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Plummer v. County of Warren

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 5, 2014

KATHLEEN PLUMMER, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF WARREN, NEW YORK et al., Defendants.

Brennan, White Law Firm DANIEL J. STEWART, ESQ., Queensbury, NY, for the Plaintiff.

Lemire, Johnson Law Firm APRIL J. LAWS, ESQ., GREGG T. JOHNSON, ESQ., MARY ELIZABETH KISSANE, Malta, NY, for the Defendants.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Kathleen Plummer commenced this action against defendants County of Warren, New York and the Warren County Sheriff's Department pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of her First Amendment right of free speech, and pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, alleging that her termination was arbitrary and capricious, and/or an abuse of discretion.[1] (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending before the court are the parties' cross motions for summary judgment, (Dkt. Nos. 15, 19), and Plummer's motion to amend/correct the complaint, (Dkt. No. 29). For the reasons that follow, the motions are denied.

II. Background[2]

In April 2004, Plummer was hired by Warren County, specifically the Warren County Sheriff's Office, to work as a Corrections Officer at the Warren County Jail. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts (SMF) ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 35; Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts (SMF) ¶ 2, Dkt. No. 20.) On three occasions, beginning in July 2011, Plummer was the subject of disciplinary action for conduct she engaged in while employed by the Warren County Sheriff's Office.

First, in July 2011, an investigation commenced regarding allegations that Plummer had provided a pen and paper to an inmate without authorization. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 25.) The next month, Plummer was served with disciplinary charges in connection with that incident, accusing her of violating Sheriff's Office rules and regulations regarding the providing of contraband to inmates. ( Id. ¶¶ 31, 34.) A disciplinary hearing began on September 30, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 36.)

In the meantime, on October 5, 2011, prior to the conclusion of the hearing initiated by the first set of charges brought against Plummer, she was served with a second set of disciplinary charges, alleging that she was insubordinate and disrespectful towards her supervisor. ( Id. ¶¶ 38-41, 43-44.) Specifically, Plummer was accused of slouching with her hands in her pockets while being addressed by a superior, and failing to follow direct orders to respond to her superior's questions. (Pl.'s SMF ¶ 24.)

The final incident resulting in discipline stemmed from an encounter Plummer had in her home with Officer Fish of the Fort Edward Police Department on October 11, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 27; Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 46-48.) Officer Fish had gone to Plummer's home to speak with Plummer and her husband regarding an interaction Fish had with the Plummers' son. (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 7 at 36-37.) While at Plummer's home, Officer Fish indicated to Plummer and her husband that he was planning to seek employment with the Warren County Sheriff's Office. (Pl.'s SMF ¶ 27; Defs.' SMF ¶ 56.) In response, Plummer expressed that Fish should "think twice" before accepting employment with the Sheriff's Office, because she had concerns about activities at the Warren County Jail, there was a lawsuit pending against the Sheriff, and the Sheriff engages in misconduct that goes unaddressed. (Pl.'s SMF ¶¶ 27-28; Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 57-59; Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 7 at 43.)

As a result of this incident, disciplinary charges were brought against Plummer on October 13, 2011 for making comments that brought discredit to the Warren County Sheriff's Office, and for her subsequent dishonesty regarding the incident. (Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 48-51.) Ultimately, the hearing officer recommended sustaining several of the misconduct charges brought against Plummer and terminating her employment. (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 16 at 21-22.) Subsequently, on January 9, 2012, these recommendations were adopted by Warren County Sheriff Nathan York, and Plummer was terminated. (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 17 at 2.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its decision in Wagner v. Swarts, 827 F.Supp.2d 85, 92 (N.D.N.Y. 2011), ...


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