July 22, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Denver Manager of Safety May Authorize a Designee to Hire, Terminate, and Discipline Employees

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Roybal v. City & County of Denver on Thursday, January 24, 2019.

Municipal Law—Termination—Charter of the City and County of Denver—Designated Authority.

Roybal was a deputy sheriff with the Denver Sheriff Department (DSD). After an investigation, the Department of Safety’s Civilian Review administrator (the administrator) determined that Roybal had violated multiple rules, which warranted disciplinary action, and terminated his employment. Roybal appealed the termination to a career service hearing officer, who affirmed the termination, and then to the City and County of Denver’s Career Service Authority Board (Board), which affirmed the hearing officer’s decision. Roybal appealed to the district court, which affirmed the Board’s order.

On appeal, Roybal contended that the district court erred in affirming the Board’s decision and order. He argued that under the Charter of the City and County of Denver (Charter), the authority to discipline and terminate DSD employees rests solely with the manager or the deputy, not the administrator, and therefore his termination was void as an ultra vires act. The safety manager may authorize a designee within the department, other than the deputy manager of safety, for the purposes of hiring, disciplining, and terminating DSD employees. Therefore, the Board did not err when it concluded that (1) the Charter and the Career Service Rules (CSR) do not limit the manager’s ability to designate authority solely to the deputy, and (2) the manager was permitted to delegate disciplinary authority to the administrator.

Roybal also argued that (1) two division chiefs were required to be at his hearing, and only one was present; and (2) the sheriff failed to initiate the discipline by written recommendation to the manager. Roybal claimed that in making these procedural errors, the Board effectively created a new CSR without engaging in rulemaking and applied the rule retroactively to his case to excuse the DSD’s violations of its own policies. Roybal asserted that these errors require reversal of his termination and that the Board erred in concluding otherwise. Here, the Board’s mention of existing CSR 16-72(D) was limited to explaining its reasoning in concluding that trivial deviations from pre-disciplinary regulations do not warrant the reversal of a termination decision. Simply discussing and implementing the policy behind the rule does not implicate quasi-legislative rulemaking by the Board. The Board did not err in finding that Roybal received a fair pre-disciplinary process, and any procedural irregularities are trivial.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

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