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Allman v. Smith

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 13, 2014

ROBIN ALLMAN, MARGARET BAUGHER, MARK BAUGHER, KRISTIE BINDA, GARY DAVIS, ANDREW GREENE, AMBER LEWIS-LILLY, MICHAEL McKINLEY, TIM STIRES, JEFF WELKER, and ROBERT ALLMAN, Plaintiffs,
v.
KEVIN SMITH, in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Anderson, and the CITY OF ANDERSON, Defendants

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For ROBIN ALLMAN, MARGARET BAUGHER, MARK BAUGHER, KRISTIE BINDA, GARY DAVIS, ANDREW GREENE, AMBER LEWIS-LILLY, MICHAEL MCKINLEY, TIM STIRES, JEFF WELKER, Plaintiffs: Barry A. Macey, Jeffrey A. Macey, MACEY SWANSON AND ALLMAN, Indianapolis, IN.

For ROBERT ALLMAN, (Added per Amended Complaint of 10/23/12.), Plaintiff: Jeffrey A. Macey, MACEY SWANSON & ALLMAN, Indianapolis, IN.

For KEVIN SMITH, in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Anderson, CITY OF ANDERSON, Defendants: Anthony W. Overholt, FROST BROWN TODD LLC, Indianapolis, IN; Richard Bruce Walker, Anderson, IN.

OPINION

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ENTRY ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Hon. Tanya Walton Pratt, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Mayor Kevin Smith, in his individual capacity and in his official capacity (" Mayor Smith" ), and the City of Anderson (" the City" ) (Dkt. 52). Plaintiffs, Robin Allman, Margaret Baugher, Mark Baugher, Kristie Binda, Gary Davis, Andrew Greene, Amber Lewis-Lilly, Michael McKinley, Tim Stires, Jeff Welker, and Robert Allman, each supported the Democratic Party's candidate for Mayor of the City in the November 2011 election and each have asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (" § 1983" ) that they were terminated due to their political affiliation in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Defendants assert that each of the Plaintiffs held positions that were exempt from First Amendment protection because political affiliation was an appropriate requirement for the effective performance of their jobs. Mayor Smith also argues that he is protected from individual liability under the doctrine of qualified immunity. Oral argument was held on the motion on January 15, 2014, and the Court took the matter under advisement. Having considered the parties' arguments and briefs, the Defendants' motion is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Each of the Plaintiffs held various positions within the Anderson city government at the time of their termination and each publically supported the Democratic candidate in the November 2011 election. Defendant Kevin Smith, a Republican, was elected Mayor in November 2011, and his term began on January 1, 2012. Following his election, Mayor Smith terminated the Plaintiffs. He does not dispute that the terminations were politically motivated; however, he asserts that each of the Plaintiffs held a policymaking or confidential position such that they were exempt from protection under the First Amendment. The Plaintiffs held the following positions with the City:

A. Robin Allman

Ms. Allman worked for the city for over 20 years in many different positions. At the time of her termination, she worked as a Cashier in the Utility Department. As Cashier, she was responsible for receiving and recording receipts and secretarial duties, and neither party disputes that this

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was a non-political position. However, at the time of the election, Ms. Allman worked as the Office Manager of the Utilities Department. As Office Manager, Ms. Allman's duties included planning, organizing, and supervising personnel and operations; overseeing development of public relations programs to enhance the public image of the Utility Office; overseeing utility billings and other office mailings; receiving and investigating citizen complaints pertaining to the Utility Office; preparing and submitting all required narrative, financial, and statistical reports; devising and implementing new office procedures; and interacting with state and City officials and customers regarding rate changes.

Before Mayor Smith took office, Ms. Allman was notified via letter that she would be terminated from her Office Manager position when he assumed office. Ms. Allman bid on an open Cashier position on December 19, 2011 and was awarded the position on December 21, 2011. The Cashier position had been posted since at least November 2011. She began working as a Cashier on December 27, 2011, prior to Mayor Smith taking office. On January 3, 2012, after Mayor Smith took office, Ms. Allman was informed that she would be promoted back to Office Manager so that she could be terminated by the City.

B. Margaret Baugher

Ms. Baugher had worked for the City for 9 years and at the time of her termination, worked as Customer Service Supervisor in the City's Utility Department. She reported to the Assistant Manager for the Utility Department. As Customer Service Supervisor, Ms. Baugher was responsible for directing personnel, assisting customers, and making billing adjustments, as well as receiving and responding to customer inquiries and complaints, assisting customers in initiating and terminating services, and coordinating new sewer and storm water accounts with the appropriate City department. Ms. Baugher was terminated on March 22, 2012.

C. Mark Baugher

Mr. Baugher had worked for the City for nearly 33 years in various positions. He worked as the Director of Operations of the City of Anderson Transit System (" CATS" ) at the time Mayor Smith was elected. After Mayor Smith appointed Stephon Blackwell to be the General Manager of CATS, the position to which the Director of Operations reports, Mr. Baugher was demoted to Street Supervisor/Dispatcher on January 23, 2012. One week later, he was terminated from his position as Street Supervisor/Dispatcher.

As Street Supervisor/Dispatcher, Mr. Baugher was responsible for planning, directing, and overseeing street operations, including scheduling buses and assignment of routes and drivers; supervising and directing department bus drivers; investigating traffic accidents involving department vehicles and street conditions; receiving and investigating citizen complaints regarding buses and routes; and maintaining employee work records. The Street Supervisor/Dispatcher reported to the Director of Operations.

D. Kristie Binda

Ms. Binda worked as the Secretary for the City Fire Department. As Fire Department Secretary, Ms. Binda was responsible for answering telephones, paying bills for all seven stations, handling shipping and receiving, typing memorandums to fire fighters, and typing the budget proposal that was created by the Fire Chief and the Chief's deputies. She was also responsible for maintaining personnel files and other office records. Ms. Binda

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reported directly to the Fire Chief. She was terminated on January 17, 2012.

E. Gary Davis

Mr. Davis had worked for the City for more than 27 1/2 years prior to his termination. Defendants originally asserted that Mr. Davis worked as the Manager of Operations for the Anderson Water Utility. However, Plaintiffs assert that Mr. Davis was demoted from the Manager of Operations position to a Project Supervisor position in June 2010, and held the Project Supervisor position at the time of his termination. Defendants argue that the City's records showed that Mr. Davis was the Manager of Operations at the time of his termination and that there is no documentation of his demotion, therefore, this is the position that the Defendants believed that he held at the time of his termination on December 16, 2011.

The Manager of Operations was responsible for planning and implementing water utility operations according to instructions and discussions with the Superintendent of the Water Department; allocation of human and material resources to maintain water lines, filter plants and wells; training and disciplining subordinate employees; receiving and investigating water-related customer complaints, determining problems, reporting findings, and making recommendations for repairs; assembling the annual budget in accordance with goals established by the Superintendent and authorized expenditures upon approval of budget; preparing annual reports; and doing speaking engagements in the community. The Project Supervisor was responsible for overseeing construction projects undertaken at the direction of the Superintendent; inspecting the water department facility; and conducting tests of the City's water.

F. Andrew Greene

Mr. Greene worked as an Information Services Technician. His official job description stated that he was responsible for managing and maintaining the operation of the City's central computer system; installing, upgrading and/or replacing computer software and hardware; maintaining the City's computer network; answering and responding to help desk calls; developing and maintaining the City's website as required; and performing duties of the Head Computer Operator in his/her absence. Plaintiffs claim that the official job description did not accurately reflect Mr. Greene's actual duties, and that the job description for Information Services Technician was modified following an audit in March 2012 (subsequent to Mr. Greene's termination). Prior to that, the job description had last been modified in 2005.

G. Amber Lewis-Lilly

Ms. Lewis-Lilly was employed by the City for nearly 14 years prior to her termination. At the time of her termination, Defendants assert that she held the position of Contract Manager for Community Development/Long Range Planning; however, Ms. Lilly-Lewis claims that she held the position of Project Contract Specialist for the Anderson Department of Economic Development, and that she was hired into this position in 2009. Defendants admit in their Reply brief that they believed Ms. Lewis-Lilly held the position of Contract Manager at the time of her termination due to an employee error in the Human Resources Department, and that she did actually hold the Project Contract Specialist position. However, Defendants argue that ...


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