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Bower-Hansen v. Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

Supreme Court of Nebraska

April 12, 2019

Betty Jane Bower-Hansen, appellant,
v.
Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services et al., administrative agencies of the State of Nebraska, and the State of Nebraska, appellees.

         1. Administrative Law: Judgments: Appeal and Error. A judgment or final order rendered by a district court in a judicial review pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act may be reversed, vacated, or modified by an appellate court for errors appearing on the record.

         2. _:_: _ . When reviewing an order of a district court under the Administrative Procedure Act for errors appearing on the record, the inquiry is whether the decision conforms to the law, is supported by competent evidence, and is neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable.

         3. Contracts. When the terms of a contract are clear, a court may not resort to rules of construction. Instead, the terms of the contract are to be accorded their plain and ordinary meaning.

         4. _ . Courts do not have the power to rewrite a contract to provide terms contrary to those that are expressed.

         5. _ . It is not the province of a court to rewrite a contract to reflect the court's view of a fair bargain.

          Appeal from the District Court for Lancaster County: Jodi L. Nelson, Judge. Affirmed.

          Nicholas J. Welding, of Norby & Welding, L.L.P., for appellant.

          Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Ryan C. Gilbride for appellees.

         [302 Neb. 848] Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.

          PAPIK, J.

         After the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) terminated the employment of Betty Jane Bower-Hansen as a teacher at the Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center in Kearney, Nebraska, Bower-Hansen sought to challenge the termination. She initiated grievance proceedings provided by the governing collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Those proceedings concluded when the State Personnel Board (Personnel Board) dismissed her grievance appeals. Bower-Hansen sought review of that decision in district court, and the district court affirmed the Personnel Board's decision. Bower-Hansen now appeals the district court's decision. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         June 3, 2016, Meeting.

         The facts relevant to this dispute begin with a June 3, 2016, meeting between Bower-Hansen; John McArthur, the principal at the treatment center; and LaDene Madsen, the human resources manager at the center. Bower-Hansen was a member of the bargaining unit represented by the State Code Agency Teachers Association (SCATA) at the time, and representatives of SCATA were also present at the meeting. During the meeting, Bower-Hansen was issued a notice of discipline advising her that her employment was terminated for cause, effective immediately.

         Bower-Hansen claims that one of her union representatives asked where Bower-Hansen should file a grievance challenging her termination of employment and that Madsen said that it should be filed with Douglas Weinberg, the director of the Division of Children and Family Services at DHHS. DHHS apparently does not contest Bower-Hansen's account of the June 3, 2016, meeting.

         [302 Neb. 849] SCATA Grievance Procedures.

         The terms and conditions of employment for SCATA members were set forth in a CBA entered into between SCATA and the State of Nebraska. Because terms of the CBA are central to the ...


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