United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE
WALTON PRATT, JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants City of Muncie's
(“Muncie”) and Dennis Tyler's (“Mayor
Tyler”) (collectively, the “Defendants”)
Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(c) (Filing No. 13). After
resigning his position as Chief of Police for the city of
Muncie, Indiana, Plaintiff Stephen D. Stewart
(“Stewart”) filed this action under Title 42
U.S.C. § 1983, asserting claims that the City of Muncie
and its mayor violated his right to due process, breached the
collective bargaining agreement between Muncie and the police
union, violated Indiana's Wage Payment Statute, and
constructively discharged him. He seeks compensatory and
punitive damages, as well as unpaid wages. Defendants filed a
Motion, asserting among other things that Stewart failed to
plead certain elements of his § 1983 claim and that the
breach of contract claims should be resolved in an
arbitration proceeding. For reasons explained below,
Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied
following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as
required when reviewing a motion for judgment on the
pleadings, the Court accepts as true all factual allegations
in the complaint and draws all inferences in favor of Stewart
as the non-moving party. See Emergency Servs. Billing
Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Co., 668 F.3d 459, 464 (7th Cir.
began working for the Muncie Police Department in 1985.
(Filing No. 1 at 2.) He held numerous positions in
the Police Department, and in 2012 Mayor Tyler appointed him
Chief of Police. Id. The highest rank he had held
prior to being appointed Chief was Sergeant. Id. In
addition to becoming Chief of Police, in 2013 Stewart began
serving as the Chairman of the local Democrat Central
Committee at the request of Mayor Tyler and others.
2015 or early 2016, Defendants learned that a long-time
Muncie city employee might be cooperating with the Federal
Bureau of Investigations (“FBI”) in its
investigation of corruption within the City of Muncie.
Id. at 3-4. Shortly after the employee was
terminated in February or early March 2016, Mayor Tyler told
Stewart that he thought the employee had committed crimes.
Id. at 4. He did not identify any specific crimes.
told Mayor Tyler that if he had any evidence of the employee
committing crimes, Mayor Tyler needed to bring it to him.
Id. Mayor Tyler then told Stewart over the telephone
that the former employee's computer contained evidence of
criminal activity. Id. Stewart instructed the Deputy
Chief of Police to impound the computer and place it in the
property room. Id. Shortly thereafter, Sarah Beach
(“Beach”), a member of Mayor Tyler's staff,
came to Stewart's office with a large stack of emails
obtained from the former employee's computer.
Id. Beach told Stewart the emails contained evidence
of possible crimes but did not identify what crimes
specifically. Id. Stewart told Beach he would look
into the emails. Id.
was concerned regarding the ethics of Mayor Tyler's
request to investigate the former employee based on
unsubstantiated accusations. After speaking with another law
enforcement official, Stewart decided it would be unethical
and inappropriate to investigate the former employee merely
because that employee may be a cooperating witness in an FBI
investigation. Id. at 5. Stewart received a
telephone call from an FBI agent requesting the emails the
Mayor's office had given him. Id. He turned over
those emails to the FBI and informed the agent that the
former employee's computer had been secured and placed in
the police department's property room. Id.
Stewart then notified Mayor Tyler that he had turned over the
emails to the FBI. Id.
Tyler immediately asked when the FBI was going to retrieve
the computer from the evidence room. Id.
Additionally, Stewart learned that a Muncie police officer
had been instructed to make an exact copy of the
computer's hard drive so that the city of Muncie and its
employees would still have access to the information on it
after the FBI confiscated it. Id.
late spring or early summer of 2016, Mayor Tyler requested
that Stewart attend a meeting with him and two other police
officers. Id. During that meeting, Mayor Tyler
explained to Stewart that he thought it necessary that the
police department investigate the former employee because the
employee was cooperating with the FBI and the FBI would not
disclose anything about the investigation to the city of
Muncie. Id. at 6. Mayor Tyler requested Stewart
carry out the investigation. Id. Stewart was again
uncomfortable due to the ethical implications of the
Mayor's request. Stewart arranged a meeting with the FBI
agent who had come to collect the former employee's
emails. At that meeting, which occurred approximately a week
after his meeting with Mayor Tyler, Stewart asked the FBI
agent if the FBI would like any assistance at all, to which
the FBI agent replied, “Thanks for the offer, but no
the summer of 2016, Mayor Tyler continued to pressure Stewart
to investigate the former employee. Id. Stewart
understood from this pressure that refusal was grounds for
his termination or removal as Chief of Police. Id.
Each time the subject came up, Stewart informed Mayor Tyler
that he was not going to investigate the former employee
because any investigation would interfere with the ongoing
FBI investigation. Id. Mayor Tyler also asked
Stewart to conduct investigations of other employees with the
sole purpose of getting to the former employee without
directly investigating the former employee. Id. at
early September 2016, Stewart met with the Mayor and another
man named Phil Nichols (“Nichols”)-whose
occupation the complaint does not disclose-at the Democrat
Central Committee headquarters. Id. at 7. At that
meeting, Nichols yelled and screamed at Stewart, telling him
that Stewart would conduct the investigation of the former
employee as requested. Id. Later that day, Stewart
attended another meeting at which Nichols, attorneys, and two
other Muncie police officers were present. Id.
Nichols asked Stewart if he was going to conduct the
requested investigation or not. Id. Stewart
reiterated that he would not conduct the investigation and
the reasons for his refusal. Id. Nichols told him
there would be another meeting in the morning and Stewart
would not like the outcome of that meeting. Id.
September 2, 2016, Stewart resigned as Chairman of the local
Democrat Central Committee. Id. Following his
resignation from that position, Mayor Tyler requested another
meeting with him, during which he again asked Stewart to
investigate the former city employee. Id. In
mid-September, Stewart and the local prosecutor met with
Mayor Tyler and explained to him why the police department
would not investigate the former employee. Id. at 8.
Over the next seven weeks, Mayor Tyler continued to
periodically request that Stewart conduct an investigation,
and Stewart refused each time. Id.
October 30, 2016, Stewart discovered that Mayor Tyler had
asked someone to make false allegations against him.
Id. Stewart resigned as Chief of Police the
following day, at which point he returned to his status of
merit officer with the rank of Sergeant. Id. Upon
receiving Stewart's letter of resignation, Mayor Tyler
called Stewart to a meeting in his office. Id. At
the meeting, which Stewart's personal attorney attended,
Stewart broached the issue of Mayor Tyler asking an
individual to make false allegations about him. Id.
Mayor Tyler told Stewart he did not like the proposed letter
of resignation and that Stewart would “pay for
this.” Id. at 9. Stewart submitted his letter
of retirement from the Muncie Police Department on November
1, 2016. Id.
after his resignation, the Administrative Assistant to the
Chief of Police completed Stewart's final Personnel
Information Form. Id. According to the
Administrative Assistant's records, under the collective
bargaining agreement between the Fraternal Order of Police
(“FOP”) and Muncie, Stewart was to be paid out
for a total of five hundred and twenty (520) days as follows:
forty-five (45) severance days, two hundred and thirty (230)
sick days, and two hundred and forty-five (245) vacation
days. Id. Stewart's benefits would have started
on Nov. 1, 2016 and ended on Oct. 26, 2018, according to the
Administrative Assistant. Id. On November 22, 2016,
Stewart submitted an Application for Participation in the
State of Indiana's Deferred Retirement Option Plan
the Administrative Assistant completed his Personnel
Information Form and he made his DROP elections, Stewart was
informed that Beach would recalculate his benefits.
Id. at 10. Beach determined that Stewart should be
paid for a total of two hundred and seventeen (217) days:
thirty (30) severance days, one hundred and seventy-two (172)
sick days, and fifteen (15) vacation days. Id. This
would result in his benefits ending on August 30, 2017,
rather than October 26, 2018. The recalculation resulted in a
financial loss to Stewart of over $65, 802.51 for 303 days of
paid time he was denied, $65, 000.00 for the longer DROP
period he was denied, and $34, 000.00 for the DROP program he
would be ineligible for. Id. Stewart challenged this
recalculation, but his grievances were denied. Id.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) permits a party to move for
judgment after the parties have filed a complaint and an
answer. Rule 12(c) motions are analyzed under the same
standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).
Pisciotta v. Old Nat'l Bancorp., 499 F.3d 629,
633 (7th Cir. 2007); Frey v. Bank One, 91 F.3d 45,
46 (7th Cir. 1996). The complaint must allege facts that are
“enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Although
“detailed factual allegations” are not required,
mere “labels, ” “conclusions, ” or
“formulaic recitation[s] of the elements of a cause of
action” are insufficient. Id. Stated
differently, the complaint must include “enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Hecker v. Deere & Co., 556 F.3d
575, 580 (7th Cir. 2009) (internal citation and quotation
marks omitted). To be facially plausible, the complaint must
allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court will grant a Rule 12(c)
motion only if “it appears beyond doubt that the
plaintiff cannot prove any facts that would support his claim
for relief.” N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc.
v. City of S. Bend, 163 F.3d 449, 452 (7th Cir. 1998)
(quoting Craigs, Inc. v. Gen. Elec. Capital Corp.,
12 F.3d 686, 688 (7th Cir. 1993)). The factual allegations in
the complaint are viewed in a light most favorable to the
non-moving party; however, the court is “not obliged to
ignore any facts set forth in the complaint that undermine
the plaintiff's claim or to assign any weight to
unsupported conclusions of law.” Id.
(quoting R.J.R. Serv., Inc. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur.
Co., 895 F.2d 279, 281 (7th Cir. 1989)). “As the
title of the rule implies, Rule 12(c) permits a judgment
based on the pleadings alone. . . . The pleadings include the
complaint, the answer, and any written instruments attached
as exhibits.” Id. (internal citations
brings six claims against Defendants: (1) a Fourteenth
Amendment Due Process Violation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
and state law claims for (2) breach of contract, (3) breach
of contract - third party beneficiary, (4) promissory
estoppel, (5) violation of Indiana's Wage Payment
Statute, Ind. Code § 22-2-5-1, and (6) constructive
discharge. (Filing No. 1.)
Count 1 - Fourteenth Amendment Due Process
alleges Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to
due process by disseminating false and defamatory statements
about him after he resigned from the police force.
state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
allege: (1) that he had a cognizable liberty interest under
the Fourteenth Amendment; (2) that he was deprived of that
liberty interest; and (3) that the deprivation was without
due process. Mann v. Vogel, 707 F.3d 872, 877
(7th Cir. 2013). In analyzing due process claims,
the court's inquiry involves two steps: “[T]he
first asks whether there exists a liberty or property
interest which has been interfered with by the State; the
second examines whether the procedures attendant upon that
deprivation were constitutionally sufficient.”
Dupuy v. Samuels, 397 F.3d 493, 503 (7th
to paragraph 63 and paragraphs 86-88 of his Complaint,
Stewart identifies a liberty interest the Defendants have
interfered with: they made false public claims to the media
that Stewart committed crimes of dishonesty and moral
turpitude that will damage his standing and associations in
the community and impose a stigma that interferes with his
ability to obtain other employment in the field of law
enforcement. (Filing No. 20 at 3.) Stewart alleges
he was denied procedural due process because Defendants did