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Hounshell v. White - 1/29/2008

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That County Board of Supervisors May Not Discipline Classified Employees of Other County Officers.

The Apache County manager suspended an Apache County Sheriff’s Office employee for alleged misconduct. The Apache County sheriff filed a special action against the manager and the county Board of Supervisors seeking a declaration that only the sheriff had authority to discipline classified Sheriff’s Office employees. On cross motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the sheriff, and against the Board of Supervisors and manager, finding that, under A.R.S. § 11-356, only the appointing authority (here, the sheriff) may discipline a classified county employee.

On an appeal by the Board of Supervisors, the Arizona Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s ruling. Under A.R.S. § 11-409, county officers enumerated at A.R.S. § 11-401(A) are empowered to appoint employees to perform the work of their offices. In turn, A.R.S. § 11-356(A) provides that, under the merit system, an employee’s “appointing authority” is authorized to discipline the employee. The Board of Supervisors and its agent, the county manager, possess only that authority granted by the legislature, which did not grant them authority to discipline employees of the Sheriff’s Office. Any requirement that the Board of Supervisors consent to the appointment of a given employee does not make the Board a separate appointing authority. Thus, only the sheriff may discipline employees of his office.

Judge Barker wrote the opinion; Judges Timmer and Orozco concurred.

Posted On: 2/5/2008