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Irwin v. Jefferson County Personnel Board

Supreme Court of Alabama

April 20, 2018

Paul A. Irwin, Jr.
v.
Jefferson County Personnel Board and the City of Trussville

          Appeal from Jefferson Circuit Court (CV-17-76)

          MAIN, JUSTICE.

         Paul A. Irwin, Jr., appeals from a final judgment of the Jefferson Circuit Court dismissing his claim for injunctive relief against the Jefferson County Personnel Board ("the Board") and the City of Trussville ("Trussville"), a municipality located in Jefferson County. We dismiss the appeal.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         This case arises from Trussville's desire to hire a police chief following the retirement of its former police chief. The position of police chief is a classified civil-service position. Under the provisions of § 45-37-121 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 (Local Laws, Jefferson County)("the enabling act"), the Board is vested with the authority to regulate the appointment procedure of classified civil-service positions in Jefferson County. In accordance with rules established by the Board, Trussville, on January 3, 2017, submitted a request to the Board to fill the position of "Police Chief II." In response, on January 3, 2017, the Board provided Trussville with a certified list of 10 eligible candidates.

         The certified list of candidates--referred to in the rules of the Board as the "Certificate of Eligibles" --provided to Trussville is generated from an eligibility list. That eligibility list for the position of police chief had been created by the Board in 2014 and consisted of qualified applicants ranked based on the results of a competitive assessment examination. Irwin's name appeared on the certified list.

         Trussville interviewed Irwin and two other candidates from the certified list. Trussville did not hire Irwin or any other candidate from the certified list supplied by the Board in January 2017. Instead, Trussville returned the list to the Board and requested that the Board administer a new test for the position of Police Chief II. On January 23, 2017, the Board "expired" the eligibility list. On January 27, 2017, the Board also approved Trussville's request to hire a provisional police chief until such time as a new assessment examination could be administered and a new eligibility list generated.

         On March 1, 2017, Irwin sued the Board and Trussville, contending that, once the Board issued to Trussville a certified list of eligible candidates for the position of police chief, Trussville was required to hire a candidate from that list and had no discretion to leave the position unfilled. The complaint sought only injunctive relief. Specifically, it requested an order:

"1. Halting the examination for Chief of Police by the [Board].
"2 Restraining any appointments unless it is the name of a candidate that appeared on the [January 2017] list of eligible police chief candidates.
"3. Restraining the [Board and Trussville] from any other actions in this case that are in violation of the Enabling Act.
"4. Directing the City of Trussville to make an appointment pursuant to the Enabling Act.

         " Irwin's complaint was accompanied by a motion for a temporary restraining order ("TRO"). On March 9, 2017, Irwin filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. On March 22, 2017, the trial court denied Irwin's motion for a TRO and set the motion for a preliminary injunction for an evidentiary hearing.

         Before the hearing on the motion for a preliminary injunction, Irwin accepted the job of police chief with the City of Pell City. Upon notice of Irwin's acceptance of a police-chief position with another municipality, the trial court invited a written response from Irwin as to whether his action against the Board and Trussville had been rendered moot by his accepting a police-chief position with another municipality. Irwin responded that the action had not been rendered moot because, he said, he remained a qualified candidate for the Trussville police-chief job and that, notwithstanding his acceptance of the Pell City police-chief job, he still wanted to be the police chief for Trussville. On April 19, 2017, the trial court entered an order in which it concluded that Irwin's action was not moot but that "the relief he would hereafter pursue would be in the nature of money damages." The trial court denied Irwin's motion for a preliminary injunction and continued the evidentiary hearing.

         On April 20, 2017, Irwin moved the trial court to reconsider its order denying the preliminary injunction. In that motion, Irwin explained that his desire to be the Trussville police chief was born of his family's strong ties to the Trussville community and that money damages would not adequately compensate him for the loss of the opportunity to serve as Trussville's police chief. The trial court did not immediately rule on Irwin's motion to reconsider.

         On May 22, 2017, Trussville filed a motion to dismiss Irwin's action or, in the alternative, for a summary judgment. On May 31, 2017, the Board also filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a summary judgment.

         On June 2, 2017, the trial court conducted a hearing on Irwin's motion to reconsider the denial of his preliminary-injunction motion and the ...


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