City of Lawrence Utilities Service Board, City of Lawrence, Indiana, and Mayor Dean Jessup, Individually and in His Official Capacity, Appellants (Defendants below),
Carlton E. Curry, Appellee (Plaintiff below).
from the Marion Superior Court, No. 49D02-1212-CT-48783 The
Honorable Timothy W. Oakes, Judge
Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No.
Attorneys for Appellants James S. Stephenson Rosemary L.
Borek Stephenson Morow & Semler Indianapolis, Indiana
Attorneys for Appellee Mickey J. Lee Maurice Wutscher LLP
Indianapolis, Indiana George W. Pendygraft George W.
Pendygraft, P.C. Indianapolis, Indiana
City of Lawrence's newly-elected mayor terminated the
City's utility superintendent, Carlton Curry, after their
differences in policy became apparent. Curry sued, claiming
he was wrongfully discharged under the utility superintendent
statute, he is owed unpaid wages under the Wage Payment
Statute, and the mayor tortiously interfered with his
employment contract. The trial court granted summary judgment
in favor of Curry on the wrongful discharge claim and in
favor of the City on the Wage Payment Statute claim, but
denied summary judgment on the tortious interference claim.
We affirm the trial court in all respects.
and Procedural History
recommendation by then-Mayor Paul Ricketts, the City of
Lawrence Utility Service Board ("USB") members
voted unanimously in 2009 to appoint Carlton Curry as
superintendent of Lawrence Utilities, the City's
municipally owned water and sewer utility. Mayor Ricketts and
Curry worked closely to manage the City's utilities and
craft long-term policies and plans, including advocating for
a wastewater treatment plant.
little over two years later, Mayor Ricketts was defeated in
the general election by Dean Jessup. Newly-elected Mayor
Jessup and his transition team sent letters to department
heads and Mayor Ricketts appointees inviting them to submit
resumes and letters of interest, if they wished to be
considered for retention. Among those sent correspondence was
Curry, who submitted a letter and resume to Mayor Jessup and
his team. Curry also personally communicated with Mayor
Jessup and met with his transition team to give a
presentation outlining his recommended strategic plans and
Mayor Jessup learned about the proposed wastewater treatment
plant, but had concerns regarding the project's magnitude
and cost. Mayor Jessup believed that Curry would attempt to
convince him to commit to the project:
If he and I disagreed, I would have to spend time and effort
directing him to follow my objectives and would have to
listen to him try to convince me to follow a different path.
In the case of the wastewater treatment plant, he was clearly
committed to going forward, while I had concerns and wanted
to look into other options.
App. at 139. These feelings led Mayor Jessup to conclude that
Curry "would attempt to force his views on [him] rather
than follow [his] lead" and may have to be replaced.
Appellant's App. at 139.
Mayor Jessup took office, he asked for the resignations of
all prior mayoral appointees. Some refused, some resigned and
were reappointed, and others were replaced, including the
three USB members appointed by Mayor Ricketts. Mayor Jessup
and Curry worked together some during the first few weeks
after Mayor Jessup took office. However, Mayor Jessup
continued to feel that Curry was trying to persuade him to
adopt Curry's own policies and initiatives. Mayor Jessup,
conversely, wanted a superintendent who would advocate for
the mayor's views and objectives and give balanced
advice. Ultimately, he believed these differences would
result in conflict between him and Curry and understandably
decided to replace him. Mayor Jessup then instructed the
chairman of his transition team to inform Curry that his
services were no longer needed. Curry was informed personally
and via letter that he was terminated.
Curry filed a complaint in Marion Superior Court against the
City on state and federal law grounds.
The case was removed to federal court, which granted summary
judgment in favor of the City on all of Curry's federal
claims, and remanded the remaining state law claims to Marion
Superior Court. Curry moved for summary judgment on his
wrongful discharge claim, while the City cross-moved for
summary judgment on all claims. After a hearing, the trial
court granted Curry's motion as to wrongful discharge,
granted the City's motion as to defamation and back pay
under the Wage Payment Statute, Indiana Code chapter 22-2-5
(2007), and denied summary judgment as to intentional