United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. MARKS CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss (doc. 4)
filed by Defendants Billy Helms, Terry Allums, Brendt Murphy,
Dorothy Baker, Rena' Cosby, Harold Robinson Jr., and the
City of Abbeville, Alabama on July 15, 2019.
Plaintiff, Noel Vanlandingham, originally filed a complaint
in the Circuit Court of Henry County, Alabama. The case was
removed to federal court on the basis of federal question
subject-matter jurisdiction. The complaint brings claims for
breach of employment rights (count one), violation of the
First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution (count two), and wanton termination (count
response to the motion to dismiss, Vanlandingham concedes
that his claim against Mayor Billy Helms
(“Helms”) in his official capacity; his federal
claims against City Council Defendants Terry Allums, Brendt
Murphy, Dorothy Baker, Rena' Cosby, Harold Robinson Jr.;
his punitive damages request; his Fifth Amendment claim; his
wantonness claim; and his state law retaliation claim are due
to be dismissed. (Doc. 14 at 1 n.1). Upon consideration of
the motion to dismiss as to the remaining claims, for reasons
to be discussed, the motion to dismiss is due to be GRANTED,
but the claims will be dismissed without prejudice with an
opportunity to be re-pleaded.
facts as alleged in the complaint are as follows:
times material to the complaint, Vanlandingham was the Chief
of the City of Abbeville municipal police department. On May
13, 2019, Vanlandingham was called to Helms' office. He
was asked about a complaint which had been presented to the
City Council. Vanlandingham was told that the complaint had
been presented during executive session and so the nature of
it could not be disclosed. Vanlandingham alleges, therefore,
that he was unable to respond to the complaint.
15, 2019, Helms advised Vanlandingham in a letter that a
complaint against him regarding an audio recording was being
placed on the agenda of the City Council. On May 20, 2019,
Helms and Defendant City Commissioners Terry Allums, Brendt
Murphy, Dorothy Baker, Rena' Cosby, and Harold Robinson
met in executive session and discussed the complaint about
Vanlandingham outside of his presence and the presence of
Vanlandingham's legal counsel. The City Council approved
a punishment of suspension without pay for ten work days.
Vanlandingham's counsel wrote a letter objecting to the
manner in which the matter was handled, and Helms scheduled a
disciplinary meeting. At the hearing, Helms announced that
the hearing was to address Vanlandingham's conduct
unbecoming an employee and using a city vehicle while on
leave of absence.
for Vanlandingham objected that the first matter was
different from the allegation presented to the City Council
and that the second matter was interjected without proper
notice in accordance with City policy.
letter dated May 23, 2019, Helms advised Vanlandingham that
he was suspending him for ten days and that Vanlandingham had
five days to appeal to the City Council. An appeal hearing
was held on June 3, 2019. In response to Vanlandingham's
request that the initial complainant be identified, Brendt
Murphy said that the Council was the accuser.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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)).
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 663 (alteration in original)
(citation omitted). The 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.” Id. 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.'” Id.