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7th Circuit rules against Anderson mayor in suit following firings

June 25, 2015

Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith lost his appeal of the finding that he is not entitled to qualified immunity regarding all of the fired government workers involved in a lawsuit alleging their discharges violated the First Amendment.

The federal court found Smith is only entitled to qualified immunity with respect to nine of the 11 plaintiffs’ claims. The 7th Circuit considered only the surviving claims of Robin Allman and Margaret Baugher.

Allman was office manager for the city’s utility department when Smith was elected. After being told she would not be retained as office manager, she moved to a cashier position in the department. After Smith took office, he “promoted” her back to office manager and immediately fired her.

The federal appeals court concluded that Smith is not entitled to interlocutory review of the question of whether Allman was entitled to be a cashier.

Baugher worked as customer service supervisor in the same department. She mainly interacted with co-workers and members of the general public. The District Court judge found, based on the evidence, that it appeared her position falls outside the exemption of First Amendment protection. The 7th Circuit agreed that Smith is not entitled to qualified immunity on her claim as her position has no significant policy-making discretion, so she cannot be fired on political grounds.

The case is Robin Allman, et al. v. Kevin Smith and City of Anderson, Indiana, 14-1792.

 

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