Robert K. Miller, Appellant,
Board of County Commissioners, Wabaunsee County, Kansas, Appellee.
a statute is plain and unambiguous, the court must give
effect to its express language, rather than determine what
the law should or should not be. A court determines
legislative intent by first applying the meaning of the
statute's text to a specific situation at issue. A court
does not read into the statute words not readily found there.
the language of a statute is unclear or ambiguous a court
employs the canons of statutory construction, consults
legislative history, or considers other background
information to ascertain the statute's meaning.
construe the words of a statute, a court considers the
language and design of the entire statute.
Statutes dealing with the same subject-those that are in pari
materia-should be interpreted harmoniously when possible.
K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 19-431 does not give a board of county
commissioners the authority to immediately end an
appraiser's employment, salary, or benefits. Rather, it
gives a board of county commissioners the authority to
temporarily relieve an appraiser of his or her duties until
the director of property valuation decides the
appraiser's permanent removal is appropriate, or the
appraiser chooses not to request review by the director of
property valuation within the statutorily prescribed time
of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in 51 Kan.App.2d 644,
352 P.3d 1053 (2015).
from Wabaunsee County District Court; Jeffrey R. Elder,
J. Perry, of Auburn, argued the cause and was on the briefs
Terelle A. Mock, of Fisher, Patterson, Sayler & Smith,
L.L.P., of Topeka, argued the cause, and Teresa L. Watson and
Sarah A. Morse, of the same firm, were with her on the briefs
facts of this case, as they pertain to the way Miller's
employment ended, are not in dispute. The Wabaunsee Board of
County Commissioners (Board) appointed Robert K. Miller to
serve a 4-year term as Wabaunsee County Appraiser in 2009.
His appointment was to last from July 1, 2009, through June
Miller's appointment, he and the Board signed an
employment contract that, in part, set forth the proceedings
the Board would follow in the event it had to discipline
2 years into Miller's appointment, on March 14, 2011, the
Board met with Miller in an executive session. The Board
handed Miller a written note that outlined concerns the Board
had about Miller's job performance and informed Miller he
could resign or he would be terminated, and that he had until
the next week to make his decision. Miller said he would not
March 21, 2011, the Board again met with Miller in executive
session. After this executive session, the Board voted to
terminate Miller and stop paying his salary and benefits.
exercised his statutory right under K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 19-431
to have his termination reviewed in an administrative hearing
by the director of property valuation (PVD). An
administrative law judge (ALJ) was designated to preside over
the case pursuant to K.S.A. 77-514. The ALJ heard witnesses
and considered evidence over a 3-day hearing. On November 30,
2011, the ALJ ordered the Board to reinstate Miller and award
back pay because the Board had failed to follow the
disciplinary procedure outlined in the employment contract
before terminating Miller.
Board appealed the decision to the district court, contending
that the ALJ should have used a deferential standard of
review and that the ALJ did not have authority to consider
the employee disciplinary policy outlined in the employment
contract because this was not a breach of contract claim. The
district court vacated the decision and remanded the case
with orders for the ALJ to review the termination without
regard for the employment contract and in accordance with the
provisions of K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 19-431.
October 9, 2013, the ALJ considered the evidence again, this
time without regard to the Board's failure to comply with
the employment contract. The ALJ gave deference to the
Board's decision and upheld Miller's termination.
appealed this second ALJ decision to the district court,
arguing his termination was not in accordance with K.S.A.
2014 Supp. 19-431 because the Board did not have the final
authority to terminate a county appraiser. He also argued the
ALJ's decision conflicted with our decision in
Kennedy v. Board of Shawnee County Comm'rs, 264
Kan. 776, 958 P.2d 637 (1998); the ALJ employed the wrong
standard of review when she gave deference to the Board's
decision; and, the ALJ should have been permitted to consider
the contract between the parties in making her decision. The
district court disagreed with Miller and affirmed the
termination. Miller then appealed to the Court of Appeals,
where the majority affirmed the district court. Judge
Atcheson dissented, concluding the ALJ should have applied a
de novo-rather than a deferential-standard of review, and
Miller was denied due process after his dismissal. Miller
v. Board of Wabaunsee County Comm'rs, 51 Kan.App.2d
644, 352 P.3d 1053 (2015).
resolve this case in favor of Miller under his first argument
that K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 19-431 did not grant the Board the
final authority to terminate his employment and thereby end
his salary and benefits. Thus, we do not need to reach his
remaining arguments other than to comment briefly on our
holding in Kennedy, 264 Kan. 776.
we reverse the majority decision of the Court of Appeals,
vacate the judgment of the district court, and remand the
case with directions.
argues that K.S.A. 2014 Supp. 19-431 did not give the Board
the authority to end his employment, salary, and benefits.
Standard of Review and Principles of ...