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Tompos v. City of Taylor

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 13, 2015

ROBERT TOMPOS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF TAYLOR et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 23) AS TO THE FEDERAL CLAIM ONLY; REMANDING STATE LAW CLAIM PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); AND DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER (ECF NO. 20) AS MOOT

LINDA V. PARKER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Tompos ("Plaintiff") was terminated from his position as Chief of the Fire Department of the City of Taylor, and sues Defendant Jeffery Lamarand and Defendant City of Taylor (collectively "Defendants"). His lawsuit includes a count based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, grounded on the assertion that his termination violated the First Amendment's speech protection clause. (Comp1., ECF No. 1-2 at Pg. ID 10-12.) Plaintiff also claims that his termination violated state law, specifically the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act, Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 15.361-15.369. ( Id. at 9-11.) Defendants removed the matter to this Court pursuant to the Court's federal question jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1441(a), and have filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (ECF Nos. 1, 23.) A motion hearing was held on February 11, 2015, at which the Court heard argument of the parties through their respective counsel in open court. For reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS IN PART Defendants' motion for summary judgment, REMANDS Plaintiff's remaining claim brought under the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act to the Wayne County Circuit Court, and DENIES AS MOOT Defendants' motion for protective order, filed March 27, 2014.

I.

Defendant City of Taylor is a local government unit located in Wayne County. Defendant Jeffery Lamarand is the former mayor of the City of Taylor, who died on October 19, 2014. Plaintiff became the Fire Department Chief on June 21, 2011. (Compl., ECF No. 1-2 at Pg. ID 9.) During Plaintiff's employment as fire chief, Defendant Lamarand made various budgetary reductions, including reductions to the fire department. (Pl.'s Resp. Br., ECF No. 27 at Pg. ID 427.) Defendants allege that the reductions were brought about as a result of the deficit the city was facing. (Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 23 at Pg. ID 230.) Beginning in 2011, and continuing through the remainder of his employment, while serving as fire chief, Plaintiff made verbal complaints and reports to Defendant Lamarand, City of Taylor City Council and its members, as well as to news reporters and media outlets. (Compl., ECF No. 1-2 at Pg. ID 9.) Specifically, Plaintiff stated that:

(a) Protective clothing and gear used by firefighters [were] out of date, out of compliance with applicable safety standards, dangerous to the firefighters using it, and could cause significant injury or death to firefighters;
(b)Reduced staffing of the Fire Department slowed response times and posed a danger to the public;
(c) Reduced staffing of the Fire Department posed a danger to responders;
(d)Reduced staffing meant that the Fire Department could not operate within applicable safety standards; and
(e) Defendant Lamarand wrongfully removed $60, 000 from the City budget.

( Id. )

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Lamarand, both personally and through his agents, warned Plaintiff to "watch what he said to the media"; repeatedly threatened Plaintiff with termination; removed duties from Plaintiff; interpreted, monitored, and intercepted Plaintiff's reports to the City Council, thereby preventing Plaintiff from making reports to the City Council. ( Id. at 9-10.) On April 19, 2013, Defendants terminated Plaintiff, alleging budgetary reasons and the elimination of his position. ( Id. at 10.) Thereafter, Plaintiff filed his lawsuit. (Compl., ECF No 1-2.) Subsequently, Defendant filed its motion for summary judgment. (Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 23.)

II.

Summary judgment must be granted if the pleadings and evidence "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A dispute over a material fact is only a "genuine issue" if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party on that issue. Cockrel v. Shelby County Sch. Dist., 270 F.3d 1036, 1048 (6th Cir. 2001) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). "In deciding a summary judgment motion, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.'" Snyder v. Kohl's Dep't Stores, Inc., 580 F.Appx. 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2014) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). ...


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