Presley v. Board of County Commissioners

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Presley v. Board of County Commissioners
1999 OK 45
981 P.2d 309
70 OBJ 1669
Case Number: 92675
Decided: 05/18/1999
Mandate Issued: 06/17/1999
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

PATRICIA PRESLEY, in her official capacity as Oklahoma County Court Clerk; CAROLYN CAUDILL, in her official capacity as Oklahoma County Clerk; and JOHN WHETSEL, in his official capacity as Oklahoma County Sheriff, Appellants,
v.
THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY, Appellees.

[981 P.2d 310]
APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY;
The Honorable Nancy Coats, District Judge.

¶0 The appellees, Board of County Commissioners of Oklahoma County (commissioners), sought a declaratory judgment that all county officers should receive raises pursuant to

REVERSED.

Timothy E. Rhodes Chief Deputy Court Clerk Oklahoma City, Oklahoma For Appellants.

Gretchen Crawford Assistant District Attorney Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
John M. Jacobsen Assistant District Attorney Oklahoma City, Oklahoma For Appellees.

¶1 KAUGER, J.:

¶2 It is uncontested that failure to give raises to all county officers under

AGREED FACTS

¶3 On November 1, 1998,

¶4 The appellants, county officers, were in the middle of elected terms on November 1, 1998 --- the effective date of

¶5MID-TERM PAY INCREASES FOR COUNTY OFFICERS
PROHIBITED BY THE OKLA. CONST. art. 23, §10
AND BY

¶6 The county officials assert that equal protection guarantees are not infringed by a statutory scheme which results in differing pay scales for elected individuals performing essentially identical duties. They find support in State ex rel. Edmondson v. Oklahoma Corp. Comm'n, 1998 OK 118, 971 P.2d 868 in which we held that the Legislature lacked the authority to amend the Okla. Const. art. 9, §18a10 to grant Corporation [981 P.2d 312] Commissioners pay increases during their terms of office. The commissioners rely on Kirk v. Board of County Comm'rs, 1979 OK 80, 595 P.2d 1334 holding that a statutory scheme providing two differing pay scales for county officials based upon when they entered office violates equal protection guarantees. They argue that Kirk requires all county officers to receive the pay increases contained in 19 O.S. Supp. 1993 §180.77.

¶7 Although neither the Legislature nor this Court has the authority to augment or diminish constitutional rights,

¶8 The equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment requires that no state "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

 

¶9 There is a strong presumption which favors legislative enactments. A statute will be upheld unless it is clearly, palpably, and plainly inconsistent with fundamental law.

¶10 In Kirk, the Court recognized the premise that equal protection does not require exact equality. In striking down the statutory provision providing two distinct pay scales for county officials, the Court stated that to do otherwise would result in an unconstitutional application of art. 23, §10. Nevertheless, none of the policy reasons supporting art. 23, §10's prohibition against changing the compensation of a public official during a current term of office were discussed. However, more recently, we enumerated the important governmental concerns behind such provisions in Edmondson: 1) to establish definiteness and certainty in the salary pertaining to an office; 2) to take from public bodies the power to make gratuitous compensation to officers in addition to that established by law; 3) to establish the complete independence of the three branches of government; 4) to prevent office holders from using influence and position to secure salary increases after being elected; and 5) to insure that pay increases enacted at taxpayers' expense are for the benefit of the office and not a particular elected official.

¶11 Due process per se was not raised in Edmondson. However, the same important governmental interests relating to the prohibition in the Okla. Const. art. 23, §10 against varying an elected officials salary during a term of office apply to the equal protection argument and to the ills which the government may rationally hope to avoid through limiting the conditions under which an elected official's salary may be adjusted. The statutory imposition in

CONCLUSION

¶12 All reasonable doubt is resolved in favor of the constitutionality of legislative acts. Only when it is demonstrated that the Legislature has acted arbitrarily and capriciously exercised its authority will legislation be invalidated.

REVERSED

ALL JUSTICES CONCUR.

FOOTNOTES

1Also at issue are the salaries of employees of the elected officials whose compensation is defined as a percentage of the county officer's salary. See, 19 O.S. Supp. 1998 §180.81.

2Title 12 O.S. 1991 §1651.

3The United States Const., amend. XIV provides in pertinent part:

". . . No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. . . ."

The Okla. Const., art. 2, §7 provides:

"No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

4The Okla. Const., art. 23, §10 provides in pertinent part:

"Except wherein otherwise provided in this Constitution, in no case shall the salary or emoluments of any public official be changed after his election or appointment, or during his term of office, unless by operation of law enacted prior to such election or appointment . . .

5Title 19 O.S. Supp. 1993 §180.77 provides:

"County officers shall not receive any salary increase or decrease during their term of office unless by operation of law enacted prior to their election or appointment."

6The county officials response to the commissioners' motion provides in pertinent part at pp. 1-2:

". . . Defendants do not dispute any of the material facts recited in Plaintiff's Motion. . . ."

7Title 19 O.S. Supp. 1998 §180.74 outlines the basic salaries of all county officers and provides formulas for future increases and decreases.

8Rule 1.24, Oklahoma Supreme Court Rules, 12 O.S. Supp. 1997, Ch. 15, App. 1.

9Noting that the Attorney General had not been given notice pursuant to 12 O.S. 1991 §1653, the Court issued an order on March 6, 1999. The order granted the Attorney General an opportunity to submit a brief in the cause. On May 7, 1999, the Attorney General responded declining to brief the cause on grounds that the issues had been adequately presented by the parties.

10The Okla. Const., art. 23, §18a(A) provides:

"The salary of Corporation Commissioners shall be set by the Legislature and may be increased at any time during the term of their office. The purpose of this provisions is to assure that all Corporation Commissioners are paid equal salaries for their service without regard to the time of their appointment or election."

11Matter of Protest Against the Tax Levy of Ardmore Ind. School, 1998 OK 43, ¶7, 959 P.2d 580; Draper v. State, 1980 OK 177, ¶8, 621 P.2d 1142; McCurtain County Excise Bd. v. St. Louis-San Francisco Ry., 1959 OK 100, 340 P.2d 213, 216.

12Title 19 O.S. 1981 §180.62.

13See, State ex rel. Edmondson v. Oklahoma Corp. Comm'n, 1998 OK 118, ¶12, 971 P.2d 868, 871; Barton v. Derryberry, 1972 OK 116, ¶6, 500 P.2d 281.

14The United States Const., amend. XIV, see note 3, supra.

15The Okla. Const. art. 2, §7, see note 3, supra.

16Nelson v. Nelson, 1998 OK 10, ¶11, 954 P.2d 1219; Fair School Finance Council v. State, 1987 OK 114, ¶34, 746 P.2d 1135.

17Nelson v. Nelson, see note 15, supra; Fair School Finance Council v. State, see note 15, supra; McKeever Drilling Co. v. Egbert, 1935 OK ___, 170 Okla. 259, 40 P.2d 32, 35; Callaway v. City of Edmond, 1990 OK CR 25, ¶8, 791 P.2d 104.

18Nelson v. Nelson, see note 15, supra; Abrego v. Abrego, 1991 OK 48, ¶8, 812 P.2d 806; Turley v. Flag-Redfern Oil Co., 1989 OK 144, ¶20, 782 P.2d 130; Black v. Ball Janitorial Serv., Inc., 1986 OK 75, ¶5, 730 P.2d 510; Reherman v. Oklahoma Water Resources Bd., 1984 OK 12, ¶11, 679 P.2d 1296; Kimery v. Public Serv. Co., 1980 OK 187, ¶6, 622 P.2d 1066.

19City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, 473 U.S. 432, 440, 105 S. Ct. 3249, 3254, 87 L. Ed. 2d 313, 320 (1985); Nelson v. Nelson, see note 15, supra; Abrego v. Abrego, see note 17, supra; Turley v. Flag-Redfern Oil Co., see note 17, supra; Kirk v. Board of County Comm'rs, 1979 OK 80, 595 P.2d 1334, 1336-37.

20Norvell v. Illinois, 373 U.S. 420, 423, 83 S. Ct. 1366, 1368, 10 L. Ed. 2d 456, 459 (1963); Nelson v. Nelson, see note 15, supra; Abrego v. Abrego, see note 17, supra; Turley v. Flag-Redfern Oil Co., see note 17, supra.

21Walters v. City of St. Louis, 347 U.S. 231, 237, 74 S. Ct. 505, 509, 98 L. Ed. 660, 665 (1954); Special Indem. Fund v. Bedford, 1993 OK 60, ¶11, 852 P.2d 150.

22McGowan v. State of Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 425-26, 81 S. Ct. 1101, 1105, 6 L. Ed. 2d 393, 399 (1961); Association for Equitable Tax. v. City of Oklahoma City, 1995 OK 62, ¶12, 901 P.2d 800. See also, Madden v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 309 U.S. 83, 88, 60 S. Ct. 406, 408, 64 L. Ed. 590, 593 (1940).

23State ex rel. Edmondson v. Oklahoma Corp. Comm'n, see note 12 at ¶14, supra; Fair School Finance v. State, see note 15, supra.

24City of Hugo v. Public Employees Relations Bd., 1994 OK 134, ¶23, 886 P.2d 485, 495; McSorley v. Hertz, 1994 OK 120, ¶22, 885 P.2d 1343, 1352.

25Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032, 1042, 103 S. Ct. 3469, 3476, 77 L. Ed. 2d 1201, 1214 (1983).