Yesterday in the Sixth Circuit court of appeals the City of Centerville got the smackdown on their illegal firing of Centerville Police Sgt James Myers. I’ve written about this before- starting in June of 2020. The courts move exceedingly slowly, which is great for lawyers who bill hourly- and bad for clients who pay and pay.
Myers was fired for writing a letter on his own time, in support of an employee in the public works department who had already been fired for acting in a way that seemed to be the norm in this department. Myers sent the letter to the employee’s attorney, not to the city. The city claims he was disparaging the city and out of line, and fired him. They also talked smack about him- ruining his chance to go to the FBI academy- as well as his opportunities for advancement in his field.
The Sixth Circuit in their decision, defended Myers rights to opine, as protected speech under the First Amendment. They also denied any kind of immunity protection for the City Manager or police managers. Near the end of the decision there was this gem “Only an official with skin as thin as rice paper could find that insulting.”
The opening paragraphs are easy to read, it then turns into a bunch of legal arguments that may be hard to follow for non-lawyers, but in general, the right to support a fired co-worker, or blow the whistle on top government officials punch drunk with power- has been protected.
Myers himself wrote that the firing of the other employee as an example wasn’t in the best interest of the taxpayers, to which he was absolutely correct. Neither was pursuit of all these appeals- the taxpayers in Centerville are going to be hammered with huge legal bills as well as a large payout for wrongful termination.
The real question is will the people who were reckless throughout this shitshow be held accountable- or fired? Probably not.
Here’s the opening by the court:
“By nearly all accounts, James Myers was a model employee for the City of Centerville,steadily climbing the Police Department’s ranks over three decades to become a detective sergeant. In 2015, however, Myers started causing headaches for the City’s bigwigs—in a smalltown, Frank Serpico sort of way. He reported several serious allegations of misconduct among the Department’s upper brass, some of which have yet to be fully investigated. He also stood up for an acquaintance in the Public Works Department, whom he thought the City had unfairly fired. The City returned the favor, suspending Myers without pay for five days. Not long thereafter, the City fired Myers, allegedly for secretly recording a meeting between him, City Manager Wayne Davis, and Police Chief Matt Brown. Myers sued the City, Davis, and Brown, alleging a First Amendment retaliation claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and several state law claims.
The defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing (among other things) that Myers failed to state a claim and that Davis and Brown are entitled to qualified immunity and statutory immunity under Ohio law. The district court summarily denied the motion, which Davis and Brown now appeal. We hold that the district court erred by failing to meaningfully analyze their assertions of immunity at the pleadings stage, but we affirm after concluding that Myers plausibly alleged a First Amendment retaliation claim and that the defendants are not yet entitled to qualified or statutory immunity.”Decision in Myers vs City of Centerville, OH No. 21-3850 US Court of Appeals 6th district
Maybe it’s time for Centerville to stop appealing, and start paying. Better yet, consider a change in City Manager and in a Police Chief. I’d personally think you’d do fine with Sgt. Myers. Look to Boston Mayor, Michelle Wu, who recently went an hired a Chief from Ann Arbor, after he’d been harassed, beaten, disciplined and mistreated for decades as a Boston Police Officer up to Superintendent.
But, that would take real leadership by a Mayor and City Commission who has already shown that they will do anything to shut up someone who dares to question authority in “warm and cheerful” Centerville.