Tilley v. Charlack, Missouri, City of, et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count II 9 is GRANTED. Count II of the Complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Signed by District Judge John A. Ross on 6/27/14. (JWD)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
CITY OF CHARLACK, et al.,
Case No. 4:14-CV-491-JAR
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count II (ECF No. 9).
Therein, Defendants contend that Count II for "Violation of Procedural Due Process Rights" fails
to state a claim. This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.
Plaintiff Matthew Tilley ("Tilley") alleges the following in his Complaint: Tilley was
hired as a police officer for the City of Charlack ("the City"), a Fourth Class City, in August 2012.
(Complaint, ECF No. 1, ~~2, 9). Tilley was an at-will employee of the City, pursuant to §79.240,
R.S. Mo. (Complaint,
Tilley could only have been terminated by a majority vote of the
Board of Alderman ("Board"), with the Mayor's support, or two-thirds of the Board, withou. the
Mayor's support. (Id.).
On or about December 3, 2013, Tilley notified KSDK (Channel 5) regarding two issues
with the Charlack Police Department.
First, the Charlack Police
Department's refrigerated evidence locker was unsecure because it was located in the City's
lunchroom and protected only by evidence tape (not a lock).
Second, the Charlack Police
Department was storing police reports that contained names, dates of birth, and social security
numbers that would permit identity theft in an unlocked trailer. KSDK aired a report regarding
Tilley's complaints on December 3, 2013. (Complaint, ifl4). Defendants attempted to fire
Tilley at several Board meetings and he was successfully terminated at the January 28, 2014 Board
In correspondence dated February 4, 2014, Tilley was notified that his
employment with the City was terminated on January 28, 2014 by Defendants Andre Morice and
David Illick, members of the City's Board of Aldermen ("Board"). 1 (Complaint, ifl5). Tilley
was not provided any reason for his discharge by Defendants.
STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS
In ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must view the allegations in the Complaint
liberally in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Eckert v. Titan Tire Corp., 514 F.3d 801, 806
(8th Cir. 2008) (citing Luney v. SGS Auto Servs., 432 F.3d 866, 867 (8th Cir. 2005)).
Additionally, the Court "must accept the allegations contained in the complaint as true and draw
all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Coons v. Mineta, 410 F.3d 1036,
1039 (8th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (abrogating the "no set of facts" standard for Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)
found in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). While a complaint attacked by a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiffs obligation to
provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555;
Huang v. Gateway Hotel Holdings, 520 F. Supp. 2d 1137, 1140 (E.D. Mo. 2007).
Defendants Morice and Illick both voted to terminate Tilley's employment. (Complaint, ifif3.
31 ). Tilley also alleges causes of action against the acting Chief of Police, Lt. Anthony Fanara,
whom Tilley claims recommended his termination. (Complaint, if4)
In Count II of Plaintiffs Complaint, he alleges a claim for "Violation of Procedural Due
Process Rights" in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
See Complaint, i\33. Under §79.240, Tilley only could have been terminated by a majority vote of
the Board with the Mayor's approval or a 2/3 vote of the Board without the Mayor's approval.
Tilley alleges that Mayor Mattingly did not support his termination.
(Complaint, i\30). Further, Tilley contends that he could not have been terminated by a 2/3 vote
of the Board because only 2 Aldermen voted for his termination. (Complaint, i\31 ). Tilley claims
that if the procedural requirements of §79.240 had been complied with then he would not have
been terminated. (Complaint, i(32). Thus, Tilley claims that his employment with the City was
terminated in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States
when he was denied the procedural protections of §79.240, RS.Mo.
Defendants claim that Count II for "Violation of Procedural Due Process Rights" should be
dismissed because Tilley had no property interest in continued employment with the City.
(Memorandum in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count II ("Memorandum"), ECF No.
9, at 2).
Defendants assert that absent a property interest, Tilley has no federal claim for
violations of his procedural rights. (Memorandum at 9) (citing McDonald v. City of Saint Paul,
679 F.3d 698, 704 (8th Cir. 2012), quoting Dobrovolny v. Moore, 126 F.3d 1111, 1113 (8th
Cir.1997) ("The possession of a protected life, liberty or property interest is a condition precedent
to the government's obligation to provide due process of law, and where no such interest exists,
there can be no due process violation."). Defendants note that Tilley attempts to raise a federal due
process claim because the City allegedly failed to comply with the requirements of Mo.Rev.Stat.
§79.240.l. Defendants, however, maintain that a violation of §79.240.1 does not present a
question of constitutional significance sufficient to state a claim under § 1983. (Memorandum at
3)(citing Doe v. Gooden, 214 F.3d 952, 955 (8th Cir. 2000)).
In response, Tilley recognizes that he was an at-will employee but claims that he had a
property right in his continued employment based upon the statute that limited the City's abili+y to
terminate his employment. (Plaintiffs Response to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count II
("Response"), ECF No. 11). Tilley notes that the Eighth Circuit held in Hammer v. City of Osage
Beach, MO, 318 F.3d 832, 838 (8th Cir. 2003), a §1983 action, that the "district court correctly
ruled that [plaintiffs] termination did not violate Mo.Rev.Stat. §79.240 as a matter of law" when
the city complied with the statute. Tilley claims that this ruling indicates that a procedural due
process claim under§ 1983 is viable based upon a violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. §79.240. (Response
The Court holds that Tilley cannot state a claim under the Constitution's Fourteenth
Amendment due process protections in Count II for alleged violations of a state statute, §79.240,
See Doe, 214 F.3d at 955 (citing Ebmeier v. Stump, 70 F.3d 1012, 1013 (8th
Cir. l 995)("Violations of state law do not state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983."). '"Section 1983
guards and vindicates federal rights alone."' Id.
Courts have consistently held that Section
79.240.1 does not provide at-will employees with a protected property or liberty interest. See
Singleton v. Cecil, 955 F. Supp. 1164, 1167 (E.D. Mo. 1997), rev'd, on other grounds by 155 F.3d
983 (8th Cir. 1998) ("plaintiff did not have a liberty or property interest in his employment that
implicated procedural due process"); Armer v. City of Salem, 861 F .2d 514, 515 (8th Cir.
1988)("under Missouri law fourth-class city police officers do not have a property interest in their
jobs implicating due process requirements."). The Court notes that in Hammer v. City of Osage
Beach, MO the Eighth Circuit never addressed whether the plaintiff had a protectable property
interest in his employment. The Eighth Circuit instead determined that the plaintiffs termination
did not violate Mo.Rev.Stat. §79.240 as a matter of law, without any discussion of whether the
plaintiff had a property interest in his employment. Id., 318 F.3d at 838. 2
The Court holds that Tilley fails to state a claim in Count II because he had no protected
property interest in his continued employment as a police officer with the City. Therefore, Tilley
could not have federal due process rights arising out of such an interest and Count II must be
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count II  1s
GRANTED. Count II of the Complaint is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
thisl~ of June, 2014.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Interestingly, the Eighth Circuit noted, in a separate section, that an at-will employee generally
does not have an protected liberty interest in continued employment. Hammer, 318 F.3d at 839.
The Court, however, held that the plaintiffs liberty interests were implicated because he was
terminated in connection with publicized allegations of illegal or improper conduct. Id.
The Court notes that Plaintiff could have brought a mandamus action in state court to assert that
his termination was unlawful because it did not comply with the requirements of §79.240, R.S.
Mo. See State ex rel. Ciaramitaro v. City of Charlack, 679 S.W.2d 405 (Mo. Ct. App. 1984);
State ex rel. Gorris v. Mussman, 612 S.W.2d 357 (Mo. Ct. App. 1980).
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