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Liogghio v. Salem Township

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

July 2, 2018

CAROL LIOGGHIO, Plaintiff,
v.
SALEM TOWNSHIP and GARY WHITTAKER, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#61]

          DENISE PAGE HOOD CHIEF JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is presently before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Gary Whittaker and Salem Township. (Doc #61). The Motion has been fully briefed. The Court previously notified the parties that the Motion would be decided on the briefs, without oral argument. (Doc #71). For the reasons that follow, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Carol Liogghio was hired in 1998 as a receptionist for Defendant Salem Township (the “Township”). She became an Administrative Assistant reporting to the Township Supervisor in 2001. Plaintiff was the Township's only full-time clerical employee prior to November 2012. In 2012, Plaintiff ran for Township Clerk on a Republican slate with then-Township Supervisor Robert Heyl (“Heyl”). Defendant Gary Whittaker (“Whittaker”) ran for Township Supervisor on a different Republican slate. Whittaker's slate won the August primary election and the general election. Whittaker became the Township Supervisor, effective in November 2012.

         After the primary election and before Whittaker took office, then-Township Supervisor Heyl went “to the home of newly elected supervisor Gary Whittaker, to congratulate him on his election victory and to offer him any transition help he may need; at that meeting, Supervisor elect Gary Whittaker, requested that I let Carol Liogghio go before he took office.” (Doc #14, PgID 70 (First Heyl Affidavit, dated May 13, 2015)) At his deposition, however, Heyl testified that Whittaker did not ask Heyl to fire Plaintiff.

         In the fall of 2012, Whittaker had a conversation with O'Neill Muirhead (“Muirhead”), a resident of the Township. Muirhead states that he suggested to Whittaker that Whittaker continue to employ the then-Township Attorney and Plaintiff when Whittaker assumed the position of Township Supervisor. Muirhead avers that Whittaker responded that Whittaker “was not going to fire her; however, he would force her to quit.” (Doc #14, PgID 72 (Muirhead Affidavit, dated May 22, 2015)) At his deposition, Muirhead testified that he could not recall the words used by Whittaker but interpreted them to mean that Whittaker would force Plaintiff to quit. (Doc. #61, Ex. 14 at 33)

         Between the primary election and when Whittaker took office, Whittaker and then-Township Clerk and Trustee David Trent had a meeting with Plaintiff. Plaintiff states that Whittaker told her at that meeting that “he cannot work with me anymore, that it would not be a good, good for me with him, and that I should find myself new job, a new job, get a new job.” (Doc #61, Ex. 2 at 88-89) Plaintiff testified that Whittaker also stated, “No, I won't fire you, but you're not going to want to be here. You're not going to be happy in the office.” Id. at 90. Whittaker made it clear that he would make it uncomfortable for her. Id. at 95.

         Prior to Whittaker becoming Township Supervisor, Plaintiff performed many duties, including the following:

A. Working with the contracted building department coordinator;
B. Issuing building permits for the Township when the coordinator was not there;
C. Assisting the Township Treasurer, especially during tax season;
D. Organizing the Summer Farmers Market;
E. Assisting the Fire Department with clerical matters and issuing fire permits;
F. Handling FOIA activities for the Township;
G. Assisting the Township Supervisor in hiring temporary help for the Township;
H. Organizing several annual community programs;
I. Attending meetings with various government officials with Township Supervisor Roperti (Reyl's immediate predecessor);
J. Assisting the Township Supervisors in various administrative and clerical functions;
K. Serving as a Notary Public and assisting residents in notarizing documents;
L. Assisting the Township Clerk as needed and requested;
M. Preparing the monthly Board of Trustees agenda and assembling packets ...

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