Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Kenneth V. Collins,
City of Maplewood,
City of Maplewood Police
Civil Service Commission,
Filed November 10, 1997
City of Maplewood Police Civil Service Commission
Nancy J. Miller, Miller.O'Brien.Bloom, 1208 Plymouth Building, 12 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for relator)
Craig M. Ayers, Jill E. Coyle, Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A., 300 Peavey Building, 730 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent City of Maplewood)
Patrick J. Kelly, Song Lo Fawcett, Bannigan & Kelly, P.A., 1750 North Central Life Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent City of Maplewood Police Civil Service Commission)
Considered and decided by Norton, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.
Relator Kenneth Collins challenges a civil service commission's determination that his conduct constituted inefficiency, which resulted in his demotion to the rank of sergeant. We affirm.
As chief, relator was subject to a four-hour absence policy whereby if he would be gone from the office four hours or more on city business, he must use vacation time. He was also subject to a two-hour reporting rule providing that if he would be gone from the office for two hours, he must notify McGuire. McGuire repeatedly admonished relator for spending too much time away from his office and subsequently instituted a strict reporting requirement, for which he instructed relator to be in his office from 8:00-5:00 every day and to give McGuire a schedule of relator's activities for each week.
McGuire testified that when relator served on the MTCO review board, he did not inform McGuire that he would be away from the office for longer than two hours, nor did he take vacation time. McGuire further testified that had he known about relator's participation on the review board, he would not have approved it because it would take relator away from the office during core business hours.
The commission found that relator's failure to notify McGuire of his participation on the MTCO review board, along with his other time abuse issues, constituted inefficiency. The commission ordered relator's demotion two ranks to the rank of sergeant.
(b) In excess of the statutory authority or jurisdiction of the agency; or
* * * *
(d) Affected by other error of law; or
(e) Unsupported by substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted.
Minn. Stat. § 14.69 (1996).
1. Substantiality of Evidence
Relator argues that the commission's findings failed to meet the substantial evidence test. The substantial evidence test requires this court to evaluate the evidence on which the commission relied in view of the entire record. Cable Communications Bd. v. Nor-West Cable Communications Partnership, 356 N.W.2d 658, 668 (Minn. 1984). This court must affirm the commission's decision if it finds that the commission engaged in reasoned decisionmaking even though the court may have reached a different conclusion. Id. at 669. This court must intervene, however, when
there is a "combination of danger signals which suggest the agency has not taken a `hard look' at the salient problems" and the decision lacks "articulated standards and reflective findings."
Id. (quoting Reserve Mining Co. v. Herbst, 256 N.W.2d 808, 825 (Minn. 1977)). Generally, this court gives great deference to administrative fact finding. Hough Transit, Ltd. v. Harig, 373 N.W.2d 327, 333 (Minn. App. 1985). Substantial evidence is "[s]uch relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion," more than a scintilla of, some, or any evidence, and evidence considered in its entirety. Cable Communications Bd., 356 N.W.2d at 668.
Relator contends that there is no evidence to support the commission's finding that relator was under a duty to report his attendance at all five of the MTCO review board meetings to his supervisor, McGuire. There is substantial evidence to support the commission's finding. The record shows that although relator stated that did not know McGuire wanted him to be in his office from 8:00-5:00 or that the two-hour or four-hour absence rules existed, McGuire testified that he spoke to relator about all of these rules on several occasions. It shows that McGuire had a specific policy requiring employees to get authorization before serving on any oral boards. The record also shows that McGuire spoke to relator about limiting his amount of time outside the office.
Sherrie Le, City of Maplewood Human Resource Director, testified that relator knew that he was expected to be in his office from 8:00-5:00 and should have notified McGuire if he would be out of the office. Kenneth Haider, Director of Public Works, also confirmed that a supervisor must give permission to an employee if the employee intends to leave the office for a significant period of time during core hours.
Relator argues that no evidence exists to support the finding that relator purposefully breached his duty to report his attendance at the MTCO review board meetings. Absent manifest injustice, when an agency draws an inference from the evidence, a reviewing court must accept it "even though it may appear that contrary inferences would be better supported or that the reviewing court would be inclined to reach a different result were it the trier of fact." Ellis v. Minneapolis Comm'n on Civil Rights, 295 N.W.2d 523, 525 (Minn. 1980). The evidence shows relator had his checks from the MTCO sent to his home and he never turned them in to the city. Furthermore, McGuire, Haider and Le testified that relator was aware of his reporting requirements. It was, therefore, reasonable for the commission to infer that relator did not want McGuire to know about his service on the MTCO review board. The inference, therefore, sustains the commission's finding that relator intentionally breached his duty to his supervisor to report his absence.
Relator contends that no evidence exists to support the commission's inference that relator preempted McGuire from vetoing relator's participation on the MTCO review board. The record shows that although relator may have told McGuire that he was going to serve at one MTCO review board meeting, he neglected to inform him of the subsequent four meetings. The record also shows that if McGuire had known, he would have vetoed relator's participation. The commission found that because of the time reporting discussions between relator and McGuire, relator was under a continuing duty to inform McGuire of any subsequent MTCO review board meetings. Because relator did not report his involvement with subsequent review board meetings, the commission reasonably inferred that McGuire could not prevent relator's participation.
Finally, relator argues that there is no evidence or reasonable inference to support the finding that relator's conduct impacted negatively on the public's perception of the police department, therefore impeding the department's efficient functioning. Relator correctly states that evidence about the public's perception does not exist on the record. The mayor and members of the city council, however, testified that relator was never in his office. Employees and other people who worked with relator also testified that relator's office was like a "black hole" and that he did not spend much time there. Furthermore, the State Auditor published a public audit report stating that relator received money from two places for the same hours worked. In light of this evidence, the commission did not appear to be unreasonable in inferring that the public could lose confidence in relator's ability to run the police department because he used his work time for his own private interest or purposes. For these reasons, the record contains substantial evidence to support the commission's finding that relator's conduct had a negative impact on the ability of the police department to function efficiently.
Relator argues that his dismissal was a result of improper political considerations rather than merit. There is no evidence in the record to support relator's hypothesis that McGuire "perceived political pressure to respond in some manner when the State Auditor's report raised tangential questions about the MTCO payments." Nor is there any evidence to support relator's speculation that McGuire resented relator's popularity as chief of police. For these reasons, substantial evidence exists to support the commissions' reasonable inferences that relator was inefficient.
2. Inefficiency as a Matter of Law
Relator argues that his conduct did not constitute inefficiency as a matter of law and therefore the commission's decision was arbitrary. The construction of a statue is clearly a question of law and thus is fully reviewable by this court. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985). Inefficiency is a
habitual neglect of duty, incapacity to follow orders or a variety of things. It embraces a course of conduct, a lack of integrity or a limitation of capacity.
Kunze v. White Bear Lake Police Civil Serv. Comm'n, 319 N.W.2d 61, 64 (Minn. 1982). Courts have found time abuse to be inefficiency and grounds for demotion. See, e.g., Leininger v. City of Bloomington, 299 N.W.2d 723, 725 (Minn. 1980) (police sergeant demoted for arriving at work late and leaving early, inefficient use of time, submitting unacceptable report, failing to obey orders, patrolling areas without a sufficient reason, submitting false time cards, conducting personal business on duty time, and misleading supervisor to obtain time off).
Relator has engaged in many of the same actions that the court condemned in Leininger. He served on the MTCO review board while on duty. He also received separate pay for that work, evidencing a personal interest rather than a professional interest in participating on the review board. Relator disobeyed direct orders by his supervisor to spend more time in the office and frequently came in late and left early. Finally, the commission found that relator did not want McGuire to know about his review board work since he was under the directive to spend more time in the office during core business hours, or on other approved activities. These actions satisfy the definition of inefficiency as they are a course of conduct evidencing habitual neglect of relator's duties and failure to follow his supervisor's orders. Furthermore, all of the city's witnesses testified that relator's conduct had an adverse impact on his ability to perform his job. As in Leininger, relator's conduct did not warrant a discharge in light of his long and able service as chief of police. Cf. Leininger, 299 N.W.2d at 728. Because he was chief, however, his supervisor held him to a higher standard of conduct and his actions warranted demotion. Id. The commission, therefore, did not err when it found that relator's conduct constituted inefficiency as a matter of law.
Relator argues that the commission's demotion of relator two grades is not supported by substantial evidence. The Police Civil Service Commission has
absolute control and supervision over the employment, promotion, discharge, and suspension of all officers and employees of the police department of such city and these powers shall extend to and include all members of the police department.
Minn. Stat. § 419.05 (1996). Civil service commissions have the authority to fashion those remedies they deem necessary. See Leininger, 299 N.W.2d at 729. The commission reasonably inferred that because captains often act as chief in the chief's absence, in light of relator's inability to function as police chief, it would be inappropriate to demote relator to the rank of captain. For these reasons, substantial evidence exists to support the commission's reasonable inference and decision to demote relator to the rank of sergeant.