United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Northeastern Division
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
these three consolidated actions,  Defendants have filed a
Motion for Summary Judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims.
(Case Nos. 2:17-cv-00079, Doc. No. 40; 2:17-cv-00080, Doc.
No. 50; 2:18-cv-00022, Doc. No. 35). Those Motions have been
fully briefed by the parties and, for the reasons that
follow, will be granted with respect to Plaintiffs'
federal claims, but the Court will decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over their state law claims.
looking at Plaintiffs' counter-statement of facts, one
might guess that this is a complicated class action, or a
multi-district litigation (MDL) case. It is not. It is a case
about three former employees of the City of Algood
(“Algood” or “City”), Tennessee who
claim they were unlawfully discharged. Nevertheless, and for
reasons that could probably never be adequately explained,
Plaintiffs have filed a 78-page, 438-paragraph Statement of
Undisputed Facts (Doc. No. 79).
Court's Local Rules provide that, in response to a motion
for summary judgment and its accompanying statement of facts,
“the non-movant's response may contain a concise
statement of any additional facts that the non-movant
contends are material and as to which the non-movant contends
there exists a genuine issue to be tried.” L.R.
56.01(c). Despite Plaintiffs' claims to the contrary,
facts they present are not concise, some are not additional,
and many are simply not material.
first 12 pages and 66 paragraphs of Plaintiffs' statement
consist of what can only be characterized as a lengthy
summary of Justin Medlin's deposition testimony. This is
followed by a 12-page, 71-paragraph summary of Vaughn
Larson's deposition testimony, and then a 4½-page,
40-paragraph summary of Karen Bohannon's deposition
testimony. Next, the statement turns its attention to the
individual Defendants' deposition testimony with 9 pages
and 56 paragraphs devoted to Gary Harris, and then a 12
½-page 62-paragraph summary of Scott Bilbrey's
testimony. This is followed by 72 pages consisting of 108
paragraphs that primarily summarize Keith Morrison's
deposition testimony, but also includes excerpts from
Algood's handbook, and the entirety of a letter from
Plaintiffs' counsel that Morrison received from the City
Attorney. The remaining 5 pages and 18 paragraphs are devoted
to recounting a press conference where Plaintiffs'
terminations were announced, including setting forth
verbatim a news story published February 24, 2017.
be expected when “factual” statements are based
almost exclusively upon deposition testimony, many of the
statements are nothing more than opinions, beliefs and
speculations. Other statements contain interpretations of
law, masquerading as facts. None of this is proper, nor
doubt, somewhere within Plaintiffs' colossal filing are
actual, disputed facts that support their respective
positions, but it is not the Court's duty to sift through
that filing to determine what those may be. See,
Emerson v. Novartis Pharm. Corp., 446 Fed.Appx. 733,
736 (6th Cir. 2011) (noting that while “there might
have been evidence in the record . . . to create a material
question of fact . . . it was not the district court's
duty to track down those facts”); Finley v.
Kelly, ___ F.Supp.3d ____, ___, No. 3:19-CV-00129, 2019
WL 2482159, at *7 (M.D. Tenn. June 14, 2019) (internal
citation omitted) (explaining that, in considering the
record, a court is “not like a boar ‘hunting for
truffles,' . . . or a gold prospector looking for
nuggets”). Instead, in determining whether genuine
disputed material facts exist, the Court needs to know the
time, not how to build a clock, and certainly not one the
size of Big Ben.
the Court has reviewed all of the filings including
Plaintiffs' Statement of Facts (“PSOF”) and
Defendants' responses thereto (Doc, No. 83) and
Defendants' Statement of Facts (“DSOF”) and
Plaintiffs' responses thereto (Doc. No. 77). From those
filings and based on the record as a whole, the following
appear to be the relevant facts:
Larson, and Bohannon all worked for the City of Algood.
Medlin was a police officer and most recently a Detective
Sergeant. Larson had dual roles, working as both the City
Recorder and City Clerk. Bohannon worked for the Public Works
Department as a water meter reader. (PSOF ¶¶ 47,
too, worked for the City. Gary Harris was a police officer
who eventually became Chief of Police; Scott Bilbrey was the
Mayor, and Keith Morrison was the City Manager. (Id.
¶¶ 33, 35, 236).
the City has approximately 30 employees, of whom a dozen or
so work on the police force. (Doc. No. 78-1 Medlin Depo. at
115). There are no contracts of employment, and the City
Handbook explicitly states that it does not create any
contractual rights. (DSOF ¶ 5).
his employment with the City, Medlin spoke with Bohannon in
person and via cell phone. Some of those conversations
occurred while they were on duty. He also texted both
Bohannon and Larson and sent sexually explicit images of his
anatomy to both women, including pictures of his penis. (PSOF
¶ 11). Medlin also used his cell phone to receive and
store sexually explicit picture and messages that he received
from Larson and Bohannon. (DSOF ¶¶ 3, 4).
parties dispute who owned the cell phone, with Defendants
claiming it belonged to the City. Medlin asserts the cell
phone was given to him by Harris after Harris purchased it
from the City, and it was Medlin's belief that he could
do with it as he pleased. (PSOF ¶ 12). Regardless, it is
undisputed that the City paid for the cellular service that
Medlin used. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 16).
relationship with Bohannon and Larson extended beyond these
sexually-charged conversations and electronic communications.
He had a sexual relationship with both women. (Id.
¶¶ 10, 7). The sexual activity with Larson occurred
off-duty. (Id. ¶ 88). With Bohannon, the
location and time of such activity was not so limited and
discrete, as they had sexual relations several time at work
while both were on duty and, at least one time, at City Hall.
(PSOF ¶ 10). In addition to those two women, Medlin sent
sexually explicit texts and photos to at least four other
women while he was on duty as an Algood police officer. (Doc.
No. 55-1, Medlin Depo. at 22-24).
point, Harris received a complaint from his cousin, Tammy
Sheldon, regarding a sexually explicit picture Medlin had
sent her via Facebook. (PSOF ¶ 204). On January 11,
2017, Medlin was summoned to a meeting with Harris, during
which Harris told him that he had received a complaint and
showed Medlin the picture. Harris also said that he had
spoken with Morrison who instructed Harris to send Medlin
home. (Doc. No. 78-1, Medlin Depo. at 72). At that time,
Medlin was placed on paid leave pending an investigation.
investigation unfolded, Medlin hired a lawyer and requested a
hearing. The City agreed to that request and scheduled a
pre-termination hearing. (DSOF ¶ 9). However, on
February 10, 2017, immediately before the hearing, Medlin
submitted a resignation letter addressed to the City
Attorney, and the hearing was cancelled. (PSOF ¶ 3).
claims he resigned because he “felt like he had to . .
. get the benefits he would otherwise not be entitled to if
he had been terminated, ” including pay for accrued
leave time. (PSOF ¶ 23). Medlin also believed that any
hearing would be a mere formality because he would be fired
no matter what he said. (Id. ¶ 24). This belief
apparently stemmed from the fact that, while Medlin had
supported Harris' bid to become police chief, the two had
since had a falling-out. In fact, Harris vowed to “get
rid” of Medlin because Medlin was too close to City
Council, and Harris believed that Medlin was responsible for
an investigation into the alleged fixing of traffic tickets
by Harris. (Id. ¶ 25).
Medlin's resignation, Bilbrey confronted Larson and
Bohannon separately on February 21, 2017. Bilbrey met with
Larson in her office and told her that “sexting
messages” involving Medlin were going to be released to
the public, the City had copies of those messages, and that
anybody involved in the situation would be terminated. Larson
asked to be presented with proof supporting the allegations,
and Bilbrey gave her printed copies of the messages that she
and Medlin had exchanged. At the conclusion of the meeting,
Bilbrey told Larson that she was terminated. The City Council
ratified Larson's termination on March 14, 2017. (PSOF
¶¶ 101, 102; DSOF ¶¶ 20-23)
similar scenario played out in relation to Bohannon. Bilbrey
met with her in her office at City Hall, informed her that
Medlin had exchanged and stored inappropriate sexually
explicit messages on his phone, told her that she was one of
the individuals involved, and handed her printed copies of
the messages that she had exchanged with Medlin. Bilbrey told
Bohannon that she was terminated and that she should collect
her things and leave. Bohannon complied. (PSOF 162-171; DSOF
February 24, 2017, Bilbrey held a press conference and
announced the investigation and its results. This was a first
for Bilbrey, as he had never before held a press conference
in relation to the termination of an Algood employee. (PSOF
the press conference, Bilbrey stated that he would have fired
Medlin had he not resigned and, while he did not mention
either Larson or Bohannon, he stated that the City Clerk and
a meter reader were fired. According to Plaintiffs, Bilbrey
also made several false statements during the press
conference, among them that (1) Medlin was colluding with
city council members to oust Harris and appoint another
person as chief; (2) certain police officers had been
improperly fraternizing with council members; (3) Medlin had
been involved with 10, 000 women; (4) Medlin had affairs with
married women; and (5) thousands of images were exchanged
during the course of the “sexting”
scandal. (PSOF ¶ 53, 55-57; Doc. No. 80 at
16). The press conference was covered by the local media,
including News Talk 94.1, which published an internet story
about the press conference the next day. In it, the article
quoted Bilbrey as saying Medlin had sexual relationships with
multiple women, including two city employees and a city
council woman, the investigation involved the use of a
“city-owned cell phone;” that Harris had been the
target of some sort of conspiracy involving city council
members, and that Bilbrey believed “there was
wrongdoing done and a deliberate misuse of city
devices.” (PSOF ¶¶ 423-427).
Larson nor Bohannon requested a hearing in relation to their
termination. Nor did any of the Plaintiffs file a grievance.
(DSOF ¶¶ 14-21). Instead, they filed separate
lawsuits alleging primarily the same federal and state law
claims. All allege that they were denied procedural and
substantive due process in accordance the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. They also allege
violations of their First Amendment right to free speech and
association. They also bring state law claims for false light
invasion of privacy, and the intentional infliction of
emotional distress. Finally, Medlin brings an additional
claim for constructive discharge in violation of the Public
Employee Political Freedom Act of 1980, Tenn. Code. Ann.
§ 8-50-601, et seq.
Summary Judgment Standards
considering the present Motions for Summary Judgment, the
Court does “not act as [a] super personnel department,
” Lee v. City of Columbus, 636 F.3d 245, 258
(6th Cir. 2011), and second-guess the wisdom of the City
Fathers' (and Mothers') decisions regarding employees
who may have thought they were working in quite the little
Peyton Place. Rather, in reviewing a motion for summary
judgment, this Court only considers the narrow question of
whether there are “genuine issues as to any material
fact and [whether] the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. ...