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Coombs v. Maricopa County Special Health Care District

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

December 13, 2016

MARY COOMBS, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
MARICOPA COUNTY SPECIAL HEALTH CARE DISTRICT, Defendant/Appellee.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. LC2014-000545-001 The Honorable Crane McClennen, Judge, Ret'd

         AFFIRMED.

          Thomas M. Shaw, Attorney at Law, Mesa By Thomas M. Shaw Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant.

          Maricopa Integrated Health System, Phoenix By Martin C. Demos Co-Counsel for Defendant/Appellee.

          Dickinson Wright PLLC, Phoenix By Gary L. Birnbaum (dec'd), Anne L. Tiffen, Bradley A. Burns Co-Counsel for Defendant/Appellee.

          Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Jon W. Thompson and Judge Charles W. Gurtler, Jr. joined. [1]

          OPINION

          JOHNSEN, Judge.

         ¶1 Mary Coombs challenges the superior court's order dismissing for lack of jurisdiction her appeal of her termination by the Maricopa County Special Health Care District. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2 The District is a special health care district and a political subdivision of the State. See Ariz. Rev. Stat. ("A.R.S.") §§ 48-5501 to -5507 (2016).[2] Its elected Board of Directors created the Maricopa County Special Health Care District Employee Merit System. See A.R.S. § 48-5541.01(M)(1) (2016). Pursuant to the rules of the Merit System, a covered employee terminated for cause may appeal the dismissal to the District's Chief Executive Officer. The appeal is assigned to a hearing officer, who hears evidence, then prepares proposed findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommendations for the CEO. Under the rules, the CEO may (1) adopt or modify the hearing officer's report; (2) decide the case on the record, with or without taking additional evidence; or (3) return the case to the hearing officer with directions. The CEO's decision is final.

         ¶3 The District dismissed Coombs from her employment, and she appealed. After a three-day hearing, the hearing officer recommended the appeal be dismissed and the termination affirmed. The CEO upheld the dismissal.

         ¶4 Coombs brought this action in the superior court as an appeal for judicial review of an administrative decision pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-904(A) (2016). The District moved to dismiss, arguing the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal. The court granted the motion and entered judgment pursuant to Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 54(c). Coombs timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-2101(A)(1) (2016).

         DISCUSSION

         A. Jurisdiction Under the ...


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