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Rick Eaton v. Mark J. Siemens

February 27, 2012

RICK EATON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARK J. SIEMENS, AN INDIVIDUAL AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF POLICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

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This matter arises out of Plaintiff Rick Eaton's ("Plaintiff") claims that the City of Rocklin ("City"), Carlos A. Urrutia ("Urrutia"), in his individual capacity and in his capacity as the City manager and Mark J. Siemens ("Siemens") in his individual capacity and in his capacity as the Chief of Police, improperly terminated Plaintiff because of his inclusion in a discrete and identifiable group, and thus, violated his rights to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Presently before the Court is Defendants' "motion for permission to file a second motion for summary judgment."

(ECF No. 299.) Plaintiff opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is DENIED*fn1

BACKGROUND

The Court has recounted the relevant facts of this case in detail on a number of occasions. Thus, in the interest of brevity, the Court recounts only those facts necessary for understanding of the Court's analysis.

Plaintiff was a police officer with the City of Rocklin Police Department. The City terminated Plaintiff after he made a number of complaints regarding the allegedly criminal background of a fellow officer. In addition to criticizing this officer, Plaintiff also criticized Siemens in briefings and conversations with subordinates regarding Siemens' alleged unethical conduct in using a police vehicle for personal use. Plaintiff also criticized Siemens for instituting an allegedly illegal incentive program for ticketing motorists for red light violations. Plaintiff claimed Siemens illegally rewarded officers with pizzas, paid for with public funds, as an incentive to ticket more motorists. Plaintiff believed that the City's "Departmental Directive and Admonition" of January 16, 2003, discouraged officers from reporting wrongdoing within the department, such as sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and misuse of public resources.

In 2002, the department issued Plaintiff a 40-hour unpaid suspension for what it characterized "verbal harassment in the form of unwanted and inappropriate sexually oriented comments." (Court's Mem. & Order, filed December 14, 2009 [ECF No. 199] at 4:13-14.) Moreover, between 2002 and 2004, Defendants alleged that Plaintiff engaged subversive conduct that undermined the order and efficient operation of the Rocklin Police Department. For example, as this Court explained in its December 19, 2009 Order, Plaintiff informed superiors of a fellow police officer's criminal background and discussed the matter within the department, despite warnings to refrain from doing so; he engaged in confrontations over performance evaluations; and he criticized superiors for alleged improper personal use of police vehicles and for instituting what Plaintiff alleged were illegal ticketing incentive programs. (See generally id. at 4:12-8:22.)

Plaintiff proceeded to file an internal grievance pursuant to his union contract for the 40-hour suspension he received in 2002. On June 30, 2004, after a five-day evidentiary hearing, that grievance was denied by arbitrator Catherine Harris. Harris found "just cause" for the City's 40-hour suspension of Plaintiff for violation of the verbal harassment policy." (Id. at 8:23-28.) Plaintiff was subsequently terminated as outlined by the Court in its previous Order:

On November 1, 2004, [City Manager] Urrutia issued plaintiff a Notice of Termination setting forth the following charges: (1) plaintiff made malicious and threatening statements to his supervisor Newman on October 13, 2003 during a performance evaluation, including statements concerning the sexual orientation of Newman's ex-wife; (2) during October to December 2003, plaintiff made disparaging remarks about Newman during briefings and in conversations with his subordinates; (3) during that same period, plaintiff made disparaging remarks about Siemens during briefings and in conversations with subordinates; (4) during November 2003, while on duty, plaintiff offered to show a police report about Newman to Olivera to help Olivera in an internal affairs investigation; (5) in September 2004, plaintiff made inappropriate comments about the disposition of his verbal harassment grievance to Sergeant Vizzusi and Lieutenant Johnstone; and (6) plaintiff did not follow the mission of the department and the directions of the Chief of Police, and he refused to strictly adhere to the standards and policies of the department. The Notice indicated that all six charges described conduct violative of the Rocklin Police Department's Departmental Directive and Admonition, dated January 16, 2003. (Mem & Order at 9:6-10:6.)

Plaintiff's termination prompted a second evidentiary hearing held in 2006. That hearing was previously summarized as follows:

On January 9, 2006, following a seven-day evidentiary hearing, in which 18 witnesses testified and 100 exhibits were moved into evidence, arbitrator William Riker issued a 49-page advisory decision, denying plaintiff's grievance and sustaining each of the six charges against [P]laintiff contained in the Notice of Termination. (Id.)

On January 11, 2006, Urrutia issued a letter accepting the arbitrator's advisory decision without modification and sustaining Plaintiff's termination. Plaintiff vociferously opposed the arbitrator's bases for his termination.

Specifically, Plaintiff maintains that Defendants retaliated against him because of his complaints of what he contends constituted an illegal ticket incentive program and reports of alleged Brady*fn2 violations based on the department's failure to disclose officers' criminal history. Importantly, Plaintiff contends that other department employees were similarly retaliated against for reporting illegal activity by Defendants and/or refusing to participate in illegal ...


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