Falcon ex rel. Sandoval v. Maricopa County
In Falcon ex rel. Sandoval v. Maricopa County, 213 Ariz. 525, 144 P.3d 1254 (2006), the Arizona Supreme Court considered whether service of a notice of claim on one member of a multi-member county board of supervisors complied with the requirements of A.R.S. 12-821.01(A) and Rule 4.1(i). 213 Ariz. at 526, P 2, 144 P.3d at 1255.
After noting that some public entities, such as counties and school boards, did not have a statutorily designated CEO, the court interpreted the term "executive officer" in Rule 4.1(i) as "the individual or entity that controls, supervises, and has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring the proper function of a governmental entity." Id. at 527, P 14, 144 P.3d at 1256.
The court then reviewed the statutory powers and duties of a county board of supervisors and stated, "Most importantly for purposes of this case, the board has the power to 'direct and control the prosecution and defense of all actions to which the county is a party, and compromise them.'" Id. at P 15.
The court then held that the board of supervisors was the county's CEO for purposes of Rule 4.1(i) and that "delivery of a notice of claim to one member of the board does not comply with either the statute or the rule." Id. at 531, P 34, 144 P.3d at 1260.
In reaching its holding, the Falcon court expressly rejected the argument that the county manager was the county's CEO. Id. at 528, P 17, 144 P.3d at 1257.
The court found that:
(1) the county board of supervisors appointed the county manager;
(2) the county manager served under the direction and control of the board;
(3) the county manager's duties were, among others, to coordinate and control all administrative branches of the county;
(4) the board did not delegate its statutory or implied powers to the county manager. Id.
Thus, the court concluded that the county board of supervisors remained "ultimately responsible for ensuring the proper operation of county government" and that the county manager was not the county's CEO for purposes of Rule 4.1(i). Id.
The court further reasoned that because county managers are not statutory officers and because not all counties have county managers, treating a county manager as the county's CEO would create confusion for future claimants. Id.