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Hanford Executive Management Employee Association, Cathy Cain, Louis Camara v. City of Hanford

February 22, 2012

HANFORD EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT EMPLOYEE ASSOCIATION, CATHY CAIN, LOUIS CAMARA,
GEORGE THOMAS DIBBLE, TIMOTHY IERONIMO, MARY ROSE
ALTER OR LINDSAY, CARLOS MESTAS, SCOTT YEAGER,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF HANFORD, HILARY STRAUS, DAN CHIN, SUE SORENSEN, JIM IRWIN, LOU MARTINEZ, JOLEEN JAMESON,
DEFENDANTS.



ORDER RE: MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION AND/OR MOTION TO AMEND JUDGMENT (Doc. 34)

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs Hanford Executive Management Employee Association et al. have filed a motion for reconsideration and/or to alter or amend judgment in response to the Court's November 17, 2011 order granting in part and denying in part the motion of Defendants City of Hanford et al. to dismiss the complaint and denying Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. For reasons discussed below, the motion for reconsideration and/or to alter or amend judgment shall be denied.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

On May 19, 2011, plaintiffs Hanford Executive Management Employee Association ("EMEA"), Cathy Cain, Louis Camara, George Thomas Dibble, Timothy Ieronimo, Mary Rose Lindsay, Carlos Mestas and Scott Yeager (hereinafter referred to as "Plaintiffs") filed their complaint for damages and injunctive relief against defendants City of Hanford ("City"), Hilary Straus, Dan Chin, Sue Sorensen, Jim Irwin, Lou Martinez and Joleen Jameson (hereinafter referred to as "Defendants"), alleging causes of action for (1) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 -- freedom of speech, association and collective activity; (2) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 -- substantive due process; (3) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 -- procedural due process; (4) violation of Article I, § 2(A) and 3 of the California Constitution, Civil Code § 52.1; (5) violation of Article I, § 7 and 19 of the California Constitution, Civil Code § 52.1; (6) violation of the Contract Clause of the United States Constitution, Art. I, section 10; (7) violation of the California Constitution, Article I, section 9; (9) retaliation against whistleblower -- California Labor Code Section 1102.5; (10) violation of Public Safety Officers' Procedural Bill of Rights Act -- California Gov. Code § 3300 et seq.; (11) violation of Firefighters' Procedural Bill of Rights Act -- California Gov. Code § 3250 et seq.; (12) injunctive relief and (13) declaratory relief.*fn2 In the complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that EMEA is the "exclusive recognized employee organization representing the City of Hanford bargaining unit" and the individual plaintiffs are "non-exempt executive management employees" of City. Plaintiffs further alleged as follows:

"18. On or about November 16, 2010, six of the seven individual Plaintiffs in this matter (CAMARA, DIBBLE, IERONIMO, LINDSAY, MESTAS and YEAGER) signed a memorandum directed to the Hanford City Counsel and incoming City Council Members, entitled, 'Vote of No Confidence -- City Manager Hilary Straus.' The three page document set forth the reasons why each of the signatories had no confidence in the ability of STRAUS to properly perform the duties of Hanford City Manager. Some of these stated reasons included allegations of dishonest, unethical and potentially illegal conduct, hiding information from management and the public, improperly awarding contracts to STRAUS' friends, potential Brown Act violations, and other unprofessional conduct. Attached hereto as Exhibit 1, and incorporated herein by this reference is a true and correct copy of the Vote of No Confidence Memorandum regarding STRAUS, dated November 16, 2010."

Plaintiffs further alleged:

"19. On or about March 11, 2011, all seven of the individuals named as Plaintiffs in this matter signed and submitted a Petition for Recognition and Certification petitioning the Hanford City Council for formal recognition of EMEA as the bargaining unit for the individual Plaintiffs. [¶] 20. A true and correct copy of the applicable Personnel Rules and Regulations, including the Policy of Administration for Executive Management, in effect prior to March 15, 2011 is attached hereto as Exhibit 2, and incorporated herein by this reference. [¶] 21. Attached hereto as Exhibit 3, and incorporated herein by this reference is a true and accurate copy of the March 15, 2011 Memorandum to the City Council, which proposed changes to the Personnel Rules and Regulations. [¶] 22. Attached hereto as Exhibit 3, and incorporated herein by this reference is a true and accurate copy of the City of Hanford Management Pay Plan that existed prior to the City of Hanford's March 15, 2011 amendments. Among other changes, the pay plan was revised so that step increases can now be denied for 'average' performance, where previously step increases could not be denied for 'average' performance."

Plaintiffs further alleged:

"23. STRAUS, on behalf of each and every one of the Defendants, first met with EMEA representatives on March 10, 2011, to discuss the changes proposed to the Hanford City Council for ratification on March 15, 2011. At the time of that meeting, STRAUS refused to provide the EMEA representatives with the PowerPoint presentation that was shown to the City Council on March 15, 2011. It was not until March 10, 2011 that Plaintiffs first discovered there was an item on the agenda, submitted to the City Council by STRAUS which would amend the City's Personnel Rules and Regulations to make substantial changes to the Policy of Administration for Executive Management Employees, which applied to each of the individual Plaintiffs. The proposed changes included: [¶] a. Converting Executive Management Employees from Permanent employees with property rights in their employment to at-will employees; [¶] b. Revising the Seniority, Layoff and Bumping provisions to strip Executive Management Employees of the right to return to previously held positions and reemployment rights in the event of a layoff; [¶] c. Stripping disciplinary appeal rights from Executive Management Employees; [¶] d. Changing the process by which Executive Management Employees progress through salary steps and creating a right to deny what were previously automatic step increases on the grounds of 'average' performance; and [¶] e. Increasing Executive Management Employees' contributions toward retirement, and decreasing Hanford's contributions toward retirement for Executive Management Employees, including the individual Plaintiffs herein, which also had the impact of decreasing their salaries for purposes of retirement benefit calculations. [¶] 24. The changes outlined in the paragraph above differed from the rules and regulations set forth in the applicable Personnel Rules and Regulations, including the Policy of Administration for Executive Management, in effect prior to March 15, 2011."

Plaintiffs further alleged:

"25. On March 15, 2011, prior to the Hanford City Council meeting, the EMEA wrote to the City Council and addressed the chief concerns of the EMEA and its members. The letter also warned the City Council that passing the proposal by City Manager STRAUS could expose the CITY OF HANFORD to liability and could also expose the individual City members and City Manager STRAUS to personal liability. Attached hereto as Exhibit 5, and incorporated herein by this reference is a true and correct copy of the EMEA's letter of March 15, 2011, addressed to the City Council. [¶] 26. On the evening of March 15, 2011, the HANFORD City Council met to discuss the proposal by City Manager STRAUS. Numerous individuals, including EMEA's counsel, spoke against the proposal, and highlighted the illegal nature of many of the components of the proposal. In spite of being aware of the illegality of the proposal, the Hanford City Council ratified the changes that night, with each and every City Council Defendant voting for the changes. Attached hereto as Exhibit 6, and incorporated herein by this reference, is a true and correct copy of the Minutes of the March 15, 2011 City Council meeting at which the Personnel Rules and Regulations were amended."

Plaintiffs further alleged:

"27. On March 22, 2011, the EMEA delivered a follow-up letter to the Hanford City Council, again advising it of the illegality of the City Council's actions and highlighting the violations of U.S. and California Constitutions, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Meyer-Milias-Brown Act, the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, and the Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act, and warned that if the actions were not immediately overturned, the EMEA and its members would file suit, seek damages, statutory penalties, and an award of attorneys' fees. Like the March 15, 2011 letter before it, this March 22, 2011 letter also warned the City Council that its actions, if not rescinded, could expose the CITY OF HANFORD to liability and could also expose the individual City Council members and City Manager STRAUS to personal liability. Attached hereto as Exhibit 7, and incorporated herein by this reference is a true and accurate copy of the EMEA's letter of March 22, 2011, addressed to the City Council."

Plaintiffs further alleged:

"28. On March 25, 2011, the Hanford City Attorney responded by stating that the City Council would not rescind its actions. In response, on March 30, 2011, the EMEA filed a Government Claim Form with HANFORD regarding the state law damage claims arising from the illegal actions of the Defendants, and each of them." Plaintiff further alleged they filed an amended government claim form with City on April 13, 2011 and that they intend to amend the pleadings upon rejection of the claim.

On June 14, 2011, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), respectively. Defendants argued the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear claims involving alleged violations of the Public Safety Officers' and Firefighters' Procedural Bill of Rights Acts or any claims involving plaintiff Cain. Defendants further contended the ...


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