Judge grants city motion to dismiss 2 cops’ lawsuits
A federal judge granted a motion by city defendants to dismiss civil lawsuits filed by a former Williamsport police captain and a present-day city police sergeant.
Donald R. Mayes Jr., former captain, and Sgt. Jody Miller, each complained they encountered retaliation for speaking out about allege fraud, waste and corruption in the department.
U.S. Middle District Court Judge Matthew W. Brann granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss their complaints and gave them 21 days to make amendments.
The officers filed against former Mayor Gabriel J. Campana, current Police Chief Damon Hagan, William E. Nichols Jr., former city finance director, and the city of Williamsport. In Miller’s case, the defendants remain the same with addition of Frederick L. Miller IV, a former police agent and current police lieutenant.
In his memorandum, Brann wrote the U.S. Supreme Court has noted the need to strike a “careful balance” between the interests of the employee, as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern, and the interest of the state, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public service it performs through its employees.
When public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.
“It is not protected speech,” Brann wrote.
Miller said in 2016 he began efforts to transfer out of the agent’s position because his duties were taking a serious emotional and mental toll on him.
In their counter to the suit, the defendants, argued the officers’ complaints violated Federal Rule of Civil Procedure requirements, that a complaint contain a short and plain statement of the claim and be simple, concise and direct. Furthermore, the move to dismiss was for failure to “state a claim.”
For example, Mayes’ “complaint, while only a few pages, is comprised of long, unintelligable, often times rambling passages that do little to elucidate which facts are relevant to plaintiff’s cause of action,” Brann wrote.
Brann urged Mayes and his attorney to ensure any amended complaint examine the allegations to ensure they are directly relevant to the claim he seeks to advance.
Brann noted that it appeared Mayes wrote the bulk of the complaint and not the attorney and that should not happen in the updated version, should there be one.