Dan Hartzog, Jr. successfully defended a Town against claims brought by a former police chief alleging due process and equal protection violations, invasion of privacy, wrongful termination, tortious interference with contract, and civil conspiracy.
Plaintiff was terminated from his employment when the Town decided to name a new police chief. Plaintiff was informed that he was being terminated because the Council wanted to go in a new direction. However, in the F5 report of separation completed by the new Police Chief, it was noted that the plaintiff was terminated for misconduct. Plaintiff had previously complained to the Town Council about the performance of the individual chosen to be the new Police Chief, including allegations that he was being improperly paid without ever coming to work. Plaintiff alleged that his termination was in retaliation for these complaints of alleged illegal activity to the Town Council. Plaintiff was informed of his termination by the new Police Chief, who came to plaintiff’s house at 4:00 a.m. to collect his equipment.
Defendants moved to dismiss on several grounds, including that plaintiff’s speech to the council was made in his capacity as Police Chief, and was not protected as it was speech made as part of his official job duties. In addition, it was argued that plaintiff could not state a “class of one” equal protection claim in the public employment context, that his conspiracy claims were barred by the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine, and that his factual allegations did not support an invasion of privacy claim.
The Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss as to all claims except for a due process liberty interest claim based on the F5 report. After offering plaintiff a name-clearing hearing, defendants were able to resolve the remaining claim for a non-monetary settlement, with an agreement to amend the F5 report and provide a neutral letter of reference.
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