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Stumm v. Town of Pittsboro

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

December 14, 2018



          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge

         The three Plaintiffs in this case - Matthew Stumm, Jason Stumm, and Brian Helmer - are current or former Pittsboro police officers who allege that the Chief of Police, the Assistant Chief of Police, and a Captain with the neighboring Plainfield Police Department recorded or intercepted their conversations without their knowledge and without a court order in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2510, et seq. Presently pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants. [Filing No. 41.] For the reasons that follow, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART

         I. Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. SeeFed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Williams v. Brooks, 809 F.3d 936, 941-42 (7th Cir. 2016). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome-determinative. Montgomery v. American Airlines Inc., 626 F.3d 382, 389 (7th Cir. 2010). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Gekas v. Vasilades, 814 F.3d 890, 896 (7th Cir. 2016). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Skiba v. Illinois Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 717 (7th Cir. 2018). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. Miller v. Gonzalez, 761 F.3d 822, 827 (7th Cir. 2014). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to “scour every inch of the record” for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them. Grant v. Trustees of Indiana University, 870 F.3d 562, 573-74 (7th Cir. 2017). Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

         II. Background

         The following factual background is set forth pursuant to the standard discussed above. The facts stated are not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light most favorable to “the party against whom the motion under consideration is made.” Premcor USA, Inc. v. American Home Assurance Co., 400 F.3d 523, 526-27 (7th Cir. 2005).

         A. The Parties

         Matthew (“Matt”) Stumm became a Pittsboro Police Department (“PPD”) Officer in 2005 and worked in that capacity throughout the relevant time period in this case. [Filing No. 45-4 at 4.]

         Jason Stumm, Matt Stumm's brother, worked for the PPD from 2012 to 2017, initially as an arson investigator and later as a reserve officer. [Filing No. 45-6 at 2.] Jason Stumm resigned from the PPD on February 8, 2017. [Filing No. 45-6 at 2.]

         Brian Helmer worked as a reserve officer for the PPD from 2008 to 2010 and as a full-time officer at the PPD from January through November 2017. [Filing No. 45-5 at 3.]

         During the relevant time period, Christi Patterson was the Chief of Police for the PPD, [Filing No. 45-1 at 5], and Scott King was the Assistant Chief at the PPD[1], [Filing No. 45-2 at 4].

         Carri Weber was employed by the Plainfield Police Department and was assigned to conduct an investigation into Matt Stumm in 2017. [Filing No. 45-1 at 47.]

         B. PPD's Camera System

         The PPD's office consists of a lobby with a receptionist's window in it, [Filing No. 43-1 at 5; Filing No. 43-1 at 27], and features one door on the left wall and another on the right wall, [Filing No. 43-1 at 5-10].

         (Image Omitted)

         [Filing No. 43-1 at 27; Filing No. 43-1 at 28; Filing No. 43-1 at 30.] The door on the right wall leads to town hall, [Filing No. 43-1 at 7; Filing No. 43-1 at 28], while the door on the left wall leads to the remainder of the PPD offices, [Filing No. 43-1 at 10; Filing No. 43-1 at 30]. Through the latter door is the PPD interview room, which doubled as Major King's office (hereinafter, “Major King's office”), [Filing No. 45-1 at 16-18], and the office that at one time belong to Matt Stumm. [Filing No. 43-1 at 10; Filing No. 43-1 at 30.] It was not uncommon for the public to walk through the door that leads to Major King's office if it was open. [Filing No. 43-1 at 11.]

         In 2006, the PPD installed a camera system in the department. [Filing No. 45-1 at 14.] ¶ 2010, the PPD replaced the 2006 camera system and had one camera installed in the PPD lobby and another in Major King's office. [Filing No. 45-1 at 16-18.] Both of the 2010 cameras had audio and video capabilities and had to physically be turned on before recordings would commence. [Filing No. 45-1 at 18-19.]

         After the 2010 camera began malfunctioning, the PPD had a new camera system installed on or around November 17, 2016. [Filing No. 45-1 at 18-21; Filing No. 43-5 at 3.] The cameras were placed in the same locations the 2010 cameras had been: one was installed in the PPD lobby and the other was in the PPD interview room/Major King's office. [Filing No. 45-1 at 22]. The 2016 cameras were motion activated. [Filing No. 45-1 at 21.] If the camera in the lobby was activated and the squad room door was open, then the cameras picked up an audio recording of what was said in the squad room. [Filing No. 45-1 at 30.] Recordings from the 2016 cameras are stored on a drive; once the drive is full, the oldest recordings are recorded over. [Filing No. 43-5 at 5.] The drive holds approximately 2-3 months of footage. [Filing No. 43-5 at 5.] After the 2016 cameras were installed, Captain Patterson and Major King conducted a test that revealed that if the door between the lobby and the rest of the PPD office was closed, the camera would not pick up words that were spoken in the rest of the PPD office because it would turn off a few seconds after being motion activated. [Filing No. 45-1 at 21.]

         In addition to the PPD cameras, the town of Pittsboro had cameras on various streets and in the parks. [Filing No. 43-4 at 5.] Matt Stumm was aware of cameras placed around town but was unaware of what the cameras looked like. [Filing No. 45-4 at 5-6.] He had used video footage in a case he worked on, and for some time had an app on his phone that allowed him to enter a password and view the camera footage. [Filing No. 45-4 at 5-6.] Jason Stumm was aware that there were cameras recording throughout the town of Pittsboro but was unaware of what the cameras looked like. [Filing No. 45-6 at 3.] Brian Helmer was also aware there were cameras recording throughout the town of Pittsboro. [Filing No. 45-5 at 3.]

         C. February 6, 2017 Meeting and Subsequent Investigation

         On February 6, 2017, Chief Patterson and Major King had a meeting with Matt Stumm. [Filing No. 45-4 at 19.] During the meeting, Chief Patterson and Major King told Matt Stumm that they had been informed that Matt Stumm was looking for discrepancies in Major King's time cards. [Filing No. 45-4 at 19.] The group agreed that Matt Stumm would follow up with the other officers and apologize to them. [Filing No. 45-4 at 19; Filing No. 45-1 at 37.]

         The next day, in the course of investigating video footage from one of the cameras PPD had placed around town, Chief Patterson discovered a recording of Matt Stumm making negative comments about herself and Major King. [Filing No. 45-1 at 41.] Upon reviewing five or six other tapes from December 2016 through January 2017, Chief Patterson became concerned that Matt Stumm had carried a folder containing her timesheets into city hall and had driven an underage rider in his squad car at some point. [Filing No. 45-1 at 42-44.] In the conversations that were recorded, Matt Stumm spoke in a normal tone of voice, rather than a whisper. [Filing No. 43-1 at 17-18.] For some of the conversations, Matt Stumm was in his office with the door open and the door to the lobby was also open. [Filing No. 43-1 at 16.] Major King also viewed the videos. [Filing No. 45-1 at 45.] Prior to viewing the videos, neither Chief Patterson nor Major King sought a search warrant or court order. [Filing No. 45-1 at 53.]

         On February 20, 2017, Matt Stumm was told he was under investigation and was placed on administrative leave, and his canine partner and take-home vehicle were taken from him. [Filing No. 45-4 at 17-18.] When he returned from leave, he lost his office and was told it was needed for an investigation office. [Filing No. 45-4 at 18.]

         The PPD then initiated an investigation into Matt Stumm. [Filing No. 45-2 at 14.] PPD contacted the Plainfield Police Department, who appointed Captain Weber as an investigator. [Filing No. 45-2 at 47.] Chief Patterson then provided Captain Weber with certain audio recordings from the PPD cameras and transcripts of the same. [Filing No. 45-3 at 12.] Captain Weber listened to the recordings as part of her investigation. [Filing No. 45-3 at 12.] Captain Weber also interviewed Matt Stumm and informed him that some of his conversations at the police department had been recorded. [Filing No. 45-4 at 9.] Based on those recordings, Captain Weber found some violations of PPD policies. [Filing No. 45-3 at 16.] Captain Weber did not interview Jason Stumm or Mr. Helmer as part of her investigation. [Filing No. 45-3 at 23.]

         Captain Weber then presented her findings to Chief Patterson. [Filing No. 45-3 at 16.] Specifically, in her report dated May 25, 2017, Captain Weber concluded that “with the video that was recorded, ” Matt Stumm violated the following PPD policies:

03.04.01(1) Insubordination- Improper conduct-On video Lt. Stumm states to Officer Crouch "I want to give you a heads up and between you and ...

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