Challenge to Employment Contract of County School Superintendent - Immunity - Taxpayer Standing: Ingle v. Adkins


Ingle v. Adkins, [Ms. 1160671, Nov. 9, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2017). This decision by Justice Main (Stuart, C.J., and Bolin and Bryan, JJ., concur; Murdock, J., concurs in the result) affirms in part and reverses in part the order of the Walker Circuit Court dismissing Sheila Ingle’s claims challenging the legality of the compensation and contract of Walker County School System Superintendent Jason Adkins.

Ingle conceded her claim against Adkins and the School Board members in their individual capacities was due to be dismissed and that she could not recover past expenditures of funds by the Board on Adkins’s contract. Ms. *6.

The Court reversed the dismissal of Ingle’s claims against the defendants in their official capacities seeking to restrain future expenditures of funds under the allegedly illegal contract with Adkins. The Court noted that “‘[b]ecause county boards of education are local agencies of the state, they are clothed in constitutional immunity from suit.’” Ms. *7, quoting Ex parte Hale Cty. Bd. of Educ., 14 So. 3d 844, 848 (Ala. 2009).

In reversing, the Court held

In the present case, Ingle’s claim against the Board members and Adkins in their official capacities to declare Adkins’s current contract illegal and to enjoin payments under that contract going forward fits squarely into the sixth “exception” to § 14 immunity. Specifically, Ingle seeks an “injunction ... against State officials in their representative capacity where it is allege[d] that they had acted fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond their authority, or in a mistaken interpretation of law.”

Ms. *13, quoting Ex parte Moulton, 116 So. 3d 1119, 1141 (Ala. 2013).

In rejecting the defendant’s challenge to Ingle’s standing, the Court noted “‘[t]o be a proper party, the person must have a real, tangible legal interest in the subject matter of the lawsuit.’” Ms. *14, quoting Doremus v. Business Council of Alabama Workers’ Comp. Self-Insurers Fund, 686 So. 2d 252, 253 (Ala. 1996). Noting that it “has repeatedly recognized that a taxpayer has standing to seek an injunction against public officials to prevent illegal payments from public funds,” the Court concluded that Ingle has standing to seek the injunctive relief in question. Ms. *18.

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