The Third Appellate District Court held that as the appointing authority a County Home Administrator has the authority to remove employees despite an employee handbook stating the county commissioners are the appointing authority. Lawrence v. Hardin Hills. Ohio App. 3rd Dist. Case No. 6-12-13 (May 20, 2013).

The Hardin Hills Office Manager was removed from her position by the Administrator of the county home. The Office Manager position is in the unclassified civil service and, as such, the Office Manager was employed at-will with no entitlement to due process prior to removal. Nonetheless, upon being removed the Office Manager appealed to the State Personnel Board of Review (“SPBR”). She argued that regardless of classification status, the county home Administrator was not the appointing authority and, thus, the Administrator could not terminate her employment. The Office Manager based her argument on the Employee Handbook which provides that the county commissioners are the appointing authority for county home employees.

The issue of who is the appointing authority is a matter of law and generally cannot be altered by an entity’s designation. The Court reviewed applicable statutes, case law and Attorney General Opinions and found the county home administrator to be the appointing authority for county home employees. The Court added that no legal authority supports the Office Manager’s argument that an appointing authority may be designated via employee handbook.

This case illustrates that long standing principle that civil service rights are purely a matter of law and generally cannot be extended, contracted or altered by other means. That being said, public employers are wise to review policies to ensure they are consistent with civil service law to avoid employees claims based upon contrary policies. For more information regarding this case, civil service matters or to request a copy of the decision, contact Frank Hatfield at