Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

City of Dallas v. Martin

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

July 20, 2017

CITY OF DALLAS, MIKE RAWLINGS, SCOTT GRIGGS, ADAM MEDRANO, CASEY THOMAS II, CAROLYN KING ARNOLD, RICKEY D. CALLAHAN, MONICA R. ALONZO, TIFFINNI A. YOUNG, ERIK WILSON, MARK CLAYTON, B. ADAM MCGOUGH, LEE M. KLEINMAN, SANDY GREYSON, JENNIFER S. GATES, PHILIP T. KINGSTON, AND A.C. GONZALEZ, Appellants
v.
DAVID S. MARTIN, JAMES A. BRADDOCK, OBIE CARTMILL, ROBERT DALE MARTIN, O.J. ADAIR, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, AND GEORGE G. PARKER, JOE M. GUNN, STEPHEN W. TOTH, NATHAN TRAMMEL, AND TODD A. STRATMAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, AND DALLAS POLICE AND FIRE PENSION SYSTEM, Appellees

         On Appeal from the 382nd Judicial District Court Rockwall County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 1-95-506

          Before Justices Francis, Brown, and Schenck

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID J. SCHENCK JUSTICE

         The City of Dallas ("City") and Mike Rawlings, Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Casey Thomas II, Carolyn King Arnold, Rickey D. Callahan, Monica R. Alonzo, Tiffinni A. Young, Erik Wilson, Mark Clayton, B. Adam McGough, Lee M. Kleinman, Sandy Greyson, Jennifer S. Gates, Philip T. Kingston, and A.C. Gonzalez (collectively "City Officials") filed interlocutory appeals from orders denying their jurisdictional challenges in two lawsuits current and former police officers, firefighters, and rescue officers ("Officers") filed against the City, in which the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System ("Pension System") intervened joining the City Officials as third-party defendants. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's orders denying the City's and the City Officials' jurisdictional challenges.[1] Because all issues are settled in law, we issue this memorandum opinion. Tex.R.App.P. 47.4.

         Factual and Procedural Background and Relevant Prior Decisions of this Court and the Texas Supreme Court

         In 1979, the voters of Dallas approved a pay referendum for the City's sworn officers, and the City enacted an ordinance (the "Ordinance") adopting the referendum. The Ordinance states:

Be it ordained that:
(1) From and after October 1, 1978, each sworn police officer and fire fighter and rescue officer employed by the City of Dallas, shall receive a raise in salary in an amount equal to not less than 15% of the base salary of a City of Dallas sworn police officer or fire fighter and rescue officer with three years['] service computed on the pay level in effect for sworn police Officers and fire fighter and rescue Officers of the City of Dallas with three years['] service in effect in the fiscal year beginning October, 1977;
(2) The current percentage pay differential between grades in the sworn ranks of the Dallas Police Force and the Fire Fighter and Rescue Force shall be maintained; and
(3) Employment benefits and assignment pay shall be maintained at levels of not less than those in effect for the fiscal year beginning October, 1977.

         Dallas, Tex., Ordinance 16084, § 4 (Jan. 22, 1979). In addition, the City passed two resolutions implementing the Ordinance. In the succeeding years, the City raised salaries through annual pay resolutions passed by City Council. As time passed, the Officers accused the City of failing to maintain the percentage pay differential stated in clause 2 of the Ordinance.

         In 1995, the Officers filed their lawsuits asserting the Ordinance requires the City to continue maintaining the pay differentials established in 1979 between all Officer grades until changed by referendum vote. The Pension System intervened with claims against the City Officials for contributions to the pension fund it claims will be owed if the Officers recover on their claims for back pay. The City and the City Officials maintain that the Ordinance was a one-time salary adjustment and was not intended to apply to all future salary adjustments.

         On June 4, 2002, this Court reversed a summary judgment in favor of police officers and firefighters in another case involving the Ordinance at issue here. In doing so, we concluded that the Ordinance is patently ambiguous about whether it was intended to be a one-time salary adjustment or to apply to all future salary adjustments. See Arredondo v. City of Dallas, 79 S.W.3d 657, 668 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2002, pet. denied) ("Arredondo I"). We further stated "[b]ecause the Ordinance constitutes a contract between the City and Plaintiffs, resolution of the ambiguity issue requires a determination by the fact-finder as to the intent of the parties to the contract, i.e., what the City and Plaintiffs thought the Ordinance meant, as evidenced by, among other things, their conduct and any information disseminated by them to the voters." Id. We additionally stated, "because in this instance the City was bound by the decision of the voters and in fact had no authority to change any language in the Ordinance as drafted by the Dallas Police and Fire Action Committee, the intent of the voters is also relevant in resolving the ambiguity." Id.

         After this Court reversed the summary judgment and remanded the Arredondo case for further proceedings, the City filed pleas to the jurisdiction in the cases that are currently before this Court, challenging subject-matter jurisdiction on immunity grounds. The trial court denied the pleas, and the City appealed. On December 21, 2006, this Court affirmed the trial court's denials of the City's pleas as to the Officers' declaratory-judgment claims and reversed the trial court's denials of the City's pleas as to the Officers' breach-of-contract claims. City of Dallas v. Martin, 214 S.W.3d 638 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2006, pet granted), rev'd, 361 S.W.3d 560 (Tex. 2011).

         The Texas Supreme Court granted the City's petition for review. During the pendency of the appeals, the legislature amended the local government code to provide for a limited, retroactive waiver of certain local governmental entities' immunity to suit for certain breach-of-contract claims. See Tex. Loc. Gov't Code Ann. § 271.152 (West 2016).[2] On December 16, 2011, the supreme court concluded the City is immune from suit as to the Officers' declaratory-judgment claims, and remanded the cases to the trial court to determine whether the amendments to chapter 271 of the local government code effect a waiver of the City's immunity as to the Officers' breach-of-contract claims. City of Dallas v. Martin, 361 S.W.3d 560, 561 (Tex. 2011). The cases were then abated pending the resolution of a second appeal in the Arredondo case (Arredondo II) in which the City complained of the trial court's denial of its pleas to the jurisdiction as to the Arredondo plaintiffs' breach-of-contract claim.

         On August 13, 2013, we concluded in Arredondo II that the police officers and firefighters alleged a unilateral contract with the City that satisfied the requirements of the waiver of immunity for breach-of-contract claims in section 271.152 of the local government code. City of Dallas v. Arredondo, 415 S.W.3d 327, 350 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2013, pet. denied). In addition, we noted that we had previously concluded in Arredondo I that the language of the Ordinance was ambiguous about whether the differential was intended to apply one time or to all future salary adjustments and that resolution of that issue is one for the fact-finder. Id. (citing Arredondo, 79 S.W.3d at 669).

         After our decision in Arrendondo II, the City filed second pleas to the jurisdiction in the cases before us arguing, in part, that the Officers cannot plead a contract after April 1, 2002, to trigger the immunity waiver in section 271.152 of the local government code because City Council amended the City's personnel rules to disavow the creation of an employment contract. In addition, the City and the City Officials filed pleas to the jurisdiction urging the Pension System cannot plead a valid waiver of immunity from suit or a valid ultra vires action. The City and the City Officials also filed motions for summary judgment asserting, in part, that chapter 271 of the local government code does not provide a waiver of immunity for the Officers' breach-of-contract claims because no term of their alleged contract could be breached because the voters did not contemplate that the City would have to maintain differentials in any and all post-1979 pay scales. The trial court denied the pleas to the jurisdiction and the motions for summary judgment. These interlocutory appeals followed.

         Discussion

         I. Summary Judgment

         In their first issue, the City and the City Officials argue the trial court erred in denying their motions for summary judgment on jurisdictional grounds, urging there is no essential term of the alleged contract that the City could ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.