Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. Town of Morris

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

May 9, 2019

TERRY WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF MORRIS, ALABAMA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ABDUL K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Terry Williams filed this action against his former employer, the Town of Morris, Alabama, alleging that the Town violated his procedural due process rights by terminating his employment without notice or a hearing. Doc. 1-1. This action is before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgement. Docs. 21 and 26. According to Williams, the Town did not give him adequate notice of the reasons for his termination, or an opportunity to be heard before it terminated him, in violation of the due process clause of the United States and Alabama Constitutions, and Alabama Code § 11-43-230. Docs. 1-1 and 23. Consequently, Williams seeks lost wages and benefits, mental anguish damages, and an order declaring his termination void and reinstating him as a police officer for the Town. Id. Although the Town admits that it did not give Williams written notice, or a formal hearing prior to his discharge, the Town contends that Williams had oral notice of the reasons for his termination and that Williams' pre-termination meeting with the Chief of Police satisfies the requirements of due process. Doc. 26. For the reasons explained below, Williams' motion for summary judgment is due to be denied, and the Town's motion is due to be granted solely as to Williams' claims for monetary damages for violations of § 11-43-230.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis of the motion and proving the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Id. at 323. If the moving party meets that burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who is required to go “beyond the pleadings” to establish that there is a “genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “[T]he presence of cross motions does not affect [the court's] standard of review.” Oviedo Town Center II, L.L.L.P v. City of Oviedo, Florida, 2018 WL 6822693, at * 3 (11th Cir. Dec. 28, 2018) (citing Ft. Lauderdale Food Not Bombs v. City of Ft. Lauderdale, 901 F.3d 1235, 1239 (11th Cir. 2018)).

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Williams worked as a police officer on a full-time basis for the Town of Morris from May 5, 2014 until February 15, 2018, docs. 22-2 at 1; 25-11, and had attained non-probationary status as an employee before his discharge, docs. 22-1 at 40-41; 22-2 at 1; 22-3 at 11. This lawsuit stems from the Town's decision to discharge Williams after his arrest on misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. See docs. 1-1; 25-8 at 33; 25-9 at 1.

         Jefferson County, Alabama issued a warrant for Williams' arrest on February 9, 2018 based on allegations that, among other things, Williams bought cigarettes for a minor on two occasions. Docs. 25-8 at 33; 25-9 at 1-2. When Williams learned of the warrant that day, he texted the Town's Chief of Police, Mike Nazarchyk, stating, “Call me, important.” Docs. 25-1 at 38; 25-4; 25-10 at 1. Thereafter, Williams informed Chief Nazarchyk about the arrest warrant and “what was going on.” Doc. 25-1 at 38. See also docs. 22-1 at 18; 25-10 at 1. The Chief responded by telling Williams that he would inform the mayor about the situation, and that “[w]e'll probably put you on admin leave without pay.” Docs. 25-1 at 38; 22-1 at 19, 46. The Chief also advised Williams to turn himself in, which Williams did two days later. Docs. 22-1 at 19, 46; 25-1 at 38-39; 25-10 at 2; 25-12.

         After his release on bond, Williams met with Chief Nazarchyk to discuss the charges against him. Docs. 22-1 at 18; 25-1 at 38-39; 25-10 at 2. During that meeting, the Chief gave Williams a letter stating, “Effective as of this date you are hereby placed on administrative leave without pay until further notice.” Docs. 22-2 at 1; 22-4; 25-1 at 39; 25-10 at 2. When the Chief told Williams that, in light of the arrest and the accusations against Williams, the Mayor would accept Williams' resignation, Williams stated that he would not resign because he had not done anything wrong. Docs. 25-1 at 38; 25-10 at 2. Chief Nazarchyk informed Williams that Mayor Joe Pylant and the Town Council would decide any further disciplinary actions to take against Williams, but the Chief does not remember telling Williams that he could present his side of the story to the Council. See doc. 22-1 at 27.

         The Town Council called a special meeting on February 14, 2018 to discuss what actions to take against Williams in light of his arrest. Docs. 22-1 at 28; 22-3 at 15; 25-1 at 40; 25-14 at 1. The Town posted notices of the meeting at a gas station in Morris, at the post office, and on a bulletin board at town hall, which stated:

This is to advise that there will be a Special Called Meeting of the Morris Town Council on Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. at the Morris Town Hall to make decisions concerning the Morris Police Department and the Morris Volunteer Fire Department and to consider a Proclamation to recognize the period of February 23-25, 2018 as National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend.
Anyone who wishes to attend is invited to do so.

Doc. 25-14 at 6. See also docs. 22-1 at 28; 22-3 at 15. Williams did not see the notices, and, consequently, neither he nor a representative attended the meeting. Docs. 25-1 at 40; 22-1 at 29; 22-3 at 24.

         During the meeting, the Council went into executive session with the Mayor, the Chief, and the Town's attorney, Teresa Watson, to discuss Williams' employment, and the Council “voted unanimously to terminate Williams' employment, effective immediately.” Docs. 22-1 at 45-46; 22-3 at 16; 25-10 at 3; 25-14 at 2. According to Chief Nazarchyk, the Town felt it needed to act quickly in response to Williams' arrest and the accusations leading to his arrest so that the community would not “lose their trust in the police department.” Doc. 25-10 at 3.

         Williams did not learn about the meeting until the next day when he met with Chief Nazarchyk. Doc. 25-1 at 40. See also doc. 25-10 at 3. At that meeting, the Chief gave Williams a letter dated February 15, 2018, stating, “[t]he Governing body of the Town of Morris has decided that as of this date your services a Police Officer for the Town of Morris are no longer required.” Docs. 22-2 at 2; 22-5; 25-10 at 3. The Chief signed the letter, and asked Williams to sign it. Docs. 22-2 at 2; 22-5; 25-1 at 38, 40. Williams refused, however, because he did not believe he had done anything wrong. See doc. 25-1 at 38, 40. See also doc. 25-10 at 3. Williams “figured” that his termination was based on his arrest, but the Town did not give him any written reason for the termination. Docs. 25-1 at 41. After receiving the letter, Williams asked the Chief how long he had to appeal his termination, and the Chief replied that Williams had fourteen or fifteen days. Docs. 22-1 at 20; 25-1 at 41; 25-10 at 3.

         Subsequently, Williams sent a text message to Chief Nazarchyk, asking him, “[c]an I get a copy of the page or pages used to terminate me?” Docs. 22-1 at 19; 25-1 at 41. In response, the Chief stated that Williams “would have to contact [the] city attorney in regards to that . . . .” Docs. 22-1 at 19; 22-6. See also docs. 22-2 at 2; 25-10 at 3. According to Williams, he also asked the Chief about his rights regarding an appeal and hearing, but the Chief did not provide him with that information. Doc. 22-2 at 2. After communicating with the Chief, Williams called Watkins, the Town's attorney, to ask for a copy of the Town's personnel rules and for information about his rights to a hearing and to appeal. Docs. 22-2 at 2; 25-1 at 41. Watkins declined to provide the requested information, stating that she did not have to talk with Williams and would talk with his attorney instead. Docs. 25-1 at 41, 45-46; 22-2 at 2. On February 26, 2018, Williams sent a letter to Mayor Pylant stating:

I Terry Williams give notice to appeal my termination of employment from the Town of Morris.
On 2/20/2018 a Notice of Court Action was granted for an Order Granting Motion to Dismiss signed by Judge Katrina Ross.[1]

Docs. 22-2 at 2; 22-3 at 13; 22-7. Neither the Town nor Mayor Pylant responded to Williams' letter, or contacted Williams about his appeal. Docs. 22-2 at 2; 22-3 at 14; 25-1 at 42. This action followed.

         III. ANALYSIS

         Williams asserts three claims against the Town: (1) Count One-violations of Alabama Code § 11-43-230, and Article 1, § 13 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901 (“Article I, § 13”), (2) Count Two-violations of his federal due process rights, and (3) Count Three-a claim for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking an order declaring his termination ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.