necessity of protecting public funds, this court is Jerome v. Burns, 202 Minn. 485, 490, 279 N.W. 237, 240 (1938), and more recently in Balob v. Village of Hibbing, 297 Minn. 414, 417, 211 N.W.2d 878, 881 (1973), has approved the rule stated in 4 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations (Rev. vol. 1968) § 12.193, that '(w)here an...

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5 cases
  • Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe v. Cnty. of Mille Lacs
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Minnesota
    • January 10, 2023
    ...In other contexts under Minnesota law, courts have not treated county officials as employees. Spaulding v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs, 238 N.W.2d 602, 604 (1976) (stating, in retired sheriff's case against county for accrued sick leave, “There is a well-recognized distinction between county emplo......
  • Axelson v. Minneapolis Teachers' Retirement Fund Ass'n
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • March 8, 1996
    ...2 Senior Citizens Coalition v. Minnesota Pub. Utils., 355 N.W.2d 295, 304 (Minn.1984); see also Spaulding v. Board of County Comm'rs, 306 Minn. 512, 515, 238 N.W.2d 602, 604 (1976) (county cannot be bound by estoppel to make unauthorized payments to county officer where sick leave policy co......
  • Konovsky v. Kraus-Anderson, Inc.
    • United States
    • Minnesota Supreme Court
    • January 9, 1976
    ...237 N.W.2d 630 ... 306 Minn. 508 ... John J. KONOVSKY, Respondent, ... Konovsky, commenced an action in the Mower County District Court to recover for personal injuries ... ...
  • Paske v. Dakota County
    • United States
    • Minnesota Court of Appeals
    • October 30, 1984
    ...grant severance pay to its county court reporters unless they were county employees. See Spaulding v. Board of County Commissioners, Kandiyohi County, 306 Minn. 512, 515, 238 N.W.2d 602, 604 (1976). Past county practices are a factor to be considered in determining whether the county should......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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