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Gilbert v. Guilford County

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 16, 2014

GEORGE GILBERT, Plaintiff,
v.
GUILFORD COUNTY; GUILFORD COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS; LINDA O. SHAW, Chair; BILL BENCINI, Vice-Chair; ALAN BRANSON; KAY CASHION; CAROLYN Q. COLEMAN; BRUCE E. DAVIS; HANK HENNING; JEFF PHILLIPS; and RAY TRAPP, each sued in her or his official capacity as a member of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, Defendants

Heard in the Court of Appeals: October 7, 2014.

Appeal by Defendants from judgment entered 12 December 2013 by Judge William Z. Wood, Jr. in Guilford County Superior Court. No. 13 CVS 3227.

Smith, James, Rowlett & Cohen, LLP, by Seth R. Cohen, for Plaintiff-appellee.

Office of the Guilford County Attorney, by County Attorney J. Mark Payne, for Defendants-appellants.

DILLON, Judge. Judge HUNTER, Robert C. and Judge DAVIS concur.

OPINION

Page 94

DILLON, Judge.

Guilford County, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, and the nine individual members of that Board in their official capacities (" Defendants" ) appeal from the trial court's judgment in favor of its former Director of Elections, George Gilbert, (" Plaintiff" ), in the amount of $38,503.00, plus interest and costs. For the following reasons, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

I. Summary

Plaintiff was employed by Guilford County as its Director of Elections. He brought this action claiming that Defendants breached his employment contract because his salary did not comply with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-35(c). A county is afforded some measure of discretion to set the salary of its director of elections; however, the salary must be in accordance with State law. State law requires, in part, that the salary of a county director of elections " shall be commensurate with the salary paid to directors in counties similarly situated and similar in population and number of registered voters." Id. We believe there was sufficient evidence in the record to sustain the decision of the trial court who, sitting as a jury, found for Plaintiff.

II. Background

Plaintiff brought this action claiming Defendants breached his employment contract by not meeting the requirements of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 163-35(c). At a bench trial on the matter, the evidence presented tended to show as follows: Plaintiff was Director of Elections for Guilford County for twenty-five years, from 1988 until his retirement in 2013. His salary was set by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners based on a recommendation by the local board of elections after the local board performed a performance review of his work. From 2008 through 2012, Plaintiff received the highest rating in his performance reviews, a " 5[,]" meaning that his work " [c]onsistently exceeds expectation for [his] job[.]"

Plaintiff presented evidence using eight tables he had prepared from data comparing salary information for the election directors of the seven largest counties ...


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