United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
STEWART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the Court
will grant the Motion.
David Scott Jackson was, at all relevant times, the Chief of
Police for the Pleasant View City Police Department. In June
2014, Chief Jackson was contacted by the wife of a city
police sergeant. The sergeant's wife was concerned that
her husband was having an affair, possibly while on duty.
These accusations eventually made their way to Mayor Toby
Mileski and City Administrator Melinda Greenwood. Ms.
Greenwood began her own investigation in the matter. The
competing investigations led to tensions between Chief
Jackson and Ms. Greenwood.
9, 2014, Ms. Greenwood sent an email to Mayor Mileski and
Chief Jackson, stating that there was a “[g]eneral
feeling of lack of trust and respect” with the sergeant
and that “[m]orale with the department is an
issue.” On July 10, 2014, Chief Jackson requested
a meeting with Mayor Mileski and Ms. Greenwood. That meeting
took place the following day, July 11, 2014.
meeting became heated and Ms. Greenwood made several
statements that give rise, in part, to Plaintiff's
claims. Ms. Greenwood stated that Chief Jackson had done a
terrible job of investigating the allegations against the
sergeant, that the officers in the police department had lost
all trust and respect for the Chief, and that morale within
the department was low. Plaintiff also testified that Mayor
Mileski stated that the department had become a laughing
stock. At some point during the meeting, Chief
Jackson asked to be terminated. At the end of the meeting, Chief
Jackson was placed on administrative leave for
insubordination, pending a City Council meeting.
Council meeting took place the following day. The City
Council voted to go into closed session. During that closed
session, the City Council, along with Mayor Mileski and Ms.
Greenwood, discussed whether to terminate Chief Jackson
without cause. Many of the statements made during the
previous day's meeting were reiterated during the closed
session of the City Council meeting. Chief Jackson was
permitted to briefly address the City Council during the
closed session. At the conclusion of the closed session, the
City Council came to an open meeting and voted 2-2 to
terminate Chief Jackson. Mayor Mileski then voted in favor of
termination without cause, breaking the tie and resulting in
Chief Jackson's termination.
14, 2014, the Standard Examiner, a local newspaper, issued a
records request to the City under the Utah Government Records
Access and Management Act (“GRAMA”). Ms.
Greenwood responded to the GRAMA request on July 16, 2014, by
providing a number of documents. These documents, along with
a press release, were also placed on the City's website.
These documents contained many of the statements of which
his termination, Chief Jackson was able to obtain employment
in construction at the Sorrel River Ranch from January 2015
through April 2015. He then was employed as a Deputy/Drug
Tracker at the Grand County Sheriff's Office from March
2015 through May 2016. He has been employed as a Juvenile
Probation officer at the Sixth District Court from May 2016
through the present. The positions at the Grand County
Sherriff's Office and the Sixth District Court were the
only two law enforcement positions for which Chief Jackson
applied, though he made inquiries to other law enforcement
agencies. In applying for these positions, Chief Jackson had
no discussions with either employer about the circumstances
surrounding his termination. Additionally, Chief Jackson has
not applied for any law enforcement position that he believes
he did not obtain because of his termination.
originally brought claims under the Due Process Clause
asserting the deprivation of both a property interest and a
liberty interest. The Court previously dismissed
Plaintiff's property interest claims with
prejudice. Only Plaintiff's liberty interest
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” In considering whether a genuine dispute
of material fact exists, the Court determines whether a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party in the face of all the evidence
presented. The Court is required to construe all
facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party.
public employee has a liberty interest in his good name and
reputation as they relate to his continued
The government infringes upon that interest when: (1) it
makes a statement that “impugn[s] the good name,
reputation, honor, or integrity of the employee”; (2)
the statement is false; (3) the statement is made during the
course of termination and “foreclose[s] other
employment opportunities”; and (4) the statement is
published, in other words disclosed publically.
elements are not disjunctive, all must be satisfied to
demonstrate deprivation of the liberty
STATEMENTS THAT IMPUGN GOOD NAME, REPUTATION, HONOR, OR
be actionable, the statements must impugn the good name,
reputation, honor, or integrity of the
employee.” The Tenth Circuit has held that
“charges involving negligence and neglect of
duties” “are insufficient to establish a liberty
interest deprivation.” Similarly, charges of
“poor work habits or failure to follow
instructions” are not enough,  nor are complaints of
insubordination. “In order to state a
constitutional claim, the charges ...