may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota, by Hubert H. Humphrey, III,
its Attorney General, petitioner,
Marilyn A. Sieberg, et al.,
Ronald J. Schuch, et al.,
Filed November 18, 1997
Blue Earth County District Court
File No. C8951229
C.A. (Gus) Johnson II, Johnson, Anderson, & Zellmer, P.L.L.P., 600 South Second Street, P.O. Box 637, Mankato, MN 56002-0637 (for appellants)
Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
Appellants challenge the district court's denial of their motion to dismiss respondent's appeal from a commissioners' eminent domain award, arguing that the district court did not have jurisdiction because of improper service by respondent. We affirm.
Respondent State of Minnesota (state) filed a condemnation petition pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.055 (1996). The petition listed as interested persons: (1) appellants Ronald J. Schuch and Carol A. Schuch, contract for deed vendees; (2) appellant Opal Schuch, fee owner; and (3) County of Blue Earth, the taxing authority.
The state served notice of the petition on all interested persons by certified mail. The notice sent to Blue Earth County was addressed: County of Blue Earth, Auditor, Blue Earth County Court House, 204 So. 5th St., P.O. Box 8608, Mankato, MN 56001. The Blue Earth County Director of Land Records signed the acknowledgment of receipt.
The district court issued an order granting the petition for condemnation and appointing commissioners. The commissioners awarded appellants $304,535. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.115, subd. 2 (1996), the state mailed notice of the commissioners' award to appellants and Blue Earth County. The notice of award sent to Blue Earth County was addressed: Auditor, Blue Earth County Courthouse, 204 South 5th Street, P.O. Box 8608, Mankato, MN 56001.
Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.145 (1996), the state appealed the commissioners' award by filing a notice of the appeal with the court administrator and by serving appellants and Blue Earth County by mail with copies of the notice. The notice of appeal served on Blue Earth County was again addressed: Auditor, Blue Earth County Courthouse, 204 South 5th Street, P.O. Box 8608, Mankato, MN 56001.
Appellants moved to dismiss the state's appeal, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Blue Earth County was not properly served with the notice of appeal. Appellants asserted that service of the notice of appeal was ineffective because the notice was mailed to the county auditor, a position that had been abolished in Blue Earth County. The district court denied appellants' motion to dismiss, holding that the under the plain meaning of Minn. Stat. § 117.145, the state properly served its notice of appeal on Blue Earth County.
D E C I S I O N
We need not defer to a district court's decision on a purely legal issue. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass'n v. Minnesota Pub. Util. Comm'n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984). The construction of a statute is a question of law subject to de novo review on appeal. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985).
Our objective when construing a statute is to ascertain and effectuate the legislature's intent. Minn. Stat. § 645.16 (1996).
Where the words of a statute are clear and free from ambiguity, we have no right to construe or interpret the statute's language. Our duty in such a case is to give effect to the statute's plain meaning.
Tuma v. Commissioner of Econ. Sec., 386 N.W.2d 702, 706 (Minn. 1986).
Appellants argue that service of the state's notice of appeal on Blue Earth County pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.145 was ineffective because the state addressed and mailed the notice to the auditor, a position that did not exist in Blue Earth County. We disagree. Minn. Stat. § 117.145 (1996), provides:
At any time within 40 days from the date the [commissioners'] report has been filed, any party to the proceedings may appeal to the district court from any award of damages, by: (1) filing with the court administrator a notice of such appeal, and (2) serving by mail a copy of such notice on all respondents and all other parties to the proceedings having an interest in any parcel described in the appeal who are shown in the petitioner's affidavit of mailing, required by section 117.115, subdivision 2, as having been mailed a notice of the report of the commissioners.
Minn. Stat. § 117.115, subd. 2 (1996), provides that the notice of the report of the commissioners
shall be addressed to the last known post office address of each person notified. * * * The petitioner shall file with the court administrator an affidavit of mailing of the notice, setting forth the names and addresses of all the persons so notified.
Blue Earth County was shown in the state's affidavit of mailing as having been mailed a notice of the commissioners' report. Therefore, under the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 117.145, the state was required to serve Blue Earth County by mail with a copy of the state's notice of appeal. See Tuma, 386 N.W.2d at 706 (this court's duty to give effect to plain meaning of clear statute). The state's affidavit of mailing demonstrates that the state mailed a copy of the notice of appeal to Blue Earth County at the same address where it mailed the county notice of the commissioners' award. The state complied with the requirements of the statute. We are not persuaded by appellants' argument that service of the state's notice of appeal on Blue Earth County was ineffective because the notice was mailed to the Blue Earth County auditor, a position that had been eliminated.
Appellant argues that because Minn. Stat. § 373.07 (1996) requires that service in an action against a county "shall be made upon the chair of the board or upon the county auditor," and there is no county auditor in Blue Earth County, service could only be made upon the chair of the county board. But 1990 Minn. Laws ch. 431, § 2, the special legislation that permitted Blue Earth county to abolish the office of county auditor, provides that
the duties of the elected officials required by statute whose offices are made appointive by this act shall be discharged by the board of commissioners of Blue Earth county acting through a department head or heads appointed by the board for that purpose.
David Twa, the chief clerical officer of Blue Earth County stated in his affidavit:
On January 3, 1995 the Blue Earth County Board abolished the position of County Auditor, transferring all duties of the Auditor to four County officials: the Finance Director, the Land Records Director, the License Center Director, and the County Administrator. Each of these officials, other than the License Center Director, has an office located at the Blue Earth County Courthouse. Mail addressed to county offices at the Blue Earth Courthouse is picked up and signed for, if necessary, at the United States Post Office in Mankato by Tim Edward from the Blue Earth County Maintenance Department. Any papers addressed to the Blue Earth County Auditor are not thrown away or refused, but are opened at the Land Records Department and routinely distributed to the appropriate County official for handling; accordingly, if the State of Minnesota's Notice of Appeal in the above matter was addressed to the Auditor at 204 South 5th Street, P.O. Box 8608, Mankato MN 56001, it would have been forwarded to the appropriate Blue Earth County office for handling.
Even though the position of auditor had been eliminated in Blue Earth County, the duties of the auditor had been assumed by other county employees as required by the special legislation. According to the affidavits of David Twa and Jerome Kallheim, mail addressed to the Blue Earth County auditor was not thrown away, but opened at the land records department and distributed to the appropriate official for handling. Mailing the notice to "Auditor" at the Blue Earth County courthouse was sufficient to provide Blue Earth County with notice of appeal under Minn. Stat. § 117.145. Therefore, the district court did not lack subject matter jurisdiction over the state's appeal from the commissioners' award.