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Brown v. Smith

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

May 13, 2014

JACK BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
KEVIN SMITH in his individual and official capacity as Mayor of the City of Anderson, and CITY OF ANDERSON, Defendants

Page 975

For JACK BROWN, Plaintiff: Barry A. Macey, Jeffrey A. Macey, MACEY SWANSON AND ALLMAN, Indianapolis, IN.

For KEVIN SMITH, 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

Page 976

ENTRY ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Hon. Tanya Walton Pratt, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Kevin Smith's (" Mayor Smith" ) and the City of Anderson's (" the City" ) (collectively, " the Defendants" ), Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 32). Plaintiff Jack Brown (" Mr. Brown" ), a twenty-eight year employee of the City of Anderson Transit System, asserts claims against the City and Mayor Smith, in both his official and individual capacity, for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (" ADAA" ) for failure to accommodate his disability, and under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (" § 1983" ) for violations of his rights under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Specifically, Mr. Brown contends that his termination following the 2011 election was for political reasons and in violation of the ADAA. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Mr. Brown has had a long history of involvement with the Democratic Party in Anderson, Indiana. He has been a precinct committeeman for the Democratic Party since 1989, as well as a member of the Madison County Rooster Club, an organization that helps raise funds for and elect Democratic candidates. Mr. Brown knew Mayor Smith personally, as they met with Mayor Smith was a Democrat running for county councilor some time prior to 2003. In 2003 Smith switched parties and was successfully elected Mayor of

Page 977

Anderson as a Republican candidate and served a four-year term. Thereafter, the City had a Democratic Mayor until Smith was again elected in November 2010 as a Republican Mayor.

Mr. Brown first became an employee of the City of Anderson Transit System (" CATS" ) in 1984. He started out as a part-time bus driver and worked his way up to the position of Street Supervisor. During those twenty-eight years, Mr. Brown worked in a number of positions in CATS under both Democratic and Republican mayoral administrations. At the time he was hired, Mr. Brown possessed a valid Commercial Driver's License (" CDL" ) which was required by law in order to operate a vehicle that was capable of carrying more than sixteen occupants, including the driver. When Mr. Brown moved from the position of Bus Driver to Dispatcher and Crew Leader in 1994, he allowed his CDL to lapse, leaving him with only a regular operator's license. While working as a Dispatcher, Mr. Brown developed insulin-dependent diabetes. Insulin dependent diabetes requires a special waiver from the federal government and specialized medical examination. During the ten to twelve years he worked as Dispatcher and Crew Leader, Mr. Brown did not operate vehicles and thus was not required to hold a CDL.

When Mayor Smith was elected to his first term as mayor in 2003, Mr. Brown was demoted to the position of Mechanic's Helper, and moved from the day shift to the evening shift. The job description for Mechanic's Helper required a CDL. The issue of Mr. Brown's lack of CDL was raised because the Mechanic's Helper position required Mr. Brown to take a more active role in moving buses and other city vehicles around the transit garage than the Dispatcher position required. To resolve this issue, the Union, of which Mr. Brown became a member when he became a Mechanic's Helper, filed a grievance on his behalf. The grievance was resolved with the City agreeing to relieve Mr. Brown from two duties within his job description that he was unable to perform due to his diabetes, including his inability to obtain a CDL.

In 2008, after Mayor Smith was defeated by Kris Ockomon, Mr. Brown was promoted to the position of day shift Street Supervisor by Merele Jones (" Mr. Jones" ), who Mayor Ockomon had hired as General Manager of CATS. Mr. Brown replaced Mark Baugher (" Mr. Baugher" ), who had been promoted to the Director of Operations of CATS. Although the Street Supervisor job description required a CDL, Mr. Brown was informed by his supervisors, Mr. Jones and Mr. Baugher, that he did not need a waiver of the same sort as he had received as Mechanic's Helper because he would not be hauling passengers. As the Street Supervisor, Mr. Brown drove a supervisor's van to supervise routes, which was a mini-van that could carry no more than three passengers. Mr. Brown's job as Street Supervisor was to make sure the buses stayed on schedule, pick up passengers stranded due to bus breakdowns, and to investigate bus accidents and write reports regarding those accidents. He was also responsible for supervising and directing CATS bus drivers and making recommendations to the department supervisor and the Accident Committee, which determined fault for accidents involving CATS drivers. Because Mr. Brown did not have a CDL, he could not perform one of the duties of Street Supervisor, which was to " [o]ccasionally perform duties of bus Drivers and drive[] Nifty Lift[1] and City bus

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charter as necessary." Dkt. 31-2 at 16. When staff was short, CATS would call in a part-time driver to perform these driving duties, and Mr. Brown did not drive city buses or the Nifty Lift during his time as Street Supervisor. Mr. Brown held the day shift Street Supervisor position for four years, from 2008 until January 2012.

In 2011, Kevin Smith again ran against, and defeated, Mayor Ockomon. During the mayoral campaign, Mr. Brown actively campaigned for Mayor Ockomon, including giving donations to his campaign fund, putting up signs, and walking door-to-door as part of his duties as precinct committeeman. Following the election, but before Mayor Smith took office, Mr. Brown called Mayor Smith and inquired about the status of his job. Mayor Smith told him that there would be " a lot of changes," but did not address anything specific regarding Mr. Brown's position. Mayor Smith subsequently hired Stephon Blackwell (" Mr. Blackwell" ) to take over the position of General Manager of CATS, which had been vacated by Mr. Jones' retirement after the election. Mr. Blackwell, a Republican, was a retired law enforcement officer who previously worked in both the Anderson Sheriff's and Police Department, but did not work on Mayor Smith's campaign. After Mr. Blackwell took the General Manager position, he demoted Mr. Baugher from the Director of Operations position to second-shift Street Supervisor and replaced him with Rick Garrett. Mr. Blackwell had general concerns about the appearance and attitudes of the drivers, personnel, and the condition of the CATS building. However, at the time of Mr. Brown's termination, he had not communicated concerns about supervisors' appearance to Mr. Brown.

On January 17, 2012, Mr. Blackwell called Mr. Brown into his office for a meeting and informed Mr. Brown that he would be terminated from the day shift Street Supervisor position, as Mr. Blackwell planned to replace Mr. Brown with John Inholt, a CATS Driver. Mr. Blackwell asked Mr. Brown if he had his CDL, to which Mr. Brown replied that he did not and did not know whether he could get a waiver of the medical requirements of the CDL. Mr. Blackwell originally intended to demote Mr. Brown to the position of bus driver, but because he did not have, and could not obtain, a CDL, he instead terminated Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown testified that he made the decision to replace Mr. Brown because he " wanted his people and the people that we going to be part of my team." The personnel notice for Mr. ...


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