TOPEKA, Kan. (Legal Newsline) – The Kansas Supreme Court recently issued a ruling stating that the firing of a former county appraiser was in violation of state law.
In Robert K. Miller v. Board of County Commissioners, Wabaunsee County, Kansas, the high court said March 10 that the Board did not have the authority to permanently terminate an appraiser’s employment.
Miller, an appraiser for Wabaunsee County, was fired in 2011 about halfway through his four-year term. Miller first appealed his termination to the Property Valuation Division, which determined Miller should be reinstated and paid full salary for breach of contract.
After the county took the case to a district court, the PVD was ordered to determine the legality of the process, not the contract. The second PVD decision ruled that the county was justified.
The case ultimately ended with the Kansas Supreme Court after Miller appealed a second decision from the Property Valuation Division, which was upheld by the district court and the Kansas Court of Appeals, which said the county was justified according to state law.
The decision from the Kansas Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' decision and vacated the district court decision. The court examined Kansas law that governs the appraiser’s employment as well as disciplinary process.
According to the opinion, “we are persuaded that the legislature never intended a board to have the power to end an appraiser's employment, salary, or benefits unless the appraiser does not seek review. Rather, it intended the PVD to wield this authority. We hold that K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 19-431 gives a board of county commissioners the authority only to temporarily relieve an appraiser of his or her duties until the PVD decides termination is appropriate, or the appraiser chooses not to request review within the 15-day time limit prescribed by the statute.”
Senior Judge Michael J. Malone issued the opinion with Justice Lee A. Johnson submitting a separate concurring opinion.
The court ordered for Miller to be given back pay including salary, benefits and interest from the date the Board stopped paying him through the end his term.