Court rules in favor of County Clerk in civil lawsuit brought by Sheriff
Sheriff Stephen Haskell vs. County Clerk Mary Lankford
by Pinedale Online!
February 4, 2016
Judge Jeffrey Donnell, for Sublette County District Court, issued a ruling in favor of Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford in a civil matter filed against her by Sublette County Sheriff Stephen Haskell. Lankford filed a Motion of Summary Judgment in response to a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus Sheriff Haskell filed against her in August, 2015. The ruling, dated Feb. 1, 2016, said Clerk Lankford was operating within her statutory parameters when she made discretionary changes to budget spending and personnel changes. The order stated that Sheriff Haskell’s Petition for Writ of Mandamus is denied and dismissed.
Sheriff Haskell said in a media release, "It is disappointing, but I respect the decision of the court."
County Clerk Lankford had no comment.
In the Analysis, the Court ruling stated:
- "An attack on discretionary functions, as opposed to clear ministerial duties, does not warrant the issuance of a writ of mandamus."
- "…nothing in Wyoming law expressly requires and/or or prevents the complained-of acts and omissions."
- "…Lankford, as the ‘budget officer," has significant statutory duties vis-à-vis preparing the budget and accounting for expenditures, including the transfer of balances between departments or accounts."
- "Haskell did not establish, or even suggest, that Lankford’s postings were inaccurate, only that they were not in accordance with his requests."
- "…Lankford did not affect or deny the hiring decision, she cannot be said to have done anything more than exercise her First Amendment right to free speech."
- "…the Court finds that there is no clear statutory duty obligating Lankford to relinquish all authority and responsibility to administer and account for County grants to Haskell where Sublette County was listed as a grant recipient."
- "Lankford, as County Clerk, has the authority to record County expenditures and administer County grants. And, nothing prevents her from vocalizing her concerns or doubts as to payroll decisions."
- "Her exercise of her discretion and judgment, whether good or bad, is just that – discretion. Accordingly, this Court has no authority to issue a writ of mandamus. Where "a duty as involves the exercise of discretion in the manner of its performance, then it is clear that the court cannot interfere to control that discretion." "Once it is concluded that the County Commissioners had authority to withhold the disbursements in this case, the precise manner in which they do so must be decided based on policy and economics. Courts exist solely to declare and enforce the law, and are without authority as to matters of mere governmental policy."
Order Granting Summary Judgment - Civil No. 8361, Stephen R. Haskell, in his official capacity as Sheriff for the County of Sublette, State of Wyoming vs. Mary Lankford, in her official capacity as County Clerk of Sublette, State of Wyoming