United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. KALLON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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)).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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 ...