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Copeland v. City of Union

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division

September 5, 2017

TERRY L. COPELAND, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
CITY OF UNION, MISSOURI, Defendant/Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Franklin County Honorable David L. Hoven

          SHERRI B. SULLIVAN, J.

         Introduction

         Terry L. Copeland (Appellant) appeals from the trial court's judgment dismissing with prejudice his petition for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief for failure to state a claim. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Appellant's petition filed March 2, 2016, alleges the following in support of his request for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against the City of Union, Missouri (Respondent).

         Appellant is an individual resident and current elected City Collector of Respondent, which is a fourth-class city in Franklin County, Missouri, organized pursuant to Section 79.010 RSMo 2000. On April 6, 2010, Appellant was elected to the position of City Collector. Appellant was reelected in April 2014, and plans to run for election again in April 2018. Appellant claims certain of Respondent's amending ordinances in its revised Code of Ordinances are illegal and have injured Appellant as Respondent's City Collector.[1]

         On October 12, 2009, Respondent's Board of Aldermen passed Amending Ordinance 3493, authorizing Respondent's Mayor to enter into an agreement with Franklin County by which Franklin County would collect all real and personal property taxes on behalf of Respondent, beginning in 2010. Prior to the passage of Ordinance 3493, the authority to collect real and personal property taxes owed by Respondent's residents was vested in the City Collector.

         Also on October 12, 2009, Respondent's Board of Aldermen passed Amending Ordinance 3494, which provided that the salary of the City Collector for the term beginning in April 2010 would be $1.00, without any additional compensation or benefits.

         On February 8, 2010, Respondent's Board of Aldermen passed Amending Ordinance 3521, which provided that (1) all real and personal property taxes owed to Respondent would be collected by Franklin County, beginning with the 2010 tax year; (2) the collection of other taxes, license fees, and all other monies owed to Respondent would be performed by the City Administrator; (3) the collection of delinquent taxes and payments would be performed by the City Administrator; (4) the City Finance Officer would make an annual report to the Board of Aldermen with respect to monies collected by Franklin County and the City Administrator; and (5) the City Collector would perform only the duties assigned by the Mayor, Board of Aldermen, or City Administrator. The ordinance further provided that it would become effective "upon expiration of the current elected term of the Collector on or about April 12, 2010." UNION, MO., CODE Section 125.380 (2017).

         Appellant complained to Respondent officials that the amending ordinances unlawfully eliminate all of the duties of the City Collector, but Respondent has refused to repeal or change the ordinances. Specifically, Appellant's petition seeks a declaratory judgment that the three amending ordinances culminating in the current municipal code Section 125.380 directly conflict with Sections 79.050, 79.240, 79.310 (providing for the appointment or election, removal, and duties of fourth-class city collector); 94.230, 94.290, 94.320, 94.330, 95.360 (providing for collector's duties re: city license tax, tax book, delinquent tax, bond tax, and monthly settlement with city treasury); and 140.670 (city collector duty to hand over city delinquent taxes to county collector) RSMo 2000, which create and bestow the office of City Collector with rights and duties. Appellant also claims they violate Section 71.010 RSMo 2000, which provides generally for city ordinances to conform to state statutes regarding the same subject matter.

         On April 16, 2016, Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, and on May 11, 2016, Appellant filed his Response. On June 30, 2016, Appellant filed a Supplemental Brief in Opposition to Respondent's Motion to Dismiss. On July 5, 2016, the matter was argued and taken under submission. On December 5, 2016, the trial court issued an order granting the motion to dismiss, and dismissed Appellant's petition with prejudice. On January 11, 2017, the trial court entered its Final Order and Judgment dismissing Appellant's petition with prejudice and entering judgment in favor of Respondent. This appeal follows.

         Point on Appeal

         Appellant claims the trial court erred in granting Respondent's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim because the petition states a claim for relief in that it sufficiently pleads facts showing Respondent's amending ordinances are void because they purport to take away statutorily required duties from the City Collector in violation of Missouri statutes.

         Standard of Review

         Our standard of review when considering a trial court's grant of a motion to dismiss is de novo. Moynihan v. Gunn, 204 S.W.3d 230, 232-33 (Mo.App. E.D. 2006). When the trial court fails to state a basis for its dismissal, we presume the dismissal was based on at least one of the grounds stated in the motion to dismiss. Id. at 233. Further, we can affirm the trial court's dismissal on any ground before the trial court in the motion to dismiss, even if that ground was not relied upon by the trial court in dismissing the claim. Id. When reviewing the dismissal of a petition for failure to state a claim, appellate courts treat the facts contained in the petition as ...


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