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Hollist v. Madison County

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 19, 2015

PAMELA HOLLIST, Plaintiff,
v.
MADISON COUNTY, a political subdivision of the state of Idaho, and ROY KLINGLER, in his individual and official capacity, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

B. LYNN WINMILL, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court are Plaintiff Pamela Hollist's: (1) Motion for Clarification/Reconsideration (Dkt. 39), and (2) Motion to Supplement the Record (34). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Hollist's Motion for Clarification/Reconsideration. The Court finds moot Hollist's Motion to Supplement the Record.

To clarify, Hollist's motion for partial summary judgment should have been granted in part and denied in part rather than simply denied because the Court found that she had a property interest in continued employment. As a further point of clarification, the Court notes that Hollist's due process claims against Madison County and Sheriff Klinger in his official and individual capacity survived summary judgment. With respect to Hollist's wrongful termination claim, the Court clarifies that it found in its original decision that Hollist did not have an implied employment contract with Madison County, which limited the at-will employment relationship. The Court, however, has reconsidered this decision and now finds that issues of fact exist on this issue. Finally, the Court finds it improperly dismissed Hollist's freedom of association claim against the County and Sheriff Klinger in his official capacity. However, the Court concludes that it properly dismissed that claim against Sheriff Klinger in his individual capacity.

1. Hollist's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment

Hollist seeks to obtain clarification of the Court's decision on her own Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. In moving for partial summary judgment, Hollist asked the Court to determine whether "(1) [Hollist] had a property interest in her employment with Madison County, and (2) [Hollist] was not an at-will employee, but had a contract that she could only be fired for cause." Dkt. 25-1, p. 5. The Court found that "Hollist's employment with Madison County was not contractual, " Memorandum Decision and Order, p. 10, but then found that she did have a property interest in continued employment, id. at 15-16. So Hollist is correct - the Court should have granted in part her motion for partial summary judgment rather than deny it in full.

2. Due Process Claim

Even though the Court mistakenly said that Hollist had not specifically alleged a due process claim, it nevertheless analyzed the claim because it had been fully briefed by the parties. As Hollist notes, the Court found that Hollist had raised triable issues of fact on her due process claim against both the County and Sheriff Klinger in his individual capacity. Memorandum Decision and Order, p. 27-28, Dkt. 37. Thus, to clarify, Hollist's due process claim against both the County and Sheriff Klinger in his individual capacity survived summary judgment.

3. Wrongful Termination

Hollist also seeks clarification regarding the Court's ruling on her wrongful termination claim. The Court understands why Hollist was confused. The Court buried its discussion of whether Hollist's employment was at-will within its discussion about whether Hollist had a property interest in continued employment, and it never directly addressed her wrongful termination claim. However, as noted above, the Court found that Hollist did not have an employment contract that only allowed her to be fired for cause. And without a contract, Hollist's wrongful termination claim could not survive.

However, upon further reflection, the Court has reconsidered its decision finding no contract. The Madison County Personnel Policy manual contains several provisions that bear on this issue. First, the Policy Manual contains a disclaimer regarding the creation of a contract of employment:

THIS PERSONNEL POLICY IS NOT A CONTRACT. NO CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT WITH MADISON COUNTY WILL BE VALID UNLESS IT IS SIGNED IN ACCORDANCE WITH PROPER PROCEDURES BY A SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE OF THE GOVERNING BOARD AND UNLESS IT IS SIGNED BY AND CONTAINS THE NAME OF THE EMPLOYEE WHO WOULD BE BENEFITTED BY THE CONTRACT.

New employees were subject to a one-year introductory period, during which "either the employee or Madison County may end the employment relationship at will, with or without cause or advance notice." Pls' SOF ΒΆ 11, Ex. 10, p. 3, Dkt. 25-2. Otherwise, the Policy Manual, under the heading "CLASSIFYING EMPLOYEES FOR POLICY PURPOSES, " classified employees and defined their status as follows:

1. Employment Status:

Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, employees of Madison County will not be suspended without pay, demoted with an accompanying change in pay, or discharged from their positions except for cause related to performance of their job duties or other violations of this policy. Cause shall be determined by the employee's supervisor/elected official and shall be communicated in writing to the employee when employee status is changed.
[...]
Only suspension without pay, demotion with change of pay, or discharge for cause shall be subject to the appeal procedure set forth in this personnel policy. The appeal procedure is to be construed in a directory [sic] manner. It is the duty of the appellant to show by clear and convincing evidence that the factual basis for the personnel action is incorrect or that the reasons for the personnel action are contrary to the public interest or violate existing law. Should the appellant ...

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