Where employees of a city are discharged from their employment by an employee of the city authorized generally by the city to do so, and the discharged employees appeal their discharges to the personnel board of the city, and the personnel board renders decisions adverse to the discharged employees, in the absence of any other provision of law for an appeal or review otherwise, the injured parties must seek a review of the adverse decisions against them by writ of certiorari to the superior court, both as to their actions against the employees of the city, acting in their individual, as well as official capacities, and as to the City of Atlanta itself. The court erred in denying all of the motions to dismiss filed by the appellants.
These are companion cases and the questions to be decided are the same in both cases. Charles T. Latham is the appellee in case 26406, and Robert C. Pattillo is the appellee in case 26407.
This is an appeal by the appellants, hereinafter called the defendants, from the order of the trial court overruling in part the separate motions of the defendants to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.
The appellees, hereinafter called plaintiffs, filed their complaints on January 22, 1970, alleging that on May 26, 1969, they had been dismissed from their employment as building inspectors with the City of Atlanta. Plaintiffs alleged that they were dismissed by one of the defendants, C. M. Smith, Assistant Building Official for the City of Atlanta, "without complying with the rules and regulations of the City of Atlanta governing dismissals of employees, summarily and without cause."
The plaintiffs further allege that they sought an appeal before the Personnel Board of the City of Atlanta, that such hearing was duly held on June 19, 1969, that "the board and the individuals comprising said board arbitrarily and without justification upheld the dismissal."
The plaintiffs named as defendants in their suits, Charles H. Wilson, Jr., Isabelle Van Houten and J. Marshall Weaver, individually and as members of the City of Atlanta Personnel Board; Carl T. Sutherland, individually and as Chief, Atlanta Personnel Board (later amended to Personnel Director of the City of Atlanta); C. M. Smith, individually and in his capacity as Assistant Building Official for the City of Atlanta; and, by amendment, the City of Atlanta.
The plaintiffs asked that the findings of the personnel board be reversed, that they be reinstated by the City of Atlanta with back wages, and that they be awarded $50,000 for damage to their reputations. Plaintiffs later amended their complaint asking for $8,000 in back wages, with interest, and $100,000 for damage to their reputations.
The defendants (all except the City of Atlanta which was brought in later by amendment) filed separate answers to the complaints and separate motions to dismiss the complaints for failure to state a claim.
The plaintiffs amended their complaints, adding a Count II, increasing their claim for damages and alleging that the defendants caused the plaintiffs' dismissal without just cause.
The individual defendants filed separate motions to dismiss the amended complaints for failure to state a claim.
The plaintiffs amended their complaints on September 9, 1970, to add the City of Atlanta as a party defendant.
The City of Atlanta duly filed its answers and motions to dismiss the amended complaints for failure to state a claim.
Hearing was held on October 8, 1970, by the trial court to consider the separate motions of the defendants to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
The trial court granted the motions to dismiss of the defendants Charles H. Wilson, Jr., Isabelle Van Houten and J. Marshall Weaver, and Carl T. Sutherland in their individual capacities, but overruled the motions to dismiss of said defendants in their official capacities as members of the personnel board and as personnel director, respectively.
The trial court overruled the motions to dismiss of the defendant C. M. Smith in both his individual capacity and his official capacity, and overruled the motions to dismiss of the City of Atlanta.
All of the defendants appeal from the respective adverse rulings of the trial court, said court having certified that its ruling is of such importance to the case that immediate review should be had.
Whatever may be said. as to the nature and kind of action of C. M. Smith, City of Atlanta Assistant Building Official, the judgments upon the trials of the appeals of the appellees of the actions of such building official, in discharging appellants were judicial or quasi-judicial in nature; and appeals from such decisions can only be had by writ of certiorari under Code 19-101, where no additional right of appeal is provided by law. Thompson v. Dunn, 102 Ga. App. 164 (115 SE2d 754)
; Anderson v. McMurry, 217 Ga. 145 (121 SE2d 22)
. Further, this court has consistently held that a petitioner cannot go into a court of equity to secure a review of a decision of a municipal body exercising a judicial or quasi-judicial function. City of Cedartown v. Pickett, 193 Ga. 840 (20 SE2d 263)
; Ballard v. Mayor &c. of Carrollton, 194 Ga. 489 (22 SE2d 81)
; and especially City of Atlanta v. Lopert Pictures Corp., 217 Ga. 432 (122 SE2d 916)
, and discussion of this court beginning on page 437 of that case. In the Ballard case, supra, headnote 1, it was stated: "The writ of certiorari ordinarily furnishes a full and adequate remedy at law for the correction of errors in decisions by municipal corporations, courts, or councils, rendered in the exercise of judicial powers; so that even though a property right may be primarily involved in such manner as would authorize the injured party to resort to equity, he is not entitled to claim such relief, where he has already appeared before the municipal judicatory, and that body has rendered an adverse decision. His remedy under such circumstances was to have corrected by certiorari any error in the decision. City of Cedartown v. Pickett, 193 Ga. 840
, 842." (Emphasis supplied.) Since the complaints of appellees were brought against the city employees in their official capacities and in their individual capacities, the rule as to certiorari being the only review available in these cases must govern because there is no way to divide the cases into divisions and have one kind of review for official conduct and another for individual conduct reviewed in a judicial or quasi-judicial capacity. The court erred in refusing to dismiss all of the complaints of appellees on the motions of the appellants, which failures to dismiss on such motions are the subject matter of this appeal. On the question of the personal liability of public officials in the discharge of official duties, see Price v. Owen, 67 Ga. App. 58
, 60 (19 SE2d 529