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Recent cases highlight importance of compliance with administrative hearing requirements

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

First, in Williams v. City of Kinloch, a case arising out of the decision by the City of Kinloch Board of Aldermen to impeach and remove Darryl L. Williams from the office of Mayor, the Court of Appeals found that the Mayor’s filing of a petition for review of the Board’s decision in Circuit Court 48 days after receiving notice of the decision was untimely and deprived the trial court of jurisdiction. In “contested cases” (situations where the municipality holds a hearing, wherein the Council, Board or hearing officer hears evidence from witnesses, records/transcribes the hearing, and makes a written decision), Chapter 536 of the Missouri Statutes requires that any petition for review of the decision must be filed “within thirty days after the mailing or delivery of the notice of the agency's final decision.” This is settled law, but it is always good for municipalities to remember that if a party to the hearing does not seek to appeal the decision within the short 30-day window, the case should be dismissed.

Possibly more interesting in this case is that the Court also held that “the terms ‘mailing or delivery’ in Section 536.110.1 include email.”

In another very recent case, Nighbert vs. Preservation Board of the City of St. Louis, the City of St. Louis Preservation Board’s failure to closely follow the requirements of the City’s own ordinance will lead to more delay and litigation over its denial of a demolition permit. The case arose from the Preservation Board’s denial of Plaintiff Nighbert’s application for a permit to demolish a building in the City’s Benton Park neighborhood. The Appeals Court overturned the Preservation Board’s denial and the trial court affirmance of the denial solely because the Preservation Board’s findings of fact and conclusions of law were “inadequate.” The Court held that, in a “contested case,” the Preservation Board was required to do more than just recite the evidence in its findings of fact—it also needed to comply with the City’s ordinance that enumerates eight criteria the Preservation Board must apply when considering an application for a demolition permit. The Court found that the Preservation Board did not make specific findings as required regarding each of the enumerated criteria as the basis for its decision, and as a result, were not “sufficient findings of fact because they are general and conclusory, and as such, insufficient for this Court—and for the circuit court—to use to conduct judicial review of the Board’s decision.” The Court of Appeals sent the case back to the Preservation Board to make specific findings and conclusions on the eight criteria set forth in the City’s ordinance.

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