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Shoemaker v. Indiana State Police Department

Court of Appeals of Indiana

November 2, 2016

Ron Shoemaker, Appellant-Plaintiff,
Indiana State Police Department, Appellee-Defendant.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 49D03-1408-PL-26357 The Honorable Gary L. Miller, Judge

          Attorney for Appellant Ryan P. Sink Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana Aaron T. Craft Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          Altice, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] Ronald Shoemaker, a law enforcement officer with the Indiana State Police Department (ISP) for well over twenty years, was demoted in rank and pay in 2013 shortly after a new Superintendent of ISP was appointed. Shoemaker believes that the demotion was the result of a whistleblower report he filed with his supervisor about four years earlier. Pursuant to Ind. Code § 4-15-10-4, the Whistleblower Law (the WBL), Shoemaker initiated an administrative appeal of his demotion. After his action was dismissed by the administrative law judge (the ALJ) for being untimely filed, Shoemaker did not pursue judicial review of the administrative decision. He filed the instant breach of contract action instead. ISP sought summary judgment on the ground that Shoemaker failed to exhaust his administrative remedies and could not bring an action for breach of contract under the WBL.[1] The trial court granted ISP's motion for summary judgment, and Shoemaker appeals.

         [¶2] We affirm.

         Facts & Procedural History

         [¶3] Shoemaker began his employment with ISP in 1989 and steadily climbed the ranks from trooper, to senior trooper, to master trooper, to sergeant (his last merit rank), to spot captain, and to spot major over the entire Criminal Investigation Division (the CID).[2] In 2008, when he was a sergeant in the Drug Enforcement Section of the CID, Shoemaker authored and submitted a written report to his direct supervisor concerning issues he had observed in the Drug Enforcement Section, including ghost employment, overtime, and possible misrepresentations by law enforcement officers to the court. The report was then provided to Superintendent Paul Whitesell.

         [¶4] As a result of the report, Superintendent Whitesell promoted Shoemaker to captain of the CID in 2009 (replacing Michael Snider) and then to major of the CID in 2012 (replacing Larry Turner). Superintendent Whitesell moved Snider, Turner, and Lori Petro out of the CID at different points after the report, which Turner referred to as Shoemaker's manifesto.

         [¶5] In January 2013, Doug Carter was appointed by Governor Mike Pence to replace Whitesell as Superintendent of ISP. On April 15, 2013, Superintendent Carter demoted Shoemaker from major to his last permanent rank of sergeant and transferred him out of the CID. This change in rank reduced Shoemaker's rate of pay. On that same day, in addition to other personnel changes, Superintendent Carter replaced Shoemaker with Snider as major of the CID, promoted Petro to captain of the CID, and brought Turner back to the CID as third in command.

         [¶6] On January 29, 2014, more than nine months after his demotion, Shoemaker initiated an appeal pursuant to the State Employee Appeals Commission (SEAC) procedure outlined in Ind. Code § 4-15-2.2-42. Shoemaker alleged that he was demoted in retaliation for engaging in protected activity under the WBL. Acknowledging the late filing, he argued that the SEAC's thirty-day statute of limitations should be stayed based on equitable tolling and fraudulent concealment.

         [¶7] On July 15, 2014, the ALJ entered the SEAC's final order dismissing the action. Specifically, the ALJ concluded that Shoemaker's complaint was untimely filed and that equitable tolling based on a theory of fraudulent concealment was not applicable to save his action. The order advised Shoemaker that he could seek judicial review within thirty days.

         [¶8] Instead of exhausting the administrative appeals process by seeking judicial review of the SEAC's final order, Shoemaker chose to file the instant breach of contract action on August 7, 2014. His claim was based on ISP's alleged violation of the WBL. On January 22, 2016, ISP filed a motion for summary judgment, along with designated evidence and a memorandum in support. Following additional filings and a hearing on the motion, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of ISP on April 8, 2016. Shoemaker now appeals.

         Discussion & Decision

         [¶9] When reviewing a summary judgment ruling, we apply the same standard as the trial court. David v. Kleckner, 9 N.E.3d 147, 149 (Ind. 2014). "Summary judgment may be granted, or affirmed on appeal, only 'if the designated evidentiary matter shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Id. (quoting Ind. Trial Rule 56(C)). The facts and reasonable inferences established by the designated evidence are to be construed in favor of the non-moving party. Id.

         [¶10] The party appealing a grant of summary judgment has the burden of persuading this court that the ruling was erroneous. See Perkins v. Stesiak, 968 N.E.2d 319, 321 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012), trans. denied. The appellant also bears the burden of presenting a complete record with respect to the issues raised on appeal. Finke v. N. Ind. Pub. Serv. Co., 862 N.E.2d 266, 272-73 (Ind.Ct.App. 2006) ("We cannot review a claim that a trial court erred in granting a motion for summary judgment when the appellant does not include in the record all the evidence designated to the trial court and before it when it made its decision."), trans. denied; see also Lenhardt Tool & Die Co., Inc. v. Lumpe, 703 N.E.2d 1079, 1084 (Ind.Ct.App. 1998), trans. denied.

         [¶11] Shoemaker wholly failed in his obligation to provide an adequate record on appeal. The appendix he filed includes only the CCS, the summary judgment order, and sixteen exhibits that we suppose, though we do not know for certain, constitute the evidence he designated below. Shoemaker does not include ISP's motion for summary judgment, the memoranda filed in support of and in opposition to the motion, or ISP's designated evidence. Thus, we would be well within our discretion to conclude that Shoemaker, as the appealing party, failed to present us with a record sufficient to conclude that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to ISP. See Finke, 862 N.E.2d at 273. Still, we prefer to decide cases on their merits whenever possible. Omni Ins. Group v. Poage, 966 N.E.2d 750, 753 (Ind.Ct.App. 2012), trans. denied. Our review, though significantly hampered, is possible only because ISP filed the omitted portions of the record in its appendix.

         [¶12] We turn first to the provisions of the WBL:

(a) Any employee may report in writing the existence of:
(1) a violation of a federal law or regulation;
(2) a violation of a state law or rule;
(3) a violation of an ordinance of a political subdivision (as defined in IC 36-1-2-13); or
(4) the misuse of public resources; to a supervisor or to the inspector general.
(b) For having made a report under subsection (a), the employee making ...

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