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Davis v. Robert

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

August 14, 2017

ROBERT TREVOR-BLAIR DAVIS, SR., Plaintiff,
v.
CARLA A. ROBERT, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION & ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT SUZANNE T. HALL'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Dkt. 60)

          MARK A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Robert Trevor-Blair Davis, Sr., brought this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two municipal officials alleging various violations of his constitutional rights. On June 29, 2016, the Court held that Davis's allegations concerning Defendant Suzanne T. Hall's statements, although “short on specific[s], ” were sufficient to constitute a plausible adverse action for a First Amendment retaliation claim. Davis v. Robert, 192 F.Supp.3d 847, 858 (E.D. Mich. 2016). Since that time, the record has been supplemented by the depositions of the parties and various union officials.

         This matter is now before the Court on Hall's motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 60). Pursuant to the Court's September 21, 2016 stipulated scheduling order (Dkt. 59), the motion is limited to one issue - whether there is sufficient evidence that Hall made statements constituting an adverse action sufficient to give rise to a First Amendment retaliation claim (Dkt. 61). This issue has now been fully briefed, and a hearing was held on April 6, 2017. Because the only admissible statement attributable to Hall is insufficient to constitute an adverse action, the Court grants the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The genesis of the dispute between Davis and Hall is adequately set forth in the Court's decision denying Hall's motion to dismiss. The Court now supplements that recitation with relevant facts from the depositions that were subsequently taken.

         Davis began his career with Michigan's American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (“AFSCME”) Council 25 around 2003. Davis Tr., Ex. 1 to Def. Mot., at 8 (Dkt. 60-2). While Davis began his employment as a union organizer, he was eventually assigned as a staff representative to the Wayne County Airport Authority (“WCAA”) Local 953 (“Local 953”) in 2012. Id. at 13-14. In his role as a staff representative, Davis would handle grievances submitted by union members, attend union meetings, and advise members on any other work-related issues. Id. at 14. Davis was also responsible for serving as the chief negotiator for Local 953 as it tried to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the WCAA. Id. at 11.

         In addition to Davis, members of the union negotiating team included Bradley Manley, then-president of Local 953, and Nyota Ellis, a Local 953 committee member. Ellis Tr., Ex. 4 to Def. Mot., at 5 (Dkt. 60-5). During the course of negotiations with the WCAA, Manley became increasingly dissatisfied with Davis's participation. Manley Tr., Ex. 5 to Def. Mot., at 6 (Dkt. 60-6). Manley testified that Davis would often fail to show up to negotiations, and when he was in attendance, he was often on the phone or working on personal matters unrelated to the negotiation. Id. at 12. Ellis also testified to Davis's failure to meaningfully contribute to the negotiations. Ellis Tr. at 6.

         Frustrated at the progress of negotiations, Manley approached Hall, the chairwoman of the WCAA's board of directors, just prior to a board meeting. Manley Tr. at 6. Manley requested the support of the WCAA board in order to put pressure on the CEO of the WCAA, Tom Naughton, to get a deal done. Id. at 9. Hall informed Manley that, as a board member, she would not interfere in negotiations, and that the matter should be resolved with Naughton. Hall Tr., Ex. 3 to Def. Mot., at 13 (Dkt. 60-4). According to Manley, Hall added that Davis was not “doing anything good for getting the contract over, ” which Manley understood to mean that Davis was “not doing [Local 953 any] favors.” Manley Tr. at 11. While Hall remembers speaking with Manley regarding the negotiations, she denies saying anything about Davis. Hall Tr. at 14.

         Sometime later, Manley emailed a letter to Al Garrett, the president of AFSCME Council 25, which stated:

It comes with great sadness and regret to inform you that we are hereby terminating Mr. Davis as our Staff Representative for the following reasons.
1. Failure to show up on time or at all for [negotiations].
2. Failure to Prep or strategize with the [negotiating team].
3. Failure to follow through with requested ...

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