GARRARD COUNTY, KENTUCKY; JOHN WILSON; JOE LEAVELL; DOAN ADKINSON; RONNIE LANE; FRED SIMPSON; AND BETTY HOLTZCLAW APPELLANTS
KEVIN MIDDLETON APPELLEE
REVIEW FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS NO. 2014-CA-000187-MR
GARRARD CIRCUIT COURT NO. 12-CI-00132
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANTS: John L. Gay Litany Loren Webster
Walther, Gay & Mack, PLC
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Gerry L. Calvert II Calvert Law Group,
LLC James Paul Long Jr.
County is one of those Kentucky counties that has an elected
county jailer but does not operate a county jail. The Garrard
Fiscal Court voted before the jailer's election to fix
the amount of the jailer's salary for the new term at an
amount lower than that set for the incumbent jailer. After
the election, the newly elected jailer sued the fiscal court,
alleging that it was statutorily powerless to reduce his pay.
The trial court ruled that the fiscal court had the authority
to increase or reduce the amount of the jailer's salary
before the commencement of the jailer's new term in
office. Thus, the trial court ruled that the Garrard Fiscal
Court had acted properly in reducing the jailer's pay
before the commencement of his term. But the Court of Appeals
reversed the trial court, holding instead that the General
Assembly has specifically enacted a statute that prohibits
fiscal courts in counties without jails from reducing the pay
of their elected jailer. On discretionary review, we are
constrained to agree with the holding of the Court of
Appeals. Thus, we affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND.
Kentucky Constitution mandates that every county elect a
jailer,  but it does not require every county to
operate a jail. The General Assembly extends to county fiscal
courts the discretion to set the county jailer's salary
within certain parameters established in the overall
County is one of the Kentucky counties that does not operate
a jail. In 2006, Kenny Tuggle was re-elected for his third
term as Garrard County Jailer. During his tenure, his salary
gradually increased over the years he spent in office. Tuggle
resigned his post in 2008. At that time he was earning $30,
547.97 per year. The county found someone to fill the two
remaining years on Tuggle's unexpired term. Kevin
Middleton approached the county judge-executive expressing
his interest in the vacant position. Eventually, Middleton
agreed to fill the time remaining on Tuggle's term as
jailer in exchange for $20, 000 per year.
the 2010 election, the Garrard County Fiscal Court fixed the
salary for the county jailer for the ensuing term to be $20,
300.02 per year. After completing Tuggle's term,
Middleton ran for jailer and was elected and continued to
serve as the Garrard County Jailer. In 2012, Middleton filed
suit in circuit court contending that: (1) he was entitled to
the difference between the salary he had been paid for
fulfilling the expired term and the salary Tuggle received
during his tenure as jailer; and (2) as a matter of law, the
Garrard County Fiscal Court was statutorily barred from
lowering the county jailer's salary before the 2010
election to an amount less than the $30, 547.97 that Tuggle
received. Related to his suit, Middleton also requested an
award of attorney's fees.
trial court granted partial summary judgment to both parties.
First, the circuit court ruled that Garrard County was
obligated to pay Middleton $30, 547.97 while he completed
Tuggle's term. But second, the trial court ruled that the
fiscal court was statutorily authorized to reduce the
jailer's salary before the commencement of a new term, so
Middleton had no continuing entitlement to a minimum salary
of at least $30, 547.97. And finally, the trial court denied
Middleton's request for attorney's fees. .
parties appealed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. The
appellate panel affirmed the circuit court's ruling that
the fiscal court could not reduce the county jailer's
salary during the course of an elected term and held that
Middleton was entitled to the difference between his pay and
Tuggle's. The panel also rejected Middleton's request
for attorney's fees. But the Court of Appeals reversed
the ruling allowing the fiscal court to reduce the
jailer's salary between terms. Relying on Wallace v.
King, the panel held that the plain language of
KRS 441.243(3) prohibits the county jailer who does not
operate a full-service jail to receive a salary lower than he
received the prior year.
granted Garrard County's motion for discretionary review
to determine whether KRS 441.245 applies only to mid-term
salary alterations or whether it broadly limits a fiscal
court's ability to set jailer salaries in a general
sense. Because we agree with the Court of Appeals that the
plain language of KRS 441.243(3) dictates this admittedly
odd, yet not absurd, result, we affirm the ruling below.
three issues brought before the Court of Appeals, it appears
only two of those remain for our consideration on
discretionary review. Based on Garrard County's petition
for discretionary review, it appears that the county is not
challenging both lower-court rulings awarding Middleton
backpay based on the mid-term salary adjustment he received
for completing Tuggle's term. So we will not undertake
analysis of this issue. We address only Garrard County's
discretion to establish the jailer's salary in between
terms and Middleton's claims for attorney's fees, an
issue he re-asserts in his brief.
Standard of Review.
case comes before us for review of the trial court's
grant of partial summary judgment in favor of both parties.
While factual findings shall not be set aside unless clearly
erroneous, conclusions of law are reviewed de
novo.Here the material facts culminating in the
present litigation are undisputed. So this case truly
involves only questions of law. As such, we review the
decisions below totally under the de novo standard of review.
The Plain Meaning of KRS 441.243(3) is Not
and most importantly, Garrard County appeals the Court of
Appeals' ruling that the text of KRS 441.243(3) prevents
the fiscal court from decreasing the county jailer's
salary in between elected terms of service. While Middleton
maintains that this provision speaks generally to the
county's overall ability to set jailer salaries, Garrard
County points to the statute's overt reference to KRS
64.527-Kentucky's codification of the "rubber
dollar" doctrine-in support of its. point that this
salary statute only limits how the fiscal court may operate
in the course of a jailer's current term of service. That
statute does not, according to the county, impact the fiscal
court's power to set the salary as it deems appropriate
for future terms. Though KRS 441.245 is the only statute
directly referencing the overall salaries for jailers who do
not operate full-service jails, the Kentucky Constitution and
supporting statutes delineate a clear structure and provide a
fixed set of rules for the various possibilities facing
uniquely, county jailers are specifically referenced in the
Kentucky Constitution. Section 99 mandates that every county
have an elected jailer irrespective of whether that county
maintains a full-service jail. The constitution also goes to
some lengths to specify basic terms and ...