United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division
TERRI G. MARTIN, Plaintiff,
ANTHONY COPELAND, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. Rodovich United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the court on the Motion for Summary Judgment
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and N.D. L.R.
56-1 [DE 62] filed by the plaintiff, Terri G. Martin, on
December 21, 2018, and the Motion for Summary Judgment
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and N.D. L.R.
56-1 [DE 65] filed by the defendants, Anthony Copeland, Tom
Dabertin, Sandra Favella, Gerri C. Browning, and the City of
East Chicago, Indiana, on December 21, 2018. For the
following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment Pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and N.D. L.R. 56-1 [DE
62] is GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART,
and the Motion for Summary Judgment Pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 56 and N.D. L.R. 56-1 [DE 65] is
GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART.
plaintiff, Terri G. Martin, filed her Complaint against the
individual defendants, Anthony Copeland, Tom Dabertin, Sandra
Favella, and Gerri C. Martin, and against the City of East
Chicago for damages on February 16, 2016. Martin alleged
multiple claims. First, she alleged that the defendants were
liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating her due
process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. She claimed
that the defendants terminated her employment without
providing her a pre-termination hearing, pursuant to an
alleged employment contract she had with the City of East
Chicago Board of Health. Martin also alleged that her
termination was motivated by political considerations in
violation of the First Amendment. Additionally, she claimed
that she was confined and intimidated in her office when
presented the termination letter. Martin also asserted that
the defendants tortiously interfered with her alleged
contractual property rights in violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Finally, Martin claimed that the defendants'
conduct amounted to defamation.
thereafter, the defendants filed motions to dismiss on March
31, 2016. The court on January 17, 2017, issued an Opinion
and Order dismissing Martin's defamation and tortious
inference claims, as well as the official capacity claims
against the individual defendants. The court also dismissed
Martin's confinement and intimidation claims against
Mayor Copeland and Dr. Browning. Thus, the remaining claims
include: the § 1983 due process claim under the
Fourteenth Amendment; individual capacity claims against
Mayor Copeland, Dabertin, Favella, and Dr. Browning; the
First Amendment claim; and the confinement and intimidation
claims against Favella and Dabertin under the Fourth
Amendment and Indiana state law.
began working for the City of East Chicago Health Department
in June of 2013. Dr. Browning hired Martin as the Executive
Director after the previous Director resigned. As the
Executive Director, she managed the day-to-day operations of
the City's Health Department, wrote grants to secure
funding for programs at the department, served as the liason
with the Indiana State Department of Health, and represented
the City as a department head in collaboration with other
department heads throughout the City. Martin was under an
independent contractor contract with a term of June of 2013
through December of 2013. The contract contained a provision
that the Board could renew the contract period for January 1,
2014 through December 31, 2014, which it did.
Health Board held a meeting on November 5, 2014. Dr. Browning
requested that Martin's employment contract be extended
for more than one year. At the meeting, it was suggested by
Deborah Mabra, a Board member, to extend Martin's
contract to a three-year term. The motion was seconded and
approved. The 2014 Employment Contract had not yet been
drafted at the time of the meeting, and therefore was not
presented to the Health Board at the November 5, 2014 meeting
for approval. David Weigle, an attorney for the City, drew up
the contract after the November 5 meeting. The contract
covered Martin's employment for the term of January 1,
2015 through December 31, 2017. It contained a provision that
Martin could be removed from her position “for
cause” only after a hearing by the Board. It was signed
by Martin, Dr. Browning, and four members of the Health Board
on December 17, 2014.
Williams and Efrem Simmons, who worked in the Animal Control
Division of the City's Health Department, were
responsible for feeding and cleaning the dogs under the
control of the department over the Labor Day weekend in 2015.
Martin became aware that neither Williams nor Simmons had
taken care of the dogs. In September of 2015, the employees
of the Health Department had a regularly scheduled meeting.
At the meeting, Dr. Browning inquired about the situation
with the Animal Control Division. Williams explained that it
was the part-time employees' responsibility to feed and
clean the dogs over the Labor Day weekend, but they had
failed to show up. Dr. Browning, Williams, and Martin
discussed the situation, and Martin issued Williams a write
the meeting adjourned, Williams asked to speak with Dr.
Browning, and they stepped in to the copier room to talk.
Arnita Fowlkes, a manager for the Health Department,
indicated that she overheard Martin, who was visibly upset,
say “he's gonna bring the nigger out of me”
and called Williams a “bitch-ass nigger.” Simmons
indicated that he overheard Martin's remarks, as well.
Martin has denied saying anything. Fowlkes advised Dr.
Browning of the incident, and Williams became aware of the
remarks and advised Favella.
on the alleged remarks made by Martin, an investigation was
commenced by the East Chicago Human Resources Department. The
investigation was run by Favella, who was the interim
director of the Human Resources Department at the time of the
incident, and Dabertin, who was an HR consultant for the
City. After Favella and Dabertin had interviewed all the
witnesses, they indicated to Dr. Browning that Martin had
used racial slurs against Williams and recommended that her
employment be terminated. Dr. Browning agreed. Dabertin, at
Dr. Browning's request, prepared the termination letter
and delivered it to Dr. Browning for his review and
signature. Dr. Browning approved and signed the termination
letter on October 13, 2015. Favella and Dabertin delivered
the termination letter to Martin at her office. Her
termination was effective immediately.
was terminated for violating the discriminatory conduct and
discriminatory harassment policies, a Category IV type of
misconduct under the City's Employee Handbook. Employees
that commit a Category IV type violation are subjected to
immediate suspension without pay for five days pending review
of termination by the Mayor. However, Martin neither was
suspended nor did Mayor Copeland review her termination. The
City contends that it had the right to depart from the
disciplinary guidelines including immediate termination, if
necessary, to protect the well-being of the City or its
has argued that she had a property interest in her continued
employment with the City. She asserts that pursuant to the
2014 Employment Contract that was signed on December 17,
2014, she could be removed as the Executive Director only for
cause after a hearing by the Health Board. However, the
termination letter delivered by Dabertin and Favella
terminated her employment with the City effective
immediately. A pre-termination hearing before the Board never
occurred. Thus, it is her contention that the defendants
violated her due process rights. She also has argued that
each defendant, Dr. Browning, Dabertin, Favella, and Mayor
Copeland, are personally liable for violating her
has filed a motion seeking summary judgment against the City
and the individual defendants on the 42 U.S.C. § 1983
due process claim, only. The defendants filed a response in
opposition on January 31, 2019, and Martin filed a reply on
February 28, 2019. The defendants also have filed a motion
for summary judgment seeking judgment against Martin on the
42 U.S.C. § 1983 due process claim, the First Amendment
claim, the intimidation and confinement claims, and the
individual liability claim ...