Small Town Politics Result In Verdict In Deputy’s Favor

Cooper County, Missouri has a population of 17,061, and a sheriff’s department made up of both reserves and a few sworn deputies. The Sheriff is Jerry Wolfe. Dwight Pfeiffer was one of Wolfe’s deputies, his wife Robin Pfeiffer was a reserve deputy, and his stepdaughter Jennifer Tice was a detention officer. In 2008, Dwight Pfeiffer ran against Wolfe and lost. Within weeks, Wolfe fired both Pfeiffers and Tice. Pfeiffer…

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Firefighter’s E-Mail Protected By First Amendment

Brad Love was a volunteer and part-time firefighter for the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department in Indiana. During the Republican primary election in the Spring of 2006, Bob Boyer, a retired volunteer firefighter, challenged the incumbent for the office of Sugar Creek Township Trustee. One of the Trustee’s principal duties is to appoint a fire chief to oversee the Department. Boyer’s campaign platform was based on what he viewed…

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‘Speaking As An Employee’ Versus ‘Speaking As A Citizen’

A case involving the Somerset County, Maryland Sheriff’s Office is a good illustration of the operative dichotomy in free speech law since the Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006). If the employee is “speaking as an employee” when s/he is saying or writing something, then the speech is unprotected by the First Amendment. On the other hand, if the employee is “speaking as a…

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Police Chief Loses Claim For Pension Spiking

Darren Nance was terminated as a Newark, New Jersey police officer on September 3, 1996 and has not served as a police officer in the past 14 years. On June 24, 2010, a jury found that Nance’s termination was in retaliation for invoking his right to petition the government under the First Amendment and that Nance was subject to retaliation in violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Subsequently,…

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Officer Wins Lawsuit and $600K, Loses Claim For Reinstatement

Darren Nance was terminated as a Newark, New Jersey police officer on September 3, 1996 and has not served as a police officer in the past 14 years. On June 24, 2010, a jury found that Nance’s termination was in retaliation for invoking his right to petition the government under the First Amendment and that Nance was subject to retaliation in violation of New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination. Subsequently,…

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Police Chief’s Testimony In Defamation Case Constitutionally Protected

Robert Deutsch was the Police Chief for Laramie, Wyoming. In the summer of 2007, Deutsch used City petty cash to purchase a laptop computer for $1,433.11. The purchase violated City policy, but was apparently unknown to the public until a city council meeting in May 2008. At the meeting, Tim Hale, a private citizen, stated that there might have been a misappropriation of City petty cash by a department…

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Officer’s Speech About Alleged Affair Not Constitutionally Protected

In Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), the Supreme Court held that if a public employee engages in speech “pursuant to job duties,” then the speech is unprotected by the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees. As the Supreme Court held, “the First Amendment protects a public employee’s right, in certain circumstances, to speak as a citizen addressing matters of public concern. It is well established, however, that a…

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Officer’s Testimony On Behalf Of Girlfriend’s Sister’s Husband Potentially Constitutionally Protected

Brian Reid was a senior police officer for the City of Atlanta, Georgia. On July 27, 2006, Reid testified as a character witness on behalf of Michael Grissom at a bond hearing in a United States magistrate court proceeding. Grissom was Reid’s longtime girlfriend’s sister’s husband, and had known Reid for at least eight years. When the Department learned of Reid’s testimony, it began a disciplinary investigation. The Department…

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Court Upholds Fire Captain’s Demotion For Affair With Subordinate

Randolph Starling was a captain with the Palm Beach County, Florida Fire Rescue Department. In May 2005, he arranged to have Carolyn Smith, another firefighter, transferred to his fire station as his subordinate. Sometime during the next few months, Smith and Starling – then married but separated from his wife – began an intimate relationship. Starling’s wife filed for divorce in July, and he moved into Smith’s house in…

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Firefighter’s Parking Lot Sign Not Protected By First Amendment

Peter Yackel is a firefighter in the Township of Edison, New Jersey. On June 1, 2009, at approximately 7:30 a.m., Yackel arrived for his tour of duty at Fire Station No. 3 and parked his pickup truck in the parking lot as he always did. Displayed in the bed of Yackel’s pickup truck was a piece of poster board which read: “Choi Lies! Save Public Safety In Edison.” The…

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Participation In An Internal Affairs Investigation Not Protected By First Amendment

The ramifications of Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), continue to be felt in free speech cases brought by public employees. In Garcetti, the Supreme Court held that where speech is made as part of an employee’s job, it is not protected by the First Amendment. The teachings of Garcetti allow an employer to retaliate against an employee for speech made in the course of the job without…

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Whistleblowing Report Potentially Protected By First Amendment

Melvin Kindle worked for the City of Jeffersontown, Kentucky as a police officer; Bradley Silveria and Diedra Adkins were dispatchers for the Police Department. On October 27, 2006, the three tendered a report pursuant to Kentucky’s Whistleblower Act. The report alleged that a lieutenant colonel with the Department (1) violated federal and state wage and hour laws by requiring dispatchers to report for duty 15 minutes early and not…

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Participation In Police Union Election Can Be Protected By First Amendment

Anthony Ferraioli, Aldrin Lamboy, and Dawn Fray are police officers with the City of Hackensack, New Jersey. In June 2008, an election for the position of delegate to the New Jersey Police Benevolent Association (PBA), a labor organization representing police officers, was held in the locker room of Police Department headquarters. As all three officers later alleged, the Police Chief made it known to all officers in the Department…

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Part-Time Police Officers Who Complained About On-Duty Drinking Lose Free Speech Claim

A group of seasonal and/or part-time police officers previously employed by the Village of Ocean Beach, New York Police Department filed a federal court lawsuit against the Village alleging a variety of constitutional violations. The officers alleged that beginning in May 2002, the Police Chief hired officers who had not been certified by the civil service department of Suffolk County, hired civilians as police dispatchers, permitted police officers to…

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Mississippi Police Captain Wins Jury Verdict On Retaliation Claim

Cliff Hardy was a captain in the Tupelo, Mississippi Police Department and headed the Department’s internal affairs unit. Robert Hall, an African-American deputy chief, was facing charges for assisting a drunk driving suspect. When the Tupelo City Council held a “town hall” meeting to discuss the issue of race relations with the Police Department, Hardy spoke up in support of Hall, and suggested that Hall had been targeted for…

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Milwaukee Sheriff Improperly Brought Religion Into Workplace

In April 2006, the newly-formed Fellowship of the Christian Centurions (the Centurions), a peer support group created specifically for law enforcement officers, sent flyers to law enforcement agencies in the state of Wisconsin. The advertisement offered the officers an opportunity to discuss issues unique to them, but from a religious perspective. This included discussions on impacting others for Christ and on Christ’s impact in their lives. The flyer’s primary…

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Comments About DUI Policy Protected By First Amendment

Bill Wright worked as a police officer for the City of Salisbury, Missouri. On September 21, 2007, the City’s mayor met with Wright and the Police Chief. The next day, Wright wrote a letter on his personal letterhead, addressed to “To Whom It May Concern,” regarding the meeting that occurred on the previous day. In the letter, Wright recounted the fact that the Mayor complained that Wright had been…

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Expulsion From FOP Not A Federal Case

Shawn Hallinan and Wayne Harej are longtime City of Chicago police officers and were members in good standing of the City’s police union, Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police. Hallinan and Harej were opposed to the policies of Lodge 7’s president, Mark Donahue. During the March 2005 election cycle, Hallinan and Harej formed an opposition slate of 20 candidates to oppose Donahue and the incumbent officers. During…

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Coworker Bullying Can Violate First Amendment

Roger Fairley and Richard Gackowski worked as guards at the Cook County Jail in Chicago. After they alleged their peers threatened to kill them, they quit and sued the other guards, complaint handler, the Sheriff, and the County. Fairley and Gackowski contended that guards at the jail regularly beat prisoners without justification. When Gackowski complained about a particular incident involving the use of force, the other guards responded by…

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Trooper Can Proceed With Marital Discrimination Claim

Stacy Jones Tucker was a “buck sergeant” for the Georgia State Patrol, assigned to the Hinesville post. Tucker began having problems at work in 2006 when she married Robbie Tucker, who operated a wrecker service and was on a referral list for the State Patrol. Prior to the marriage, Tucker knew that at least one of her supervisors possessed a low opinion of Robbie Tucker, based on a comment…

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No First Amendment Right To Complain About Dissatisfaction With Job

Daniel Prince is a deputy sheriff who works for the Monroe County, New York Sheriff’s Department. Prince filed a federal court lawsuit alleging that he was retaliated against for raising claims of on-the-job harassment. In particular, Prince alleged that a sergeant referred to him as a “mother fucker, little bitch, pussy-ass bitch, faggot, and a whining little fag.” A federal court dismissed the lawsuit. Quoting from a Supreme Court…

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The Fear Of Retribution Not A Constructive Discharge

Randy Goff was an assistant chief of police for the City of Somerset, Kentucky. Goff supported the opponent to Eddie Girdler in the mayoral race in 2006. When Girdler won, he told the Police Chief of his intent to punish Goff and others for their support of the mayor’s opponent. Goff immediately began to examine his options. A lawyer who met with Goff advised him that he would have…

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Policy Prohibiting Criticism By Supervisors Has Both Labor Relations And Constitutional Dimensions

The Town of Sanford, Maine Police Department issued a new rule that prohibited supervisors from criticizing Department policies and procedures in the presence of subordinates. The Sanford Police Association filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Maine Labor Relations Board, contending that the new rule unlawfully interfered with the exercise of protected rights by bargaining unit members. The Board rejected the Town’s request that it dismiss the complaint….

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The Next Extension Of Garcetti: Employer Rules Forbidding Speech About Agency Matters

The reverberations from the Supreme Court’s decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), are still being felt. In Garcetti, the Supreme Court held that to receive First Amendment protection, a public employee must speak “as a citizen on a matter of concern.” The Court ruled that speech arising out of an employee’s job is completely unprotected by the First Amendment, even if the content of the speech…

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Lieutenant’s Speech About Vacation Not Protected By First Amendment

Louis Van Cleef is a lieutenant with the Seneca County, New York Sheriff’s Department. In a federal court lawsuit, Van Cleef alleged that problems with his employer started in the fall of 2004 when Van Cleef, together with the undersheriff and other co-workers, was planning a non-work-related trip to Florida. Van Cleef alleged that the undersheriff obtained approval from the Sheriff to treat the Florida vacation as work-related training….

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