Employment – Hearing officer’s authority: Fitzgerald v. McFall (COA 3/13/2009)

Fitzgerald v. McFall
2007-CA-001403 03/13/2009 2009 WL 637127 Rehearing pending

Opinion by Judge Dixon; Judge Nickell and Senior Judge Buckingham concurred. The Court affirmed a circuit court order vacating a hearing officer’s order dismissing charges against a teacher, prior to a determination by a tribunal. The Court reversed an order denying the hearing officer’s motion to dismiss him as a party to the action. The Court first held that the trial court did not err in determining that the hearing officer lacked the authority to grant a directed verdict. The authority of a hearing officer under KRS 161.790 differs substantially from other administrative proceedings wherein the hearing officer decides both issues of procedure and substance and therefore, the hearing officer exceeded his limited authority. Whether the school district presented sufficient evidence to warrant termination was within the sole determination of the tribunal. The Court then held that the trial court erred in denying the hearing officer’s motion to dismiss him as a party. A hearing officer is not a party to an administrative proceeding under KRS 161.790 and does not fall within the definition of a party as defined by KRS 13B.010(3).

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