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Roybal v. City And County of Denver

Court of Appeals of Colorado, First Division

January 24, 2019

Robert Roybal, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
City and County of Denver, a Colorado municipal corporation; and Department of Safety for the City and County of Denver, Defendants-Appellees.

          City and County of Denver District Court No. 16CV33995 Honorable Edward D. Bronfin, Judge

          Announced January 24, 2019 Elkus & Sisson, P.C., Lucas Lorenz, Donald C. Sisson, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant

          Kristin M. Bronson, City Attorney, Charles T. Mitchell, Assistant City Attorney, Natalia S. Ballinger, Assistant City Attorney, Denver, Colorado, for Defendants-Appellees

          OPINION

          TERRY, JUDGE

         ¶ 1 Under sections 2.6.2 and 2.6.4 of the Charter of the City and County of Denver (Charter), is the authority to hire, discipline, and terminate Denver Sheriff Department (DSD) employees limited solely to the Manager of Safety (Manager) and the Deputy Manager of Safety (Deputy)? Based on the plain language of the relevant Charter sections, we conclude that the answer to this question is "no." And under the facts of this case, we also conclude that the City and County of Denver's Career Service Authority Board (Board) did not improperly promulgate and retroactively apply a Career Service Rule (C.S.R.) to this case.

         ¶ 2 Plaintiff, Robert Roybal, contends that the district court erred in affirming the decision and order of the Board, which affirmed the termination of his employment with the DSD. We affirm the judgment of the district court.

         I. Background

         ¶ 3 Roybal was a Deputy Sheriff for the DSD. After an investigation, the Department of Safety's Civilian Review Administrator, Shannon Elwell (Administrator), determined that Roybal had violated multiple rules, warranting disciplinary action, and terminated his employment.

         ¶ 4 Roybal appealed the termination to a career service hearing officer, arguing that his conduct had not violated any rules. After conducting a de novo review of the Administrator's decision, the hearing officer affirmed Roybal's termination.

         ¶ 5 Roybal then appealed the hearing officer's decision to the Board, reasserting that his conduct violated no rules and contending that his termination was void as an ultra vires act. Roybal argued that the Charter reserved the authority to discipline or terminate DSD employees solely to the Manager or to the Deputy. The Board affirmed the hearing officer's decision.

         ¶ 6 Roybal appealed the Board's order to the district court under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4), asserting that the Board abused its discretion in affirming the hearing officer's decision. The district court concluded that the Charter was unambiguous and that the Administrator had disciplinary authority to terminate Roybal's employment. The district court also rejected Roybal's claim that the Board abused its discretion in determining that procedural errors committed by the DSD during the pre-disciplinary process did not require Roybal's termination to be reversed, and the court affirmed the Board's order.

         II. Disciplinary Authority Under the Charter

         ¶ 7 Roybal contends that, under the Charter, the authority to discipline and terminate DSD employees rests solely with the Manager or the Deputy, to the exclusion of the Administrator, and therefore his termination was void as an ultra vires act. We disagree.

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         ¶ 8 C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) provides that the district court may review actions and provide relief "[w]here any governmental body or officer or any lower judicial body exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions has exceeded its jurisdiction or abused its discretion, and there is no plain, speedy and adequate remedy otherwise provided by law."

         ¶ 9 "In an appeal of a C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) proceeding, the appellate court is in the same position as the district court concerning review of an administrative board's decision." Shupe v. Boulder Cty., 230 P.3d 1269, 1272 (Colo.App. 2010). We therefore review the decision of the administrative body itself, not that of the district court, and review de novo whether the agency abused its discretion. Khelik v. City & Cty. of Denver, 2016 COA 55, ΒΆ ...


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