Leroy Murphy v. Greenville Township Board of Trustees

Headnotes

H1: Admin Law > Judicial Review > Standard of review > General Overview

Ohio Revised Code §2506.04

H2: Governments > Local Governments > Fire Departments

O.R.C §505.38

To remove a fire fighter, the board shall first designate a fire chief or private citizen to investigate the conduct and prepare the charges in conformity with the statute, so as to initiate the proceedings. O.R.C §505.38 governs the removal of fire fighters and O.R.C §505.28(A) governs the continuance of those fire fighters until they are removed from office as provided by O.R.C §733.35 to 733.39. 

H3: Administrative Law > Judicial Review > Standards of Review > Substantial Evidence

Under O.R.C §119.12, the court of common pleas may affirm the order of an administrative agency, if on appeal the court evaluates all of the evidence as to witness credibility, the probative nature of the evidence, and the weight given to the evidence, and finds that the order is supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence and is in accordance with the law. If the order is not supported by reliable, probative, and substantial evidence and is not in accordance with law, the court is authorized to reverse, vacate, or modify the order. An appeal of an administrative order is not a “de novo” review by the court of common pleas, instead the court is limited to examining the record of the administrative hearing and any other evidence the court allows in upon its discretion. 

H4: Admin Law > Judicial Review > Reviewability 

Under O.R.C §2506.03(A)(1) and 2506.02, the court will be confined to the administrative hearing transcript if the administrative body files a complete transcript of all evidence and testimony presented by the appellant. However, if the administrative body does not file a complete transcript, then the court may hear the appeal based on the incomplete transcript and accept such additional evidence, as provided by either party. At this hearing, either party may call on cross-examination any witness who previously gave testimony in opposition to the party. If an administrative body fails to perform its obligation of filing the transcript of proceedings, the trial court should be able to conduct a hearing de novo. 

H5:  Governments > Local Governments > Employees & Officials Governments 

Under Ohio General Code §4265, a firefighter who has pending proceedings for removal, may be suspended by a majority vote of all members of the council. This suspension may not be longer than 15 days, unless the hearing for removal is extended upon application by the accused, and if the hearing is extended then the suspension shall not exceed a period of 30 days. 

H6: Constitutional Law> Fundamental Rights > Procedural Due Process >Scope of Protection

The accused are entitled to an impartial tribunal of any size, because there is no way a court may know if the influence of 1 upon the other tribunal members can be quantitatively measured. 

H7: Governments > Local Governments > Duties & Powers

Administrative Law > Scope of Authority > Methods of Investigation > Subpoenas

Civil Procedure > Discovery & Disclosure > Discovery > Subpoenas

Governments > Local Governments > Administrative Boards

The administrative board has the legislative authority to issue subpoenas and compel testimony in a hearing. O.R.C  §733.38.

 

Summary of Case

Procedural Posture: Appellant appeals from the decision of the Greenville Township Board of Trustees to terminate his position as the Assistant Fire Chief. Appellant contends the sufficiency of the charges against him, the lack of witnesses, and the propriety of the hearing. 

Overview: Appellant Leroy Murphy was the Assistant Fire Chief for Greenville Township. Appellant was alleged to have purchased and paid for fire equipment that was not authorized. Appellant had a hearing before the Township Board of Trustees, in which one of the presiding Trustees was the person who signed the charges against the Appellant. Additionally, it appears that the Trustees could not compel the attendance of several witnesses, that the Trustees considered other conduct of the Appellant that was outside the scope of the charges, some of the Trustees did not fully understand their role in the adjudicatory process, and that only part of the hearing was recorder due to lack of attention.  

Outcome: The Court held that the service upon the Appellant of the charges was not correct as per statutory guidelines, but that this defect was not prejudicial to the Appellant. However, the participation of the Trustee who signed that charges in the adjudicatory proceedings was prejudicial per se. Case is remanded to the Greenville Township Board of Trustees for a de novo hearing. 

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