State ex rel. v. School Dist. Bd. of Edn.

Decision Date04 December 2002
Docket NumberNo. 2002-0672.,2002-0672.
Parties[The STATE ex rel.] STACY, Appellant, v. BATAVIA LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BOARD OF EDUCATION et al., Appellees.
CourtOhio Supreme Court

Buckley, King & Bluso and James E. Melle, Columbus, for appellant.

Ennis, Roberts & Fischer, C. Bronston McCord III and George E. Roberts III, Cincinnati, for appellees.


Appellee Batavia Local School District Board of Education employed appellant, Dorsie Stacy, as a mechanic under a continuing contract for approximately 13½ years, from March 1985, until August 21, 1998. At the end of the 1997-1998 school year, the board employed 13 bus drivers and Stacy as the sole bus mechanic.

{¶ 2} On June 22, 1998, the board executed a contract with Laidlaw Transit, Inc., to provide transportation services for the school district for five years. On July 20, 1998, the board abolished the bus driver and mechanic positions and laid off the employees in those positions, including Stacy, effective August 21, 1998. The affected employees received written notification of the layoff, which provided that "[r]einstatement to employment shall be made from the list of laid off employees in order of seniority."

{¶ 3} Under its contract with the board, Laidlaw agreed to offer employment to the laid-off employees, to provide a three percent increase in pay and comparable benefits to these employees, and to permit them to receive the same severance pay that they would have been entitled to from the board upon retirement. On June 24, 1998, Laidlaw offered Stacy employment as a bus mechanic, but Stacy refused it.

{¶ 4} Before February 24, 1998, Stacy had contacted the School Employees Retirement System ("SERS") to determine his benefits if he retired from employment with the board when he turned 62 in early 1999. By letter dated February 24, 1998, SERS sent him an estimate of his retirement benefits, which assumed a retirement date of April 1, 1999.

{¶ 5} Subsequent to the board's abolishment of his job and the notification concerning his layoff, on August 12, 1998, Stacy tendered his written resignation from employment with the board. In his letter, Stacy stated, "Due to my resignation, for the purpose of retirement (effective August 21, 1998) I hereby request to be paid for all unused vacation days, and personal days." The board accepted Stacy's resignation on August 17, 1998, and Stacy's final day of work was August 21, 1998. Stacy did not assert that he had been forced out of his job. Stacy received his final paycheck and severance pay from the board, and he began receiving SERS and Social Security benefits.

{¶ 6} On August 20, 1998, Ohio Association of Public School Employees/AFSCME, Local 4, AFL-CIO, the representative of the bargaining unit that included school bus drivers and Stacy as the lone mechanic, requested that the board honor the statutory employment contracts and continue to employ them for school year 1998-1999 and thereafter. At the time of the union's written request, Stacy had already tendered his resignation to the board and the board had accepted it.

{¶ 7} On August 24, 1998, the union and the individual school bus drivers commenced an action for a writ of mandamus to compel the board, its superintendent, its treasurer, and its president to reinstate them and award back pay and lost benefits. Stacy was not a party to the action. After the court of appeals denied the writ, this court, on June 21, 2000, reversed the judgment, granted the writ, and remanded the cause to the court of appeals for a determination of back pay and fringe benefits. State ex rel. Ohio Assn. of Pub. School Emp./AFSCME, Local 4, AFL-CIO v. Batavia Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. (2000), 89 Ohio St.3d 191, 729 N.E.2d 743 ("OAPSE"). In so holding, we concluded that the board was not authorized to lay off the bus drivers, the contracting-out of these jobs to Laidlaw was invalid, and the bus drivers were entitled to reinstatement. Id.

{¶ 8} Shortly after our judgment was entered, Stacy asked the board by letter dated July 17, 2000, to be reinstated as a school bus mechanic. From September 1, 1998, until July 2000, he did not apply for any other job. The board did, however, reinstate all of the laid-off bus drivers, who, unlike Stacy, had not retired from their jobs.

{¶ 9} On October 10, 2000, Stacy filed a complaint in the Court of Appeals for Clermont County for a writ of mandamus to compel appellees, the board, its president, its superintendent, and its treasurer, to reinstate him to his position as a mechanic, honor his statutory employment contract, and award him back pay and lost benefits. Stacy claimed that the court's judgment in OAPSE had a "preclusive effect against [appellees] on all similar and dispositive issues" in the case. Stacy further claimed that he had been wrongfully excluded from employment with the board.

{¶ 10} The parties subsequently submitted evidence and briefs. In his deposition, Stacy testified that if the board had not executed the contract with Laidlaw and notified him of his layoff, he would not have retired in 1998. Stacy further testified that he was advised that if he did not sign the resignation letter on August 12, 1998, he would not receive his severance pay upon retirement.

{¶ 11} On March 11, 2002, the court of appeals denied the writ. The court of appeals held that Stacy's voluntary retirement from employment with the board waived any right to reinstatement and back pay.

{¶ 12} This case is now before the court for consideration of the parties' requests for oral argument and the merits of Stacy's appeal.

Oral Argument

{¶ 13} The parties request oral argument in this appeal. We deny the requests. S.Ct.Prac.R. IX(2) does not require oral argument in this appeal, and the parties' briefs are sufficient to resolve this case. Johnson v. Timmerman-Cooper (2001), 93 Ohio St.3d 614, 615, 757 N.E.2d 1153. Although one of the issues raised in this appeal might be considered, as appellant contends, a matter of first impression for this court, this appeal involves no substantial constitutional issue, conflict between courts of appeals, or sufficiently complex legal or factual matters that would benefit from oral argument. See State ex rel. Woods v. Oak Hill Community Med. Ctr., Inc. (2001), 91 Ohio St.3d 459, 460, 746 N.E.2d 1108.

{¶ 14} Therefore, oral argument is not warranted.

Mandamus: Collateral Estoppel

{¶ 15} Stacy asserts that the court of appeals erred in denying the writ of mandamus. Stacy initially contends that our judgment in OAPSE collaterally estopped appellees from contesting his right to reinstatement, back pay, and lost benefits.

{¶ 16} "The doctrine of issue preclusion, also known as collateral estoppel, holds that a fact or a point that was actually and directly at issue in a previous action, and was passed upon and determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, may not be drawn into question in a subsequent action between the same parties or their privies, whether the cause of action in the two actions be identical or different." Fort Frye Teachers Assn., OEA/ NEA v. State Emp. Relations Bd. (1998), 81 Ohio St.3d 392, 395, 692 N.E.2d 140; Norwood v. McDonald (1943), 142 Ohio St 299, 27 O.O. 240, 52 N.E.2d 67, paragraph three of the syllabus. Consequently, collateral estoppel prevents parties from relitigating in a subsequent case facts and issues that were fully litigated in a previous case. State ex rel. Shemo v. Mayfield Hts. (2002), 95 Ohio St.3d 59, 64, 765 N.E.2d 345.

{¶ 17} Contrary to Stacy's assertions, the issue of the right of public employees who resigned following notice of being laid off to be reinstated to their former employment with the board was never litigated in OAPSE. Stacy was not a party to that case, and none of the individual relators therein had retired before their layoff became effective. Stacy in effect concedes that this issue was not previously litigated by stating in his appellate brief, "Admittedly, Stacy's retirement was not litigated in [OAPSE.]" In fact, in a post-OAPSE case, we ordered a board of education to reinstate those relator bus drivers and mechanics who had not retired after the board abolished their positions and subcontracted school busing services to Laidlaw. State ex rel. Boggs v. Springfield Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. (2001), 93 Ohio St.3d 558, 565, 757 N.E.2d 339.

{¶ 18} Therefore, our judgment in OAPSE did not collaterally estop appellees from claiming that Stacy's retirement waived his entitlement to reinstatement and back pay. See, e.g., State ex rel. Stackhouse v. Becker (Dec. 14, 1994), Lake App. No. 94-L-024, 1994 WL 721693 (no duty to reinstate public employee who had voluntarily retired); Phillips v. W. Holmes Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn. (Mar. 20, 1990), Holmes App. No. CA-407, 1990 WL 41584 (public employee waived his right to reinstatement and back pay by voluntarily retiring under board of education's early-retirement incentive plan).

Mandamus: R.C. 3319.081

{¶ 19} It is axiomatic that "[a] wrongfully excluded public employee may obtain back pay and related benefits in a mandamus action following reinstatement or, in some cases, may obtain reinstatement and back pay and related benefits in the same mandamus action." Boggs, 93 Ohio St.3d at 563, 757 N.E.2d 339.

{¶ 20} Although collateral estoppel does not establish liability on the part of appellees, precedent does. R.C. 3319.081 prohibited the board from abolishing the positions of school bus driver and mechanic, laying off public employees in those positions, and contracting out those jobs to a private entity. OAPSE, 89 Ohio St.3d at 195, 729 N.E.2d 743; Boggs, 93 Ohio St.3d at 561, 757 N.E.2d 339. Consistent with OAPSE and Boggs, the board's actions were invalid because they violated R.C. 3319.081, and Stacy — assuming that he did not waive his rights — was not properly terminated from his...

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