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November 25, 1992


Appeal from Madison Circuit Court. Thomas N. Younger, Judge. (CV-91-2094)

Houston, Hornsby, Maddox, Shores, Ingram

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Houston


In June 1990, faced with reduced funding due to proration of the state's education budget, the Huntsville City Board of Education, upon the recommendation of its superintendent, Dr. Mary Jane Caylor, froze scheduled pay increases that it had implemented for the benefit of its employees in 1989 as part of a "Master Compensation Plan." The freeze was extended in June 1991, as a result of further cuts in anticipated revenue from the state. In September 1991, the Huntsville Education Association, Inc., and two of its members, Jacqueline Phillips and Ray Sanford (unless otherwise specified, these parties are hereinafter referred to as "the Association"), sued the Huntsville City Board of Education and Dr. Caylor *fn1 (unless otherwise specified, these parties are hereinafter referred to as "the Board"), seeking to set aside the pay freeze. The Association, which sought, among other things, an award of back pay for its members, took the position that the pay freeze had been enacted in violation of Ala. Code 1975, § 16-11-18, and that it was in contravention of Board policy because, the Association said, the matter had not been first submitted to the Board's "Policy Committee" for review. The trial court held that the Board had consulted with the Association pursuant to § 16-11-18 and that its action in that regard did not violate established Board policy. The court entered a summary judgment for the Board. The Association appealed. We affirm.

Section 16-11-18 provides:

"The city board of education shall, upon the written recommendation of the city superintendent of education, determine and establish a written educational policy for the city and shall prescribe rules and regulations for the conduct and management of the schools. Before adopting written policies, the board shall directly, or indirectly through the superintendent, consult with the professional organization representing the majority of the certified employees and in addition shall also consult with professional assistants, principals, teachers, and interested citizens. The city board must establish such policies and adopt such rules and regulations and file them with the state superintendent of education. Such written policies, rules and regulations so established, adopted, or promulgated shall be made available to all teachers employed by the city board. Any subsequent amendments to such policies, rules and regulations shall be developed in the same manner, filed with the state superintendent and furnished to the teachers employed by the local board within 20 days after adoption thereof."

(Emphasis added.)

This section does not specify any particular procedure by which the Board was supposed to consult with the Association, which undisputably is the "professional organization representing the majority of the certified employees." Furthermore, both the Board and the Association agree that § 16-11-18 obligated the Board only to consult with those professional organizations and persons mentioned therein; it did not obligate the Board to reach any agreement, accept any proposal, or negotiate any matter if it did not wish to do so. See Walker County Board of Education v. Walker County Education Association, 431 So.2d 948 (Ala. 1983) (dealing with § 16-8-10, the counterpart to § 16-11-18, applicable to county boards of education).

The undisputed evidence shows that the Board, through Dr. Caylor, met with the Association's president, Laura Hall, and discussed the proposed pay freeze with her before its initial implementation in 1990 and before its extension in 1991. Ms. Hall testified, in pertinent part, as follows:

"Q. . . . Did you know prior to the June 6, 1990, meeting that on the agenda was a recommendation to freeze step increases?

"A. Prior to the June 1990, meeting, yes.

"Q. How did you know that?

"A. There had been much Discussion about that at the board work sessions. I think it was April when it was first mentioned.

"Q. You said there had been much Discussion, been much Discussion among board members and the superintendent?

"A. As well as members of the association, yes.

"Q. Been a lot of Discussion within the association about it?

"A. Yes.

" "Q. Had there been much Discussion by representatives of the association with Dr. Caylor?

"A. By representatives of the association --

"Q. Yeah.

"A. Including --

"Q. Including you.

"A. Including me. Yeah. I'm sure at our monthly meetings.

" "Q. Had you, at your regular monthly meetings, you or other representatives of the association given Dr. Caylor your point of view with respect to this proposed recommendation and told her what you thought about it whether it was a good idea or bad idea or whatever?

"A. Before. I don't recall giving any association's position on --

"Q. Well, whether its the association's position or not at these monthly meetings, had you or any other representative of the association told Dr. Caylor what you thought about this proposed recommendation, this idea of freezing the step increases?

"A. Oh, yeah.

"Q. And that would have occurred between April 1990, and June 1990, in that time frame before the June 6, 1990, meeting?

"A. Yes.

". . . .

"Q. Prior to this meeting, what did you tell the Board of Education and the superintendent? What did you tell them regarding this recommendation?

"A. Regarding the recommendation of freeze on salaries?

"Q. Uh-huh.

"A. The only comment that I recall that I made as it relates to the freeze on the salary at a board meeting was during a work session and when the idea was presented about the freeze that if it was a choice between the freeze and termination of ...

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