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Horton v. Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi

May 14, 1998

ROY L. HORTON
v.
PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF MISSISSIPPI, AGENCY OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, ACTING BY AND THROUGH ITS BOARD OF TRUSTEES



DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/24/96 TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES E. GRAVES, JR. COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

Before Prather, C.j., Roberts And Mills, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Prather, Chief Justice

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - STATE BOARDS AND AGENCIES (OTHER THAN WORKERS' COMPENSATION)

DISPOSITION AFFIRMED

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND CASE

¶1. The position of Executive Director of the Board of Public Accountancy was created on February 26, 1976 and was offered to and filled by Roy L. Horton ("Horton") on that date. The Executive Director is responsible for the operation of the agency and serves at the pleasure of the Accountancy Board. The Accountancy Board receives no state-appropriated funds but is funded rather by fees charged to accountants in this State. The "special" funds are held by the State Treasurer in a separate account and released to the Board pursuant to an annual budget request of the Board with legislative approval.

¶2. Horton served as Executive Director for 18 years and 7 months; from February 26, 1976 through September 30, 1994. In addition to his work as Executive Director of the Board, Horton ran a private certified public accountancy (CPA) practice from the same offices and location from which he conducted his Board duties. When necessary, Horton used his employees in his private CPA practice to assist him in his work for the Accountancy Board. Horton reimbursed himself for the Board's use of his private offices, and he charged the Board for various other expenses, such as for copies made at his office.

¶3. The record reveals that Horton understood that his job classification as Executive Director was not considered by the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) to be that of a state employee eligible for participation in PERS, and Horton made efforts to change this classification. In 1981, Horton requested that the State Personnel Board recognize the Executive Director as an employee position, but the Personnel Board informed Horton that he needed legislative approval for such a reclassification. The Legislative Budget Analyst informed Horton that the Legislature would not consider such a reclassification without first receiving a recommendation from the Personnel Board. In 1986, Horton submitted the Accountancy Board's budget proposal with the Executive Director designated as an employee position, but the Legislature once again denied the employee designation request for the Executive Director position *fn1 .

¶4. In 1993, following the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) classification of the Executive Director position as an employee position, Horton formally requested membership in the retirement system as an employee, including retroactive service credit for over eighteen years service, in the PERS retirement system. The PERS Policy Committee denied Horton the membership and credit by a letter dated August 26, 1994, following which Horton appealed to the Claims Committee of the PERS Board of Trustees. On February 21, 1995, the PERS Board of Trustees issued an order denying Horton's appeal, and Horton filed a Petition/Complaint for Mandatory Injunction in the Nature of a Judicial Review with the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County.

¶5. The Chancery Court transferred the complaint to the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County and, on May 24, 1996, the Circuit Court affirmed the order of the PERS Board of Trustees. Horton timely appealed to this Court.

ISSUES

A. The Circuit Court Erred in Determining That Roy Horton Was An ...


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