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Hanford Executive Management Employee v. City of Hanford

June 12, 2012

HANFORD EXECUTIVE MANAGEMENT EMPLOYEE ASSOCIATION, CATHY CAIN, LOUIS CAMARA, GEORGE THOMAS DIBBLE, TIMOTHY IERONIMO, MARY ROSE 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 TO DISMISS AMENDED COMPLAINT (Doc. 50)

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendants City of Hanford et al. move to dismiss the first amended complaint of plaintiffs Hanford Executive Management Employee Association et al. pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For reasons discussed below, the motion shall be granted in part and denied in part.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

On March 15, 2012, plaintiffs Hanford Executive Management Employee Association, Cathy Cain, Louis Camara, George Thomas Dibble, Timothy Ieronimo, Mary Rose Lindsay, Carlos Mestas and Scott Yeager (hereinafter referred to as "Plaintiffs") filed their first amended complaint (FAC) against defendants City of Hanford, Hilary Straus, Dan Chin, Sue Sorensen, Jim Irwin, Lou Martinez and Joleen Jameson (hereinafter referred to as "Defendants") asserting 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, California Civil Code § 52.1, (5) violation of Article I, §§ 7 and 19 of the California Constitution, California Civil Code § 52.1, (6) violation of Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act -- California Gov. Code §§ 3300 et seq., (7) violation of Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights Act -- California Gov. Code §§ 3250 et seq., (8) injunctive relief, and (9) declaratory relief. Plaintiffs alleged therein as follows:

"19. 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 Council 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:

"20. 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. As executive management employees, the terms and conditions of their employment with the City of Hanford are governed by the City's Rules and Regulations in effect at the time they were hired. Attached hereto as Exhibit 2 and incorporated herein by this reference is a true and correct copy of the Rules and Regulations."

Plaintiffs further alleged:

"21. The Rules and Regulations expressly and by operation of law give the individual plaintiffs certain vested property rights protected under California law, including the following: [¶] a. Status as a permanent employee who could only be terminated and/or disciplined for 'just cause' after completion of a probationary period; [¶] b. 'Bumping rights': the right to return to a previously held position and reemployment rights in the event of a layoff; [¶] c. Appeal rights for discipline; and [¶] d. Progression through salary steps and a non-discretionary right to automatic step increases for 'average' performance."

Plaintiffs further alleged:

"22. Plaintiffs were induced to accept jobs with the CITY in partial reliance on the fact that they knew they would be permanent employees once they passed their probation. Having passed their probationary periods the Plaintiffs then enjoyed the benefits of permanent employment, including the knowledge that they could not be divested of their permanent status or employment without due process, and would be entitled to bump to lower positions in the event of layoffs."

Plaintiffs further alleged:

"23. On or about March 10, 2011, STRAUS, on behalf of each and every one of the Defendant, first met with EMEA representatives to inform Plaintiffs of proposed changes to the existing Rules and Regulations. Those changes were to be presented to the Hanford City Council for ratification on March 15, 2011. At that meeting, STRAUS refused to provide the EMEA representatives with the PowerPoint presentation that was shown to the City Council. [¶] 24. Plaintiffs thus discovered for the first on March 10, 2011 that STRAUS had submitted an agenda item to the City Council to amend the Rules and Regulations to make substantial changes to the Policy of Administration for Executive Management Employees.

Plaintiffs further alleged:

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."

Plaintiffs further alleged:

"25. The changes outlined . . . above differed substantially from the Rules and Regulations then in existence which apply to the individual plaintiffs. Attached hereto as Exhibit 3, and incorporated herein by this reference is a true and correct copy of the March 15, 2011 Memorandum to the City Council proposing changes to the Rules and Regulations. [ΒΆ] 26. Attached hereto as Exhibit 4, and incorporated herein by this reference is a true and accurate copy of the City of Hanford Management Pay Plan applicable to the individual plaintiffs. Among other changes, the City revised the pay plan ...


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