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Highway supervisor’s termination not subject to judicial review

March 6, 2014

Because the decision by the Fayette County Board of Commissioners to not reappoint its county highway supervisor was a ministerial decision, the Indiana Supreme Court held it was not subject to judicial review.

Howard Price sough judicial review of the board’s decision to terminate his employment in February 2011. He served as Fayette County highway supervisor from 1991 to 2002 and again in 2006 until he was terminated. A motion by one commissioner to renew his appointment for the standard 12-month period died for lack of a second. Another commissioner made the motion to appoint a different person as interim supervisor while beginning the search for a new supervisor. That was approved on a 2-1 vote.

The trial court denied summary judgment in the matter, concluding the board’s decision to terminate Price’s continued employment was “quasi-judicial in nature” and thus subject to judicial review.

In Fayette County Board of Commissioners v. Howard Price, 21S04-1308-PL-530, the justices relied on the four-factor test for determining whether an administrative action is judicial in nature as outlined in Lincoln v. Bd. of Comm’rs of Tippecanoe Cnty, 510 N.E.2d 716 (Ind. Ct. App. 1987), in their decision to reverse the trial court. Genuine issue of material fact exists with respect to the first two Lincoln factors: the presence of the parties upon notice and the ascertainment of facts.

“We find as a matter of law, however, that the ‘nature, quality, and purpose’ of the Board’s actions in deciding who should be the County Highway Supervisor was not ‘equivalent to a court’s adjudication of issues between opposing parties.’ The ‘nature, quality, and purpose’ of the Board’s action was not a ‘determination of issues’ nor a ‘rendition of a judgment or final order regarding the parties’ rights, duties, or liabilities,’” Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote, referencing Lincoln. “In the absence of these two critical factors, we find as a matter of law that the Board’s employment decision regarding Price was administrative and ministerial, not quasi-judicial. It is thus not subject to judicial review.”
 

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