Bryant et al v. Goodyear, City of et al

Filing 129

ORDER that Defendants' 116 Motion for Summary Judgment is granted. ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor of Defendants on all claims and terminate this case. Signed by Senior Judge James A Teilborg on 5/19/2014.(LFIG)

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1 WO 2 3 4 5 6 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 7 FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA 8 9 David Bryant, et al., No. CV-12-00319-PHX-JAT Plaintiffs, 10 11 v. 12 ORDER The City of Goodyear, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 Pending before the Court is Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 15 116). The Court now rules on the motion. 16 I. Background 17 The following basic facts surrounding this case are undisputed. Plaintiff David 18 Bryant (“Bryant”) was a sergeant with the Goodyear Police Department’s (“GPD”) Street 19 Crimes Unit (“SCU”). In November 2010, the GPD initiated an investigation of Bryant 20 for alleged discrepancies between Bryant’s reported hours worked and the time he 21 actually worked. The investigation arose when Bryant’s squad members allegedly 22 reported that Bryant had instructed them to report ten hours worked on November 9, 23 2010 but they had only worked five hours that day. Bryant reported on his own timesheet 24 for that day that he had worked ten hours, but according to Defendants, had only worked 25 five hours. (Doc. 117-3 at 20-21, 23-24). 26 27 28 Sergeant Jeff Rogers was assigned to conduct an internal investigation into the 1 SCU squad members’ claims.1 Rogers obtained summary reports of timesheets for SCU 2 squad members, copies of their original timesheets and timesheet corrections, and reports 3 of starting and ending times as recorded by radio operators in Computer Aided Dispatch 4 (“CAD”). Rogers found what he termed a “large discrepancy” between Bryant’s 5 timesheets and CAD logs, but no significant discrepancy in the records of the other four 6 SCU squad members. (Doc. 117-4 at 3). Rogers recommended that Bryant be criminally 7 investigated. 8 Based on Rogers’ alleged discovery of a discrepancy, Lieutenant Newman 9 criminally investigated Bryant. Newman received Rogers’ memorandum of his findings 10 as well as copies of timesheets, “hours proof listings, unit/officer status inquiry listings, 11 hours history detail selection criteria, and unit log listings for David Bryant.” 12 (Defendants’ Statement of Facts in Support of their Motion for Summary Judgment 13 (“DSOF”) ¶ 76). Newman reviewed these records for the time period from January 1, 14 2010 through July 24, 2010, as well as Bryant’s posted work schedule for January 1, 15 2010 through November 13, 2010. Newman also reviewed computer access and logon 16 records, facility access control records, off-duty work records, and phone records. 17 Newman discovered facts that he believed showed Bryant had falsified his timesheets. 18 For example, Bryant had submitted a timesheet claiming he worked ten hours on July 30, 19 2010, but he was on vacation in Texas that week.2 20 Based on his investigation, Newman submitted charges to the County Attorney 21 involving Bryant’s hours for the dates of August 27, 2010; September 7, 2010; 22 September 23, 2010; and October 14, 2010. (Doc. 117-2 at 9). Newman subsequently 23 sent a complete report to the County Attorney concerning these as well as other dates and 24 25 26 27 28 1 Plaintiffs dispute a number of facts concerning the internal investigation on the grounds that they are neither “material nor relevant.” (Doc. 122 at 10). Because relevance objections are superfluous at the summary judgment stage and materiality is not a legal objection, Plaintiffs’ objections are overruled. See Burch v. Regents of University of California, 433 F. Supp. 2d 1110, 1119 (E.D. Cal. 2006). 2 Plaintiffs dispute that Bryant was strictly on vacation because he worked while on vacation, as evidenced by the ten hours recorded. (Doc. 122 at 14). -2- 1 times for which Newman believed Bryant had been compensated but had not worked. (Id. 2 at 8). A grand jury eventually indicted Bryant on seventeen counts, including fraudulent 3 schemes and practices, theft, and forgery. The County Attorney later dismissed the 4 indictment. 5 II. Summary Judgment Standard 6 Summary judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that there is no 7 genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter 8 of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely 9 disputed must support that assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the 10 record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits, or 11 declarations, stipulations . . . admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials,” or by 12 “showing that materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine 13 dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” 14 Id. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). Thus, summary judgment is mandated “against a party who fails to 15 make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s 16 case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. 17 Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). 18 Initially, the movant bears the burden of pointing out to the Court the basis for the 19 motion and the elements of the causes of action upon which the non-movant will be 20 unable to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to 21 the non-movant to establish the existence of material fact. Id. The non-movant “must do 22 more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts” by 23 “com[ing] forward with ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” 24 Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586–87 (1986) (quoting 25 Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) (1963) (amended 2010)). A dispute about a fact is “genuine” if the 26 evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. 27 Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The non-movant’s bare 28 assertions, standing alone, are insufficient to create a material issue of fact and defeat a -3- 1 motion for summary judgment. Id. at 247–48. However, in the summary judgment 2 context, the Court construes all disputed facts in the light most favorable to the non- 3 moving party. Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir. 2004). 4 III. Qualified Immunity 5 Defendants Newman, McLaughlin, and Brown argue they are entitled to qualified 6 immunity as a matter of law because at least one reasonable police officer in their 7 position could have believed their conduct was permissible. (Doc. 116 at 12). 8 A. Legal Standard 9 “The doctrine of qualified immunity protects government officials ‘from liability 10 for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or 11 constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Pearson v. 12 Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 13 (1982)). This protection “applies regardless of whether the government official’s error is 14 ‘a mistake of law, a mistake of fact, or a mistake based on mixed questions of law and 15 fact.’” Id. (quoting Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U.S. 551, 567 (2004)). There is a two-step test 16 for resolving a qualified immunity claim: the “constitutional inquiry” and the “qualified 17 immunity inquiry.” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001). The “constitutional 18 inquiry” asks whether, when taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, 19 the facts alleged show that the official’s conduct violated a constitutional right. Id. If so, a 20 court turns to the “qualified immunity inquiry” and asks if the right was clearly 21 established at the relevant time. Id. at 201-02. This second inquiry “must be undertaken 22 in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition.” Id. at 201. 23 Courts are “permitted to exercise their sound discretion in deciding which of the 24 two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the 25 circumstances in the particular case at hand.” Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236. A dispositive 26 inquiry in the qualified immunity analysis “is whether it would be clear to a reasonable 27 officer that the conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.” Saucier, 533 U.S. at 28 202 (citing Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 615 (1999)). “Courts should decide issues of -4- 1 qualified immunity as early in the proceedings as possible, but when the answer depends 2 on genuinely disputed issues of material fact, the court must submit the fact-related issues 3 to the jury.” See Ortega v. O’Connor, 146 F.3d 1149, 1154 (9th Cir. 1998). 4 B. Analysis 5 Plaintiffs argue that the doctrine of qualified immunity is inapplicable to this case 6 because there was no “open legal question” regarding the elements necessary to establish 7 the crimes for which Bryant was indicted. (Doc. 124 at 15-16). Plaintiffs assert that 8 qualified immunity applies only when officers are mistaken as to the law. (Id.) In support, 9 they offer cases in which courts concluded that qualified immunity protected officers 10 from mistakes of law. (Id.) (citing Blankenhorn v. City of Orange, 485 F.3d 463, 476 (9th 11 Cir. 2007); Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 131 S. Ct. 2074, 2085 (2011)). But these cases are merely 12 consistent with the law of qualified immunity, which protects officers against reasonable 13 mistakes of law and against those of fact. See Pearson, 555 U.S. at 231. A qualified 14 immunity analysis is proper in this case. 1. 15 Presumption of Probable Cause 16 The Court’s first inquiry under the qualified immunity analysis is whether 17 Defendants violated Bryant’s constitutional rights. Plaintiffs couch their claims in the 18 language of “referring Bryant for a criminal indictment without probable cause,” and it is 19 unclear whether the operative theory is malicious prosecution or arrest without probable 20 cause.3 See (Doc. 84 at 20) (Count V). Under either theory, Plaintiffs must show that 21 Defendants lacked probable cause to believe that Bryant had committed a crime. See 22 Freeman v. City of Santa Ana, 68 F.3d 1180, 1189 (9th Cir. 1995) (malicious 23 prosecution); Lacy v. Cnty. of Maricopa, 631 F. Supp. 2d 1183, 1193 (D. Ariz. 2008) 24 (arrest without probable cause). Thus, the operative issue is whether Defendants lacked 25 probable cause to pursue an indictment.4 26 3 27 28 In their response, Plaintiffs treat the Defendants’ pursuit of an indictment as an arrest without probable cause. (Doc. 124 at 5). 4 Plaintiffs allege that Defendants cannot rely on facts concerning the GPD’s internal investigation of Bryant to show the existence of probable cause, but offer no -5- 1 In this case, the grand jury returned an indictment of Bryant. (Doc. 122-5 at 52). 2 Probable cause for an arrest “may be satisfied by an indictment returned by a grand jury.” 3 Lacy, 631 F. Supp. 2d at 1194 (quoting Kalina v. Fletcher, 522 U.S. 118, 129 (1997)). 4 The grand jury’s indictment was prima facie evidence of probable cause that Bryant had 5 committed an offense. See Awabdy v. City of Adelanto, 368 F.3d 1062, 1067 (9th Cir. 6 2004). This presumption of probable cause can be rebutted if officers improperly exerted 7 pressure on the prosecutor, knowingly provided misinformation, concealed exculpatory 8 evidence, “or otherwise engaged in wrongful or bad faith conduct that was actively 9 instrumental in causing the initiation of legal proceedings.” Id. 2. 10 Count Eight 11 In count eight, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant McLaughlin “approved and ratified 12 of [sic] the criminal referral of the Bryant investigation without probable cause to believe 13 Bryant had committed a crime.” (Doc. 84 at 21). But Plaintiffs do not allege that 14 Defendant McLaughlin engaged in wrongful or bad faith conduct in providing 15 information to the grand jury. Because the grand jury indicted Bryant, a presumption 16 attaches that probable cause existed for the seeking of that indictment. See Lacy, 631 F. 17 Supp. 2d at 1194. Accordingly, McLaughlin could not have pursued the indictment in the 18 absence of probable cause, did not violate Bryant’s constitutional rights, and is entitled to 19 qualified immunity. Defendants are entitled as a matter of law to judgment on count 20 eight. 21 3. Count Five 22 In count five, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Newman violated Bryant’s 23 constitutional rights by “referring Bryant for a criminal indictment without probable 24 cause, by misleading the prosecutor regarding the evidence, and ultimately lying to the 25 Grand Jury regarding the evidence.” (Doc. 84 at 20). Plaintiffs make two arguments 26 concerning Newman’s behavior. First, they assert that Newman was at best incompetent 27 in his investigation and knew or should have known that the GPD lacked probable cause 28 legal basis for this assertion. (Doc. 124 at 7). -6- 1 to believe that Bryant had committed a crime. (Doc. 124 at 4). Second, they allege 2 Newman lied to the grand jury concerning the investigation of Bryant. Indeed, Newman 3 testified extensively before the grand jury about his investigatory efforts and the 4 circumstances of the case. (Doc. 122-5 at 39). 5 Grand jury witnesses, however, have “absolute immunity from any § 1983 claim 6 based on the witness’ testimony.” Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 S. Ct. 1497, 1506 (2012). 7 “[T]his rule may not be circumvented by claiming that a grand jury witness conspired to 8 present false testimony or by using evidence of the witness’ testimony to support any 9 other § 1983 claim concerning the initiation or maintenance of a prosecution.” Id. 10 Newman is thus entitled to absolute immunity with respect to his testimony to the grand 11 jury. 12 Plaintiffs accuse Newman of lying only with respect to his grand jury testimony; 13 their argument with respect to Newman’s investigation is that Newman was incompetent 14 or otherwise did not conduct a reasonable investigation. (Doc. 124 at 10). But the grand 15 jury’s subsequent indictment of Bryant establishes the existence of probable cause for 16 seeking that indictment. See Lacy, 631 F. Supp. 2d at 1194. Plaintiffs cite Devereaux v. 17 Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070 (9th Cir. 2001) for the proposition that charging a person on the 18 basis of deliberately fabricating evidence is a violation of constitutional rights. (Doc. 124 19 at 13). Devereaux did not involve a grand jury indictment and Plaintiffs do not allege that 20 Newman deliberately fabricated evidence in his investigatory report, only that he lied to 21 the grand jury in his testimony. Similarly, Plaintiffs’ citation to Gantt v. City of Los 22 Angeles, 717 F.3d 702 (9th Cir. 2013) is unhelpful. Although a deliberate fabrication of 23 evidence claim may exist if an officer continues to investigate a person despite “the fact 24 that they knew or should have known that he was innocent,” Gantt, 717 F.3d at 707 25 (quoting Devereaux, 263 F.3d at 1076)), Plaintiffs offer no evidence that Newman knew 26 Bryant was innocent. At best, their evidence could establish that Bryant was not guilty of 27 the alleged crimes. The grand jury’s indictment establishes that the GPD had probable 28 cause to believe Bryant had committed the alleged crimes, and therefore it was not the -7- 1 case that Newman should have known Bryant was innocent. 2 Because Newman is entitled to absolute immunity with respect to his grand jury 3 testimony and to qualified immunity with respect to his investigatory work in pursuing 4 the indictment, Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on count five. 5 4. Count Six 6 In count six, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Newman, McLaughlin, and Brown 7 pursued the indictment against Bryan “on the premise that the lack of presence on the 8 CAD system for the number of hours claimed on time sheets amounted to stealing from 9 the City of Goodyear. No one else was investigated or prosecuted under this theory.” 10 (Doc. 84 at 20). A claim for selective prosecution requires the plaintiff to demonstrate 11 that “enforcement had a discriminatory effect and the police were motivated by a 12 discriminatory purpose.” Lacey v. Maricopa Cnty., 693 F.3d 896, 920 (9th Cir. 2012). 13 “In order to prove a discriminatory effect, ‘the claimant must show that similarly situated 14 individuals . . . were not prosecuted.” Id. (quoting United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 15 456, 465 (1996)). 16 According to Defendants, there was a discrepancy of approximately 178 hours 17 between Bryant’s timesheets and his CAD records. (Doc. 117 at 11). Plaintiffs contend 18 this alleged discrepancy was the basis of Bryant’s prosecution and that similarly situated 19 officers, namely Rogers and Newman, had the same discrepancies yet were not 20 prosecuted. (Doc. 124 at 13). But Rogers and Newman were not similarly situated. The 21 evidence shows that GPD employees ranked above sergeant (i.e. lieutenant and above) 22 were salaried employees who “do not follow the same practice of routinely checking on 23 and off duty” as hourly employees and “their working time would not necessarily be 24 accurately reflected in CAD logs.” (Doc. 117-4 at 3) (Declaration of Rogers). Newman, a 25 lieutenant, was a salaried employee who supervised the investigations division. (Doc. 117 26 at 3). Plaintiffs admit that lieutenants’ hours “would not accurately be reflected on the 27 CAD system.” (Doc. 122 at 8). Thus, Newman was not similarly situated to Bryant 28 because there was no expectation that Newman’s hours were accurately recorded in CAD -8- 1 records. 2 Rogers worked a desk job as an administrative sergeant in the professional 3 standards unit with no set hours and was not required to check on and off duty. (Doc. 117 4 at 9-10; Doc. 117-4 at 146, 148). For these reasons, Rogers was not similarly situated to 5 Bryant because there was no expectation that Rogers’ hours were accurately recorded in 6 CAD records. Bryant was similarly situated, however, to his fellow SCU members, none 7 of whom had any significant discrepancy between their timesheets and their CAD logs. 8 (Doc. 117-4 at 3). 9 Although Plaintiffs allege in their response that “Defendants had a pattern of not 10 investigating and charging individuals for discrepancies,” (Doc. 124 at 13), Plaintiffs 11 offer no evidence to support this argument other than their assertions regarding Newman 12 and Rogers. For that reason, because neither Newman nor Rogers was similarly situated 13 to Bryant, Plaintiffs’ selective prosecution claim fails. Defendants are entitled to 14 judgment as a matter of law on count six. 15 5. Count Seven 16 In count seven, Plaintiffs allege that Newman violated Bryant’s substantive due 17 process rights by lying to the grand jury and “permitting the destruction of relevant 18 exculpatory evidence and fail[ing] to disclose this until after the filing of the criminal 19 charges in this matter.” (Doc. 84 at 21). As previously stated, Newman is entitled to 20 absolute immunity for his testimony to the grand jury. With respect to Newman’s alleged 21 permission of the destruction of relevant exculpatory evidence, Plaintiffs assert that 22 Newman violated Bryant’s due process rights when he failed to secure Bryant’s 23 computers, resulting in Bryant’s laptop being wiped of its data and sold for surplus. (Doc. 24 122 at 23). Even if Newman was as incompetent as Plaintiffs allege, his inactions do not 25 rise to a due process violation. 26 As the Supreme Court has said, “[t]he Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth 27 Amendment . . . makes the good or bad faith of the State irrelevant when the State fails to 28 disclose to the defendant material exculpatory evidence.” Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 -9- 1 U.S. 51, 57 (1988). But “failure to preserve potentially useful evidence does not 2 constitute a denial of due process of law” unless a defendant can show “bad faith on the 3 part of the police.” Id. (emphasis added). Plaintiffs do not even allege that Newman acted 4 in bad faith; they merely assert that he was incompetent. Accordingly, Plaintiffs cannot 5 establish a due process violation for the destruction of potentially exculpatory evidence 6 and therefore Newman is entitled to qualified immunity for his inaction in preserving the 7 contents of Bryant’s laptop. See Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. 8 6. Count Ten 9 In count ten, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant McLaughlin violated Bryant’s 10 substantive due process rights by approving and permitting Newman to present false 11 testimony to the grand jury. (Doc. 84 at 22). “A defendant may be held liable as a 12 supervisor under § 1983 ‘if there exists either (1) his or her personal involvement in the 13 constitutional deprivation, or (2) a sufficient causal connection between the supervisor's 14 wrongful conduct and the constitutional violation.’” Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1207 15 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Hansen v. Black, 885 F.2d 642, 646 (9th Cir. 1989)). Because 16 Newman is entitled to absolute immunity for his testimony to the grand jury, McLaughin 17 cannot be liable as a supervisor for that testimony. Plaintiffs present no evidence that 18 McLaughlin knew Newman was going to present false testimony. Defendants are entitled 19 to judgment as a matter of law on count ten. 20 7. Count Twelve 21 In count twelve, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Brown, as Chief of Police for the 22 City of Goodyear, permitted Newman and McLaughlin to refer the case against Bryant to 23 the County Attorney’s office without having probable cause to believe Bryant had 24 committed a crime. (Doc. 84 at 23). Because the grand jury indicted Bryant, a 25 presumption attaches that probable cause existed for the seeking of that indictment. See 26 Lacy, 631 F. Supp. 2d at 1194. Accordingly, Brown is entitled to qualified immunity. 27 Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on count twelve. 28 - 10 - 1 8. Count Sixteen 2 In count sixteen, Plaintiffs allege that the City of Goodyear (the “City”) is liable 3 for failure to train its officers in proper investigative techniques. (Doc. 84 at 26). “[T]he 4 inadequacy of police training may serve as the basis for § 1983 liability only where the 5 failure to train amounts to deliberate indifference to the rights of persons with whom the 6 police come into contact.” City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989). “In 7 resolving the issue of a city’s liability, the focus must be on adequacy of the training 8 program in relation to the tasks the particular officers must perform.” “That a particular 9 officer may be unsatisfactorily trained” or that the training program has “occasionally 10 been negligently administered” does not give rise to liability. Id. at 390-91. Rather, 11 “deliberate indifference is a stringent standard of fault, requiring proof that a municipal 12 actor disregarded a known or obvious consequence of his action.” Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs 13 of Bryan Cnty., Okla. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 410 (1997). Moreover, “the identified 14 deficiency in a city’s training program must be closely related to the ultimate injury.” 15 Canton, 489 U.S. at 391. 16 Plaintiffs have not shown any evidence that the City failed to properly train its 17 officers, much less that the City did so while disregarding a known or obvious 18 consequence of such a failure. Even assuming that Newman was, as Plaintiffs claim, not 19 competent to investigate Bryant, Plaintiffs have not shown that Newman’s lack of 20 competence was the result of a failure to train amounting to deliberate indifference with 21 respect to the rights of officers investigated. Plaintiffs identify no deficiency in the City’s 22 training program, merely deficiencies in Newman’s training. 23 Plaintiffs attempt to show failure to train by pointing to other instances where City 24 officers were found to have been inadequately trained. (Doc. 124 at 17). In particular, 25 Plaintiff argues that a third-party report reviewing the GPD found that GPD training 26 priorities did not “reflect a rigorous process.” (Doc. 122 at 19). But Plaintiff selectively 27 quotes from that report, which stated that training priorities did not “reflect a rigorous 28 process . . . to establish a balanced and effective training program that reflects the - 11 - 1 Department’s philosophies of service delivery and expectations.” (Doc. 122-3 at 9). In 2 fact, the report noted that all of the thirty-five employees randomly surveyed met or 3 exceeded the minimum requirements for continuing training. (Id. at 18). Plaintiffs point 4 to nothing in the report that shows that the City failed to train its officers in investigatory 5 techniques with disregard for the attendant consequences.5 Because Plaintiffs offer no evidence supporting their failure to train claim, 6 7 Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on count sixteen. 8 IV. Conclusion 9 Defendants are entitled to either qualified immunity or absolute immunity for their 10 actions upon which all of Plaintiffs’ claims are based. For this reason, Defendants are 11 entitled to summary judgment on all claims, and the Court therefore need not address the 12 balance of the parties’ arguments. 13 Accordingly, 14 IT IS ORDERED that Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 116) is 15 16 granted. IT IS ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment in favor of 17 Defendants on all claims and terminate this case. 18 Dated this 19th day of May, 2014. 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 5 27 28 Similarly, although Plaintiffs cite another reviewing report to assert that the GPD lacks proper training, (Doc. 122 at 20), nothing in that report even hints at a failure to train relevant to this case. This second report merely noted in its conclusion that anomalies in another investigation “could have and should have been prevented with proper leadership and training.” (Doc. 122-4 at 36). - 12 -

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