Dowling v. Stapley – 3/27/2008

April 1, 2008

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That Maricopa County Superintendent Has Sole Statutory Authority Under A.R.S. § 15-308 to Offer Educational Services to Maricopa County’s Homeless Children But Must Work Collaboratively With the County Board of Supervisors If County Monies Are Required.

Following a unanimous resolution by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (“Board”) declaring that no educational services to homeless children would be offered by the County, the Maricopa County Superintendent (“Superintendent”) filed a special action complaint alleging that the Board’s resolution should be declared null and void and the Board should be enjoined from enforcing its resolution because the Superintendent and not the Board is vested with sole statutory authority to determine whether to provide such services to the county’s homeless children.  The Superior Court accepted special action jurisdiction and granted the Superintendent’s declaratory relief, but denied her injunctive relief.  An appeal and cross-appeal followed.

The Arizona Appeals Court affirmed the superior court’s rulings with modification.  The Court recognized that A.R.S. § 15-308(A) grants the Superintendent the authority to “provide educational services of an accommodation school [for homeless children].”  Subsection (B) however, states broadly that a “County may offer educational services to homeless children . . . through an accommodation school.”  Finally, subsection (C) places the “county board of supervisors” in control of the purse strings for any such accommodation school.  Construing the statute as a whole, the Court held that the legislature intended to authorize a collaborative effort between the Superintendent and the Board in providing educational services to homeless children.  Thus, subsection (A) grants sole authority to the Superintendent to provide these services so long as no county funds are required.  However, where county funds are required, the Superintendent and the Board must work collaboratively such that the Board agrees to fund and the Superintendent agrees to provide or implement the proposed services.  The Court cautioned, however, that nothing in its holding requires the Board to provide any funding.  Thus, the Court held that the Board’s resolution was null and void in that it could not unilaterally prohibit the Superintendent from providing educational services to homeless children, so long as no county monies are being utilized.

Presiding Judge Barker authored the opinion; Judge Timmer and Judge Orozco concurred.