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7th Circuit affirms official's termination

February 3, 2012

The city of Anderson was justified in firing an official who failed to support a mayoral campaign, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held Friday.

In Larry Davis v. Kris Ockomon, et al., No. 10-2589, Larry Davis appealed his termination as senior humane officer, a job he held from 1988 to 2008. In 2007, Davis backed the mayoral campaign of Darryl Rensil, who was running against Kris Ockomon. After Ockomon won the primary, he reached out to Davis in attempt to gain support before the upcoming general election. Davis declined, purportedly because he thought Ockomon hadn't lived in Anderson long enough to satisfy the residency requirement to become mayor.

Ockomon won the election and fired Davis in January 2008. Davis then filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, claiming his termination violated the First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The District Court looked at the job description for senior humane officer and determined that it could be characterized as a policymaking role, thereby subject to removal on the basis of political affiliation. Davis had contended his job had no policymaking authority. The 7th Circuit looked further into Anderson city ordinances to better understand the scope of the job and found that the senior humane officer has broad discretion over permits, policies and licenses, which indicates that it is a policymaking job. The 7th Circuit therefore affirmed the District Court in all respects.

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