United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. MARKS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Willie Robinson is the former Chief of Police of Alexander
March 2018, the Plaintiff filed a complaint against
Defendants Alexander City, Mayor Jim Nabors, and city council
members Bobby Tapley, John Eric Brown, Tomas J. Spraggins,
and Timothy Byron Funderbunk related to his termination as
Chief of Police.
mater is before the court on the Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 7.)
This motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.
For the reasons stated herein, the Defendants' Motion is
due to be denied.
Willie Robinson is an African American male who began
employment with Defendant Alexander City in or around 1991.
During his over twenty-five-year employment history, he was
promoted in rank to Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Deputy Chief.
2013, the city council unanimously voted to promote the
Plaintiff to Chief of Police. He received positive reviews
and did not receive any performance-related discipline.
his tenure as Chief of Police, the Plaintiff tried to hire
more qualified African American employees. He also asserts
that he discussed the need to hire more African American
employees in the fire and police departments with Fire Chief
Kem Jones. The Plaintiff was the only African American
employee in a department head position and there were only a
handful of African American employees working for the city.
November 2016, the city elected a new Caucasian Mayor, Jim
Nabors, and four new Caucasian city council members: Bobby
Tapley, John Eric Brown, Tomas J. Spraggins, and Timothy
Byron Funderbunk. The new administration planned to review
five positions, including the Plaintiff's. During
evaluations, the Plaintiff was informed that there were no
issues with his performance. According to the Plaintiff,
despite his positive evaluation, the new council members and
mayor began privately communicating about his position in
violation of the Open Meeting Act. Then, in January 2017, the
city council voted the Plaintiff out of his position as
Police Chief, pursuant to its statutory authority. Alexander
City ALA. Code § 2-41 (“The city council, at the
first regular meeting, shall elect a city clerk, chief of
police . . . and other officers necessary. The duties of whom
shall be regulated by ordinance.”). The Plaintiff was
terminated without being provided a reason and was replaced
with a Caucasian male who the Plaintiff describes as less
qualified. Kem Jones, the Fire Chief with whom the Plaintiff
discussed increasing diversity hiring, was also terminated
and replaced with a Caucasian male. The Plaintiff further
alleges that he was not provided the opportunity to remain
employed as a police officer after the decision to replace
him as Police Chief.
on these allegations, the Plaintiff brings several claims:
(1) race discrimination claims under Title VII and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1981 (presumably through 42 U.S.C. § 1983)
against Defendant Alexander City; (2) a § 1983
Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim against Defendant
Alexander City; and (3) § 1983 Fourteenth Amendment
Equal Protection claims against Defendants Nabor, Tapley,
Brown, Spraggins, and Funderbunk in their individual and
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the sufficiency of the
complaint against the legal standard set forth in Rule 8:
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to
‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “Determining whether a complaint
states a plausible claim for relief [is] . . . a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.”
Id. at 679.
plausibility standard requires “more than a sheer
possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Conclusory allegations that
are merely “conceivable” and fail to rise
“above the speculative level” are insufficient to
meet the plausibility standard. Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555, 570. This pleading standard “does not require
‘detailed factual allegations,' but it demands more
than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me
accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Indeed,
“[a] pleading that offers ‘labels and
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'”