Georgia Mayor Was Entitled to Keep Salary and Benefits Paid After He Was Removed from Office While He Continued to Perform Duties

While many Atlanta employment lawsuits involve claims made by a private individual against his or her corporate employer, not every case follows this model. In some suits, the defendant is a governmental entity for whom the plaintiff worked or aspired to work.

In such a suit, the person seeking to assert a legal remedy may be an employee of the defendant governmental entity, or he or she may be someone in a position of authority.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent Georgia Supreme Court case was a mayor who was officially removed from office by the defendant city in May 2017. The removal occurred as a result of a hearing, presided over by a municipal court judge, in which the defendant’s city council voted to remove the plaintiff from his position. The plaintiff first sought review of that decision by filing a direct appeal in superior court but later filed a petition for a writ of certiorari. For awhile, the plaintiff continued to work as mayor, receiving his usual salary and benefits, but he stopped working at some point while the case was pending.

The defendant filed a counterclaim, seeking repayment of the monies it had expended towards the plaintiff’s salary and benefits while the case was pending, if the defendant ultimately prevailed in the suit. The defendant also sought dismissal of the plaintiff’s appeal on procedural grounds. The superior court dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal from the municipal court’s decision terminating him as mayor, holding that the plaintiff had failed to comply with the statutory requirements for initiating an appeal. The trial court also granted partial summary judgment to the defendant on its money-had-and-received claim, despite the plaintiff’s argument that the defendant’s counterclaim was in violation of the Anti-SLAPP statute.

The Court’s Decision

The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court began by acknowledging that, despite the defendant’s argument to the contrary, it had jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s appeal. According to the court, the plaintiff was not required to follow the interlocutory review process but, rather, was entitled to an immediate appeal pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 5-6-34(a)(13). The court went on to hold that, even though it had jurisdiction over the case, it could not consider the plaintiff’s  challenges to the superior court’s dismissal of his appeal and certiorari petition because his claims were moot.

The court then declared that the superior court had erred in granting relief to the defendant on its counterclaim for money-had-and-received, concluding that the defendant was not entitled to such monies as a matter of law. In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff had not received his post-removal salary and benefits due to fraud or deceit; rather, he had performed the duties of mayor during that time. The plaintiff not having unjustly enriched himself during the relevant time period, it would have been unfair to allow the city to receive the benefit of the plaintiff’s services without paying him.

Talk to an Atlanta Employment Lawyer

The financial and emotional consequences of being terminated wrongfully can be devastating. If you have been the victim of employment discrimination or another unlawful adverse employment action, you have a limited time to take appropriate legal action. To speak to an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer, call Attorney John L. Mays of the Parks, Chesin & Walbert law firm at 404-873-8048 today.

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