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Drumm v. George

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

May 15, 2018

DRUMM, IN HIS CAPACITY AS CITY MANAGER FOR THE CITY OF BRUNSWICK et al.
v.
GEORGE et al.

          FIFTH DIVISION MCFADDEN, P. J., RAY and RICKMAN, JJ.

          Rickman, Judge.

         We granted an application for interlocutory review from James Drumm, in his capacity as City Manager for the City of Brunswick, and the City of Brunswick (collectively "Drumm") following the denial of their motion for summary judgment on a complaint for breach of contract filed by Paul George, Erik Hartshorn, Stephan Lowrey, Carla Futch, Alan Wainwright, and Terrence Tanner (collectively "the Officers"). Because the Officers' suit is barred by sovereign immunity, we reverse.

On appeal from the denial or grant of summary judgment, the appellate court conducts a de novo review of the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and whether the undisputed facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, warrant judgment as a matter of law.

(Citation and punctuation omitted.) Watts v. City of Dillard, 294 Ga.App. 861 (670 S.E.2d 442) (2008).

         So viewed, the record shows that approximately three months after becoming the City Manager for the City of Brunswick, Drumm met with the City's Chief of Police to discuss the retention and promotion of City police officers . Drumm agreed to the Chief's proposal to promote officers who met certain requirements, but it was unclear at the time of the meeting how many officers would be eligible for the promotion.

         After the meeting, the following text message exchange took place between the Chief and Drumm:

[The Chief]: There are 2 in drug squad And 4 in detectives eligible for promotion to corporal.
[Drumm]: Ok[.]
[Drumm]: Set up the paperwork[.]

         Prior to Drumm receiving any paperwork regarding the promotions, the Chief sent the Officers a letter congratulating them on their promotion to corporal. The Chief also announced the promotions publicly on a social media website.

         When the Officers received their next paycheck, they noticed that they did not receive an increase in salary to reflect their promotions. At that point, the Chief was informed that Drumm never signed the personnel forms authorizing the Officers' promotions and salary increases. Drumm sent the Chief a text message expressing his concerns about the cost of the salary increases.

         After the Officers' salaries were not increased, all of the Officers except for Tanner filed grievances against the City. Drumm met with the Officers who filed grievances and following that meeting, sent a letter to them explaining that their promotions were unauthorized. The letter stated that, "[a]s I explained in our meeting, you are not due the pay increase requested in your grievance. As such you are not due back pay. You are not now, nor have you been the rank of [c]orporal with the Brunswick Police Department."

         The Officers filed a complaint alleging breach of contract and seeking damages against Drumm. Drumm filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that, inter alia, the Officers' suit was barred by sovereign immunity because there was no written contract between the parties. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that there was evidence from which a jury could determine that "the essential ...


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