This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




Rachel Narum,



Angela D. Burrs,


Fillmore County,


Filed August 26, 1997


Huspeni, Judge

Fillmore County District Court

File No. C396304

Peter Bergstrom, Thomas P. Carlson, Bergstrom, Carlson & Soldo, P.L.L.P., 6 W. Fifth St., Suite 700, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for appellant)

Steven S. Fuller, O'Brien, Ehrick, Wolf, Deaner & Maus, Riverside Bldg., 400 S. Broadway, Suite 402, Rochester, MN 55903; Jeffrey A. Hanson, Dunlap & Seeger, P.A., 505 Marquette Bank Bldg., 206 S. Broadway, P. O. Box 549, Rochester, MN 55903-0549 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Huspeni, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Foley, Judge.[*]



Respondent, a discharged county employee, brought this action against appellant, her former supervisor. Appellant's motion to dismiss on the basis of lack of subject matter jurisdiction was denied by the district court. Because we hold that writ of certiorari was the only means of review available to respondent, we reverse.


Respondent Rachel Narum, a probationary employee of Fillmore County, joined with three other employees in filing a grievance against appellant Angela Burrs, their supervisor. While the grievance was pending, but within respondent's probationary period, appellant submitted to the county board a request for termination of respondent's employment. The board considered the request at a closed meeting and decided to terminate respondent's employment.

Following her termination, respondent brought an action against the county and appellant, alleging a claim of breach of contract against the county and claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with contractual rights against appellant. Both appellant and the county moved to dismiss on the basis of lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court dismissed the claim against the county, but held that it had subject matter jurisdiction over the claims against appellant and denied her motion to dismiss.[1]


Whether a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law and is reviewed de novo. Nichols v. Borst, 439 N.W.2d 432, 433 (Minn. App. 1989). A denial of a motion to dismiss brought on the basis of lack of subject matter jurisdiction is immediately appealable. M.A. Mortenson Co. v. Minnesota Comm'r of Revenue, 470 N.W.2d 126, 128 (Minn. App. 1991).

It is undisputed that writ of certiorari is the only mechanism by which a discharged county employee can obtain judicial review of the county's decision to terminate. Dietz v. Dodge County, 487 N.W.2d 237, 239 (Minn. 1992), quoted in Willis v. County of Sherburne, 555 N.W.2d 277, 281 (Minn. 1996).

Regardless that the claim is cloaked in the mantle of breach of contract, when the alleged breach of the employment contract of a governmental employee results in termination of the claimant's employment by an executive body which does not have statewide jurisdiction--for example, a county--the claimant may contest the employer's action by certiorari alone, absent statutory authority for a different process.

Willis, 555 N.W.2d at 282.

However, Willis also held that the defamation claim of a discharged employee was not limited to review by certiorari.

The county contends that the defamation * * * claim * * * "arise[s] out of a common nucleus of operative facts" which led to termination of Willis' employment and that, therefore, his only recourse lies in certiorari. * * * [H]owever, the defamation Willis alleges occurred over a period of time which began more than a year before he was discharged and was separate and distinct from the termination of his employment. We agree with the court of appeals' conclusion that because the district court's "necessary inquiry into [the facts surrounding the defamation claim] will not involve any inquiry into the county board's discretionary decision to terminate Willis," Willis' common law defamation action does not fall within the principle explicated in Dietz.

Id. at 282-83. Respondent argues that her claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and intentional interference with contractual rights against appellant are analogous to the defamation claim in Willis. We disagree. Unlike the defamation claim in Willis, respondent's claims against appellant do arise out of the "common nucleus of operative facts" that led to termination of respondent's employment. In her complaint, respondent alleged that

[appellant's] actions in commencing termination proceedings of [respondent,] submitting to the Board a list of "reasons" for termination, and otherwise, intentionally and tortiously interfered with [respondent's] contractual rights * * *

and that "[appellant,] by her conduct as above described, and otherwise, intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon [respondent.]" An inquiry into the facts surrounding respondent's claims would involve an inquiry into the county board's discretionary decision to terminate respondent. Unlike the Willis defamation claim, respondent's claims against appellant are not separate and distinct from her claims against the county. See also Dietz, 487 N.W.2d at 240 (holding that only certiorari review was available in a termination case because "[t]he issue which Dietz would have the court review [a request for reinstatement and damages for mental anguish] demands scrutiny of the manner in which the county has discharged its administrative function; the very type of scrutiny that runs a grave risk of usurping the county's administrative prerogative.").

Respondent also argues that while certiorari review would be available in claims against the county, it is unavailable for respondent's claims against appellant individually. Respondent cites no support for this argument. Appellant was sued solely because, in her capacity as a county employee, she supervised respondent and requested her termination. Respondent's claims have no relationship to anything appellant did while acting as a private individual or in a private capacity. There is no basis for holding that certiorari review, available for appellant's claims against the county, would not have been available for appellant's claims against respondent.

Certiorari review was not only available to respondent; it was the only means by which she could obtain review of claims related to her termination. The district court had no jurisdiction over those claims.


[ ]* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[ ]1Respondent also added a whistleblower claim against the county, but withdrew it when her other claim against the county was dismissed. See Williams v. St. Paul Ramsey Med. Ctr., Inc., 551 N.W.2d 483, 484 n.1 (Minn. 1996) ("The popular title of the [Whistleblower] Act connotes an action by a neutral--one who is not personally and uniquely affronted by the employer's unlawful conduct but rather one who 'blows the whistle' for the protection of the general public or, at the least, some third person or persons in addition to the whistleblower. Were it otherwise, every allegedly wrongful termination of employment could, with a bit of ingenuity, be cast as a claim pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 181.932 (1994).").