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Kaye v. Board of Trustees of the San Diego County Law Library

June 10, 2008

MICHAEL KAYE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE SAN DIEGO COUNTY LAW LIBRARY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge

ORDER

The matters before the Court are the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 26) filed by Defendant Board of Trustees of the San Diego County Public Law Library, the Ex Parte Motion for Leave to File Pretrial Cross-Motion for Abstention and Remand (Doc. # 35) filed by Plaintiff Michael Kaye, and the Cross-Motion for Abstention and Remand (Doc. # 36) filed by Plaintiff Michael Kaye.

Statement of Undisputed Facts

Plaintiff Michael Kaye served as a reference librarian at the San Diego County Public Law Library ("Library") for more than 20 years.

In May 2005, then-Library Director Charles R. Dyer issued a written reprimand to Plaintiff ("2005 Reprimand"). The 2005 Reprimand addressed an incident between Plaintiff and a Library patron who Plaintiff believed was stealing. The 2005 Reprimand was based, in part, on an incident report ("Confidential Incident Report") issued by an undisclosed employee.

Plaintiff requested a copy of the Confidential Incident Report, but his request was denied on grounds that the reporting employee requested that the Report be kept confidential.

Plaintiff submitted a grievance appeal to the Board of Trustees of the Library ("Board of Trustees") which challenged the merits of the 2005 Reprimand and also complained that refusal to permit Plaintiff to review the Confidential Incident Report violated section 1198.5 of the California Labor Code. Plaintiff was never permitted to review the actual Confidential Incident Report, but the Board of Trustees did provide Plaintiff with a document entitled "Comprehensive Summary of Substance of Employee Incident Report." Pltf's Mot. for Abstention, Exhibit 6.

On March 5, 2006, Plaintiff sent a nine-page email to Joan Allen-Hart, the Assistant Director of Public Relations of the Library, and all reference librarians. The email criticized library management, characterizing management's conduct as "disgusting, degrading, and utterly unprofessional," and stating that management had a history of "pettiness, animosity and jealousy." Dft's Mot. for Summary Judgment, Exhibit 6.

On March 6, 2006, Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave. In a letter dated March 21, 2006, Allen-Hart sent Plaintiff a written notice of proposed termination. The letter stated: "After further review of the content of your [March 5, 2006] email communication, this is to notify you that you are being terminated for insubordination and serious misconduct." Pltf's Mot. for Abstention, Exhibit 7.

In or about April 2006, Plaintiff received a letter from Robert Riger, the Chief Executive Officer and Director of the Library, which rescinded the March 21, 2006 notice of proposed termination and stated that "[t]his is a new letter of proposed termination." Dft's Mot. for Summary Judgment, Exhibit 9. The letter stated that "[a]fter further review of the content of your email communication, this is to notify you that you are being terminated for insubordination and serious misconduct." Id. The letter also provided that Plaintiff was entitled to administrative review of the proposed termination. Id.

Plaintiff sought administrative review of his termination. Cyndy Day-Wilson, Esq., a former member of the Board of Trustees, served as the administrative hearing officer. In a letter dated August 1, 2006, Day-Wilson issued an opinion upholding the decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment at the Library. Day-Wilson listed Plaintiff's March 5, 2006 email and the 2005 Reprimand among the documents she relied on in determining that Plaintiff's termination was appropriate. Id., Exhibit 11.

Plaintiff began post-termination procedures by requesting an appeal and evidentiary hearing by the Board of Trustees. In a letter dated October 12, 2006, William Songer, an attorney at the County Counsel's office, stated that despite the proceedings to date, the Library was not required to comply with Plaintiff's request for a post-termination evidentiary hearing because Plaintiff's employment at the Library had been at-will under section 6345 of the California Business and Professions Code. Pltf's Opposition to Mot. for Summary Judgment, Exhibit I. Songer's letter stated that Plaintiff was entitled to further administrative recourse through Library's Grievance Procedure, which affords administrative review of personnel actions. On November 29, 2006, Plaintiff presented his grievance of his termination at a regular meeting of the Board of Trustees pursuant to the Library's Grievance Procedure. Pltf's Mot. for Abstention, Exhibit 13. In a letter dated December 18, 2006, the Board of Trustees issued a written decision upholding Plaintiff's termination, and terminating Plaintiff's employment with the Library effective December 4, 2006. Id., Exhibit 16.

Procedural History

On April 18, 2007, Plaintiff filed a Complaint (Doc. # 1) in the Superior Court of California against the Library, the Board of Trustees, Robert Riger, individually and in his official capacity as Director of the Law Library, and Joan Allen-Hart, individually and in her official capacity as Assistant Director of the Law Library (collectively "Defendants"). Notice of Removal, p. 1-2. The Complaint alleges the following causes of action: (1) Defendants terminated Plaintiff without providing a pre-termination or post-termination evidentiary hearing, which deprived Plaintiff of his constitutionally protected employment without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, sections 7 and 15 of the California Constitution, and (2) Defendants did ...


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