MARTY ELLIOTT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS BOYLE COUNTY SHERIFF APPELLANT
WARREN LANHAM APPELLEE
REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2015-CA-001053 BOYLE
CIRCUIT COURT NO. 13-CI-00369
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Daniel Barry Stilz Lynn Sowards Zellen
Kinkead & Stilz, PLLC
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Elizbeth R. Seif Decamp Talbott Seif
AND REMANDING WITH INSTRUCTIONS
granted discretionary review to determine whether a sheriffs
termination of a deputy sheriff is constrained by the
procedural due-process protections purportedly afforded to
the deputy sheriff under a now-outdated version of KRS
15.520. We hold that KRS 15.520 does not apply in
this case to afford Deputy Warren Lanham any due process
requirements. Accordingly, we reverse and remand the case to
the trial court with direction to enter summary judgment in
favor Sheriff Marty Elliott.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Lanham was hired as a deputy sheriff in the Boyle County
Sheriffs Department in 2002. He was eventually promoted to
the post of Chief Deputy Sheriff. During the events at issue
in this case, Marty Elliott was the Sheriff of Boyle County.
October 1, 2012, Sheriff Elliott received complaints from
members of a Boyle County grand jury, relayed to him via oral
notification from Boyle Circuit Court Judge Darren Peckler.
Those complaints disapproved Chief Deputy Lanham's
handling of several criminal investigations. Specifically,
the complaints highlighted Chief Deputy Lanham's alleged
shoddy investigative work on cases presented to the. grand
jury, including the fact that the grand jury felt compelled
to return no true bills in cases Chief Deputy Lanham
investigated. Additionally, the grand jury recalled a
specific Lanham investigation into a makeshift meth lab in
which he allegedly blundered, destroying physical evidence of
a "pill soak" used to manufacture methamphetamine.
of these complaints, Sheriff Elliott immediately demoted
Lanham from Chief Deputy Sheriff to Deputy Sheriff on the
same day he received the complaints as relayed by Judge
Peckler. On October 10, 2012, after further investigation,
Sheriff Elliott suspended Deputy Lanham, delivering him a
written confirmation of that suspension on October 15. On
that same day, Sheriff Elliott verbally informed Deputy
Lanham that he was fired as of that day, but sent a formal
letter on October 26, 2012, officially terminating Deputy
Lanham's employment effective October 17, 2012.
Lanham then sued Sheriff Elliott, in his individual and
official capacities, alleging that Sheriff Elliott violated
the due-process procedures set forth in KRS 15.520, otherwise
known as the Police Officers' Bill of Rights.
trial court granted Sheriff Elliott's motion for summary
judgment, basing its decision on an unpublished Court of
Appeals' decision with similar facts. That case held
that in a county, like Boyle County, where there has been no
merit review board created by the county's legislative
body, deputy sheriffs are at-will employees who are not
entitled to an administrative hearing before being
discharged. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the
ruling of the trial court, finding that KRS 15.520 mandates
that a sheriff, like Sheriff Elliott, who elects to receive
KLEFP funding is bound by the due-process
procedures of that statute. The Court of Appeals remanded the
case to the trial court for further proceedings applying the
statute to the present case.
as this case requires us to construe statutory provisions, we
do so de novo." The entirety of this case rests
on the interplay ...