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Collins v. Hall

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division II

December 17, 2014

TALVIN COLLINS, APPELLANT
v.
HARRY HALL, individually and in his official capacity as alderman; VERONICA TENSLEY, individually and in her official capacity as alderwoman; SONJA FARLEY, individually and in her official capacity as alderwoman; and CITY OF GOULD, APPELLEES

Page 332

APPEAL FROM THE JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. CV-12-102-2. HONORABLE ROBERT H. WYATT, JR., JUDGE.

Sutter & Gillham, PLLC, by: Luther Oneal Sutter; and Brett D. Watson, Attorney at Law, PLLC, by: Brett D. Watson, for appellant.

McKissic & Associates Law Firm, P.L.L.C., by: Gene E. McKissic, Sr. and Jessica Yarbrough, for appellees.

KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge. GLADWIN, C.J., and WHITEAKER, J., agree.

OPINION

Page 333

KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge

Appellant Talvin Collins brings this appeal from an order of the Jefferson County Circuit Court quashing a writ of garnishment after Collins had been granted a default judgment. We affirm the circuit court.

The City of Gould (the City) is a municipal corporation located in Lincoln County operating under a mayor/aldermanic form of government. The City hired Talvin Collins as the police chief at an annual salary of $21,900. A dispute apparently arose between the City and the police chief, and the City allegedly refused to pay Collins his salary. Collins filed a lawsuit in neighboring Jefferson County[1] on February 28, 2012, alleging breach of contract, violation of the Arkansas minimum-wage law, and violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Collins did not name the City as a defendant, nor did he name the mayor as a defendant. Instead, Collins named four of the City's aldermen as defendants in both their individual and official capacities,[2] alleging " the defendants are counsel [sic] members for the City of Gould who, by majority vote, have refused to pay the plaintiff wages due him [.]" The complaint further asserted that all actions were taken in accordance with the City's policy, as well as under color of law. Collins sought compensatory and punitive damages, liquidated damages, an order requiring " the Defendant" to continue to pay him, and reasonable attorney's fees.

Collins served each alderman with process. None of the aldermen filed an answer or responsive pleading. Collins moved for a default judgment and it was granted in May 2013. The court set a hearing for damages. The record does not indicate whether the four aldermen attended the hearing. Following the hearing, the circuit court entered a judgment against the aldermen, individually and in their own official capacity as follows:

Each Defendant has been duly served with summons as required by law. Each defendant has failed to appear and defend, and the Defendant is indebted to the Plaintiff by virtue of damages proven by plaintiff in the sum of $52,000 compensatory damages, and in the sum of $32,000 for liquidated damages. Plaintiff is also entitled to punitive damages against each Defendant. Punitive damages are awarded as follows:

Page 334

Defendant, Alderman Harry Hall

$1,000.00

Defendant, Alderwoman Veronica Tensley

$1,000.00

Defendant, Alderwoman Sonja Farley

$1,000.00

Defendant, Alderwoman Rosieanna Smith-Lee[3]

$1,000.00

 

It is therefore ordered and adjudged that the plaintiff have and recover from each Defendant, jointly and severally, the sum of $84,000.00 . . ., that the Plaintiff have and recover from each Defendant, severally, the amount of punitive damages assessed against each Defendant set out above[.] (Emphasis added.)

Two writs of garnishment were subsequently issued to Merchants and Farmer's Bank (the bank) claiming that the aldermen, in their official capacity,[4] were indebted to Collins in the sum of $91,533.[5] The City filed an objection to the writs of garnishment, claiming that it was not a party to the underlying suit. It asserted that none of the individual aldermen were employed by the City or represented it in any official capacity, either at the time of the entry of the default judgment or the issuance of the writ. The City further contended that it had various accounts at the bank, but that garnishment of the City's operating accounts was unconstitutional. The bank also answered, listing six accounts for the City with a total balance of ...


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