from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable
Timothy C. Day, Judge
Representing Appellant Alexander K. Davison and Caleb C.
Wilkins of Patton & Davison, Cheyenne, Wyoming. Argument
by Mr. Wilkins.
Representing Appellee J. Mark Stewart of Davis & Cannon,
LLP, Cheyenne, Wyoming
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
The Town of Pine Bluffs owns and operates a day care
facility. Laramie County taxed the facility based upon its
conclusion that it was not used primarily for a governmental
purpose. The Town sought an injunction in Laramie County
District Court. That court dismissed the complaint, finding
that the Town failed to exhaust administrative remedies
available to it. Although we do so on a different basis than
the district court, we affirm.
We have reorganized and restated the issues raised by the
parties as follows:
1. Must a taxpayer exhaust administrative remedies before
seeking an injunction or other relief from the district court
under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-13-109(c)(i) (LexisNexis
2. Does the complaint, when allegations are regarded as true
and viewed in the light most favorable to the Town, assert
any claim that would entitle it to relief under Wyo. Stat.
Ann. § 39-13-109(c)(i)?
Because this case was decided on a Wyoming Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the "facts"
are to be determined from the amended complaint, as noted in
the standard of review. The Town of Pine Bluffs owns and
operates a day care center located in a building situated on
lots it owns. The Town alleges that it created the day care
to encourage economic development by allowing parents a safe
place to leave their children while they are working. The
facility was constructed with 1% specific purpose tax funds
authorized by the voters. All of the day care staff are Town
employees. A fee is charged for day care, but all fees
charged are used to offset the costs of operation, the day
care has never operated at a profit, and it requires annual
subsidies from the Town.
In 2015, Laramie County Assessor Kenneth Guille assessed the
day care as taxable property, evidently as a result of
finding that it was not used "primarily for a
governmental purpose" as it would have to have been to
be exempt under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 39-11-105(a)(v). Trudy
Eisele, the Laramie County Treasurer, therefore added the day
care property to the tax rolls for that year. The Town
contended that the property was in fact used for a
governmental purpose and was therefore exempt, that taxing it
was illegal, and that it had no adequate remedy at law, and
was thus entitled to injunctive relief under Wyo. Stat. Ann.
§ 39-13-109(c), which will be discussed in detail
The Wyoming statutes allow a taxpayer to appeal an assessment
to the county board of equalization (CBOE) (the board of
county commissioners), and to appeal from an unfavorable
decision there to the state board of equalization (SBOE),
from there to petition the district court for review, and
ultimately to appeal to this Court. See Wyo. Stat.
Ann. §§ 39-13-109(b), 16-3-114 (LexisNexis 2017),
and W.R.A.P. 12.01 et. seq. The Town chose to
proceed directly in district court with a claim for an
injunction under § 39-13-109(c)(i) that the assessment
The County filed motions to dismiss the original and amended
complaints. Those motions refer to a brief or briefs in
support of them, but for some reason they are not included in
the record on appeal. However, we glean from the order
granting the motion that the County claimed that the Town had
not exhausted administrative remedies by pursuing an appeal
to the CBOE as already generally described.
The Town responded that § 39-13-109(c)(i) was a
stand-alone remedy that allowed an injunction if the
assessment was illegal. The district court agreed with the
County, holding that the Town should have exhausted
administrative remedies before resorting to an injunction. It
noted that "[i]f Wyo. Stat. § 39-13-109(c)([i])
provides for an end-run around the administrative appeal
process as the Town asserts, that is for the Wyoming Supreme
Court to determine." The Town timely perfected this
appeal from that decision.
When reviewing motions to dismiss, we accept the facts stated
in the complaint as true and view them in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. We will sustain a dismissal only
when it is certain from the face of the complaint that the
plaintiff cannot assert any fact which would entitle it to
relief. White v. Shane Edeburn Const., LLC, 2012 WY
118, ¶ 10, 285 P.3d 949, 952 (Wyo. 2012) (citing
Sinclair v. City of Gillette, 2012 WY 19, ¶ 8,
270 P.3d 644, 646 (Wyo. 2012)).
This case involves construction of Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
39-13-109(c)(i). As we have observed:
In interpreting statutes, our primary consideration is to
determine the legislature's intent. All statutes must be
construed in pari materia and, in ascertaining the
meaning of a given law, all statutes relating to the same
subject or having the same general purpose must be considered
and construed in harmony. Statutory construction is a
question of law, so our standard of review is de
novo. We endeavor to interpret statutes in accordance
with the legislature's intent. We begin by making an
inquiry respecting the ordinary and obvious meaning of the
words employed according to their arrangement and connection.
We construe the statute as a whole, giving effect to every
word, clause, and sentence, and we construe all parts of the
statute in pari materia. When a statute is
sufficiently clear and unambiguous, we give effect to the
plain and ordinary meaning of the words and do not resort to
the rules of statutory construction. Moreover, we must not
give a statute a meaning that will nullify its operation if
it is susceptible of another interpretation.
Bates v. Chicago Lumber Co. of Omaha, 2016 WY 58,
¶ 27, 375 P.3d 732, 739 (Wyo. 2016) (quoting Powder
River Basin Res. Council v. Wyo. Oil & Gas Conservation
Comm'n, 2014 WY 37, ¶ 19, 320 P.3d 222, 228
of the Statutes
We find it helpful to review the history of the statutes
involved here. As early as 1876, the Wyoming Territory
statutes provided that "[a]ny person who may feel
aggrieved at anything in the assessment of his property, may
appear before the board of equalization, either in person or
by agent, within the time mentioned in the preceding section
[the next meeting of the board of county commissioners, which
sat as today as the county board of equalization] and have
the same corrected in such manner as to said board shall seem
just and equitable." Compiled Laws of Wyoming, Ch. CIX
§ 29 (1876).
The predecessor of current Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
39-13-109(c)(i) was not enacted until 1886. It originally
District courts shall have jurisdiction to enjoin the illegal
levy of taxes and assessments, or the collection of either,
and of actions to recover back such taxes or assessments as
have been collected, without regard to the amount thereof;
but no recovery shall be had unless the action be brought
within one year after the taxes or assessment are collected.
Laws of Wyoming Territory, Ch. 60 § 705 (1886); Revised
Statutes of Wyoming, § 3053 (1887). It may be worth
noting that this statute was codified in the civil code,
while the statute providing a remedy for an aggrieved
taxpayer was contained in the revenue section. Revised
Statutes of Wyoming § 3802 (1887); Wyodak v. Wyo.
Dep't of Revenue, 2002 WY 181, ¶ 24, 60 P.3d
129, 139 (Wyo. 2002);Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Bd. of Cty.
Comm'rs, Sweetwater Cty., 569 P.2d 1267, 1273 (Wyo.
1977). The statutes also contained a section requiring the