Wayne County v. WAYNE COUNTY RET. COM'N, Docket No. 259839

Decision Date28 June 2005
Docket NumberDocket No. 259883.,Docket No. 259839
PartiesWAYNE COUNTY, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. WAYNE COUNTY RETIREMENT COMMISSION, Wayne County Employees' Retirement System Election Commission and Wayne County Employees' Retirement System, Defendants, and Wayne County Airport Authority, Intervening Defendant-Appellant. Wayne County, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Wayne County Retirement Commission, Wayne County Employees' Retirement System Election Commission and Wayne County Employees' Retirement System, Defendants-Appellants, and Wayne County Airport Authority, Intervening Defendant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Clark Hill, P.L.C. (by Reginald M. Turner, Jr., Neil H. Goodman, and Danon D. Goodrum), Detroit, for Wayne County.

VanOverbeke, Michaud & Timmony, P.C. (by Michael J. VanOverbeke, Thomas C. Michaud, and Jack Timmony), Detroit, for the Wayne County Retirement Commission, the Wayne County Employees' Retirement System Elections Commission, and the Wayne County Employees' Retirement System.

Monaghan, LoPrete, McDonald, Yakima, Grenke & McCarthy (by Thomas J. McCarthy and Timothy J. Harrington), Bloomfield Hills, for the Wayne County Airport Authority.

Martens, Ice, Klass, Legghio & Israel, P.C. (by Renate Klass), Royal Oak, for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Michigan Council 25, AFSCME Locals 101, 1862, 2057, 2926, and 3317, AFSCME Wayne County Retiree Subchapter 38, Robert Smiley, and Leonard Cranston. Before: GAGE, P.J., and WHITBECK, C.J., and SAAD, J.

WHITBECK, C.J.

I. Overview
A. Docket No. 259839

In Docket No. 259839, intervening defendant, the Wayne County Airport Authority (the Authority), appeals as of right the November 1, 2004, order granting summary disposition in favor of plaintiff, Wayne County (the County), and entering judgment for the County in this cause of action for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. We affirm.

B. Docket No. 259883

In Docket No. 259883, defendants, the Wayne County Retirement Commission (the Retirement Commission), the Wayne County Employees' Retirement System Election Commission (the Election Commission), and the Wayne County Employees' Retirement System (the Retirement System), appeal as of right the November 1, 2004, order granting summary disposition in favor of the County and entering judgment for the County in this cause of action for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. We affirm.

II. Basic Facts And Procedural History
A. Creation Of The Authority

On March 26, 2002, the Michigan Legislature enacted 2002 P.A. 90 (Act 90)1 to transfer the management and operation of qualifying airports from local government to a "public airport authority."2 Act 90 defined a nonmilitary airport that has ten million or more enplanements within a twelve-month period as a "qualified airport."3 At the time of the statute's enactment, the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (Detroit Metro) and Willow Run Airport were under the operation of the County and were the only two "qualified airports" in the state. Act 90 essentially combined the two airports into the Authority. The Authority was empowered by statute "to manage and operate" the qualified airports and their facilities.4

B. Transfer Of Employees

Act 90 gave Wayne County employees working at Detroit Metro and Willow Run Airport the option to transfer their employment to the Authority or to remain county employees and be reassigned within the county government.5 The majority of Wayne County employees working at those airports chose to become employees of the Authority. Under Act 90, an individual who chose to transfer employment to the Authority or who becomes a new employee of the Authority "shall remain or become a participant in the local government retirement system until the authority has established its own retirement system or pension plan."6 About 714 employees of the Authority remained participants in the Retirement System because the Authority had not yet established a retirement system or pension plan. Under Act 90, the Authority was obligated to make employer contributions to the Retirement System on behalf of those employees who transferred employment to the Authority but remained participants in the Retirement System.7 Act 90 also required the Authority to assume the obligations of any collective bargaining agreements covering employees who transferred employment from Wayne County to the Authority.8

C. The Retirement System

Wayne County's charter and enabling ordinances established the Retirement System to provide "retirement income to eligible employees and survivor benefits." Wayne County Charter, § 6.111. The Retirement Commission is the administrative body responsible for overseeing the operational and administrative functions of the Retirement System. Pursuant to § 6.112 of the charter and § 141-35 of the Wayne County ordinances, the Retirement Commission consists of eight trustees, including the chairperson of the county board of commissioners, the county executive, and six other members who are elected to their seats. The Retirement Commission created the Election Commission to supervise the elections. Generally, nominations for office must be filed with the director of Wayne County's Department of Personnel/Human Resources, who is responsible for certifying the eligibility of candidates.

D. Elections To The Retirement Commission

The term for one of the elected seats on the Retirement Commission represented by active members of the Retirement System was due to expire on December 31, 2004. On July 27, 2004, the Director of Retirement, Ronald Yee, posted a notice to all members of the Retirement System regarding an upcoming election for the open trustee seat. The notice informed the members that a primary election would be held on November 1, 2004, followed by a general election on December 13, 2004. Robert E. Murphy and Raymond J. Lambert, former Wayne County employees who transferred employment to the Authority, were two of five nominees for the active member seat. Murphy was an elected trustee of the Retirement Commission at that time.

On September 27, 2004, Yee sent a letter to Pamela Travis, the chairperson of the Election Commission, certifying the names of the five individuals who filed satisfactory nominating petitions. Subsequently, the Election Commission approved the five candidates for incorporation on the primary election ballot. Lisa Laginess, a department executive in Personnel Information Services, then sent the original petitions, along with a letter containing information about the nominees, to Yee. Laginess also mailed letters to the nominees, including Murphy and Lambert, advising them that their names were to be placed on the primary election ballot.

However, Timothy Taylor, director of the Department of Personnel/Human Resources for Wayne County, subsequently sent a letter to Yee rescinding Laginess's letter and explaining that his office "inadvertently forwarded the original nominating petitions" to Yee's office before the mandatory petition review process had been conducted. Taylor requested that Yee return the nominating petitions for completion of the review process. Taylor also mailed letters to Murphy and Lambert rescinding Laginess's letters and advising that their names could not be placed on the ballot for the primary election because they were ineligible candidates since they were no longer Wayne County employees. Taylor further sent a letter to Travis requesting that she schedule an Election Committee meeting to approve the ballot for the primary election after completion of the mandatory review process. Taylor explained, "I have determined that two candidates are ineligible to participate in the election process because they are no longer Wayne County employees.... [T]he nominating petitions submitted by Mr. Lambert and Mr. Murphy are invalid and their names cannot appear on the ballot."

Yee responded to Taylor's letter by e-mail, explaining that the Election Commission had already certified all five names for the ballot and that a legal review of the matter was pending. Yee refused to return the nominating petitions. Apparently, the Retirement Commission, with the Election Commission's oversight, intended to continue with the primary election using ballots naming Murphy and Lambert as candidates.

E. The County's Complaint

On October 12, 2004, the County filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief against defendants. The County alleged that Authority employees who remained in the Retirement System were ineligible to vote in an election for and seek election to the Retirement Commission because they were not "active members" as defined under the Wayne County Charter, retirement ordinance, and election rules, and only names of "active members" may be placed on the ballot for elections to the Retirement Commission.

The County also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, show cause order, and preliminary injunction based on the irreparable harm that would result if the names of Murphy and Lambert remained on the ballots for the primary and general elections. Defendants opposed the County's request, contending that the Retirement Commission had the authority to establish the rules and regulations guiding the elections of member representatives and that it was acting within its authority in seeking to conduct the contested elections.

On October 12, 2004, the trial court entered an order temporarily restraining defendants from placing the names of Murphy and Lambert, or the names of any other individuals not certified as active employees by the Wayne County Department of Personnel/Human Resources, on the primary or general election ballots, printing the ballots, and holding the elections until the trial court ruled on...

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