Baucom v. Caddo Valley, The City of et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION granting 15 Motion for Summary Judgment. The jury trial previously scheduled for the week of July 22, 2013 is cancelled. Signed by Honorable Robert T. Dawson on July 1, 2013. (adw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
HOT SPRINGS DIVISION
ROBERT DUANE BAUCOM
THE CITY OF CADDO VALLEY and
MAYOR ALLEN DILLAVOU, in his
individual and official capacities
This case is before the Court for consideration of
supporting documents (docs. 16-17), Plaintiff’s response (doc.
21) and supporting documents (docs. 22-23), and Defendants’
Reply (doc. 24).
For the following reasons, Defendants’
Motion (doc. 15) is GRANTED, and Plaintiff’s Complaint (doc.
1) is DISMISSED.
Plaintiff’s federal constitutional claims
are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Plaintiff’s remaining state law
claims are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
Plaintiff filed his complaint on June 14, 2012, alleging
he was wrongfully terminated from his position as Chief of
Police for the City of Caddo Valley without cause and in
violation of public policy and in retaliation for reporting
policy violations of certain subordinate police officers.
Plaintiff alleges due process violations, as well as state law
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claims for defamation, tortious interference with existing
business relations and civil conspiracy.
The majority of the facts in this case are undisputed.
evidence before the Court. The Court has reviewed, in detail,
the evidence presented from all the parties in this case and
finds the following facts to be undisputed, except where
Plaintiff was hired as Chief of Police for the City of
Caddo Valley in January 2012, by then-Mayor of Caddo Valley,
Allen Dillavou. Plaintiff was terminated from his position as
Chief of Police by Mayor Dillavou after five and a half
Four months into his tenure as Chief, a letter was signed
by every police officer under his command stating that they
had no confidence in him as Chief and asked the City to
Plaintiff contends his police officers had a
plan to not respond to any complaints of citizens in order to
cast him in a negative light.
Plaintiff repeatedly asked the Mayor if he should be
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looking for work elsewhere.
Defendants contend this was
because Plaintiff knew he was having problems managing the
Plaintiff contends it was because he knew
that fellow officers and citizens were complaining about him.
In May of 2012, at a Caddo Valley City Council meeting,
the Council went into executive session to discuss Chief
Baucom. In the executive session, it was the unanimous opinon
of the council members that the Chief should be fired.
The opinion of the counsel was so strong that the Mayor
stated in his deposition that, “five out of six of them
demanded that I fire him, and the sixth one said that she
wanted him fired but she wasn’t going to demand it because she
understood that was my decision whether or not to, you know,
fire him.” Eventually, Mayor Dillavou gave into the political
pressure and four days after the Council demanded Baucom’s
termination, Plaintiff was fired.
Plaintiff admitted in his deposition that the Mayor
stated his reason for the termination was due to the political
sufficient explanation for his termination in the meeting with
the Mayor in which he was actually terminated.
not appeal his termination to the City Council.
Plaintiff admitted in his deposition that the Mayor gave
the reason for Baucom’s termination as the city was too
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divided, and the mayor felt the only thing he could do was
During his deposition, Plaintiff did not
identify any “published stigmatizing conditions regarding his
III. Standard of Review
A motion for summary judgment will be granted when "there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ... the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(c).
A "material" fact is one "that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law ...." Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine"
evidence favoring the party opposing the motion for a jury to
return a verdict for that party.
In determining whether
a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence is to be
taken in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970).
moving party meets the initial burden of establishing the
nonexistence of a genuine issue, the burden then shifts to the
opposing party to produce evidence of the existence of a
genuine issue for trial.
317, 322-23 (1986).
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
The opposing party "may not rest upon
mere allegation or denials of his pleading, but must set forth
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specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial," and "must present affirmative evidence in order to
defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-7 (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).
"sufficient probative evidence [that] would permit a finding
in [their] favor on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or
Gregory v. Rogers, 974 F.2d 1006, 1010 (8th Cir.
1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 913, 113 S.Ct. 1265, 122 L.Ed.2d
A mere scintilla of evidence is insufficient to
avoid summary judgment.
Moody v. St. Charles County, 23 F.3d
1410, 1412 (8th Cir. 1994).
plaintiff must first establish a constitutionally protected
property or liberty interest.
Christiansen v. West Branch
Community Sch. Dist., 674 F.3d 927, 934 (8th Cir. 2012).
continued employment receives sufficient due process if he
receives notice, an opportunity to respond to the charges
before his termination, and post-termination administrative
Id. (quotation marks omitted).
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The procedural due
placing a stigma on his reputation “are vindicated by a nameclearing
Winskowski v. City of Stephen, 442 F.3d 1107, 1110 (8th Cir.
2006)(quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff’s attempts to create a property interest in his
continued employment with the City fail.
he could only be fired “for cause” and attached a copy of the
Caddo Valley Police Department Policy Manual (doc. 21-1) to
his Response. However, all of the evidence in this case makes
clear that Plaintiff was an at will employee and could be
terminated at any time.
In his deposition, Plaintiff acknowledged that the City
of Caddo Valley had an at-will employment policy. (Doc. 21-4,
Plaintiff also acknowledged that the Policy
Manual was invalid and was never “signed off on”. (Doc. 21-4,
Defendants provided a City of Caddo Valley Personnel
Policy dated January 2012 (doc. 14-4, Ex. 4) that confirms the
City was an at-will employer and that nothing in the policy
alters the City’s at-will status or creates an employment
Id. at p. 2.
The Court finds Plaintiff was not entitled to procedural
due process protections as he had no property interest in his
continued employment as Chief of Police.
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However, even if he
had, he received the benefits of due process as evidenced by
the audio recording of the pre-termination hearing with Mayor
Dillavou that Plaintiff himself recorded.
Plaintiff further contends he had a protected liberty
interest in his reputation.
To establish a procedural due
process violation based on the deprivation of a protected
defamatory statement that resulted in a stigma; (2) the
defamatory statement occurred during the course of terminating
the employee; (3) the defamatory statement was made public;
and (4) an alteration or extinguishment of a right or legal
Crooks v. Lynch, 557 F.3d 846, 849 (8th Cir. 2009).
Plaintiff must also prove that he requested and was denied a
Plaintiff did not request a hearing with the city council
after his termination. (Doc. 21-4, pp. 68-69). When asked in
his deposition, Plaintiff admitted he could not provide any
derogatory or stigmatizing statements from Mayor Dillavou or
(Doc. 21-4, pp. 69-70).
Because Plaintiff was
an at-will employee, he had no protected liberty interest.
Eddings v. City of Hot Springs, Ark., 323 F.3d 596, 601-02
(8th Cir. 2003).
Further, Plaintiff failed to identify any
evidence concerning the existence of defamatory statements or
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the source of any such statements.
retaliating against a public employee based on the employee’s
Morris v. City of Chillicothe, 512 F.3d 1013, 1018
retaliation under the First Amendment, a plaintiff must show
that his conduct was constitutionally protected and that the
protected conduct was a substantial or motivating factor in
the defendant’s decision to terminate him.
asserting a claim for First Amendment retaliation.
Plaintiff did not address this in his response to Defendants’
discussed a claim under the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act.
VI. Qualified Immunity
violation of a constitutional right, therefore, Mayor Dillavou
is entitled to qualified immunity.
VII. State Law Claims
Having granted the summary judgment motion on the federal
law claims, we decline to retain jurisdiction on Plaintiff’s
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state law claims for defamation, tortious interference and
28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
These claims are
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
Based on the foregoing, Defendants’ Motion for Summary
Judgment (doc. 15) is GRANTED, and Plaintiff’s due process and
DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
own fees and costs.
The parties are to bear their
The jury trial previously scheduled for
the week of July 22, 2013, is CANCELLED.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 1st day of July, 2013.
/s/ Robert T. Dawson
Honorable Robert T. Dawson
United States District Judge
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