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Maurer v. Town of Independence

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 7, 2015

DAVID S. MAURER, SECTION: R,
v.
TOWN OF INDEPENDENCE, LOUISIANA, ET AL

ORDER AND REASONS

SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Defendant Independence Volunteer Fire Department moves under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) to alter or amend a portion of the Court's March 2, 2015 Order and Reasons granting in part and denying in part multiple defendants' motions to dismiss.[1] For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This section 1983 and state-law defamation and "Whistleblower Law" suit concerns plaintiff David Maurer's termination from his position as the chief of the Independence Volunteer Fire Department (Volunteer Department).

The Court's order dismissing Maurer's original complaint held that as an employee of a volunteer fire department, Maurer was not entitled to the procedural protections of the Louisiana Firefighter Bill of Rights, La. Rev. Stat. § 33:2181, or the Louisiana classified civil service system, so he had no property interest in his employment.[2] Thus, the Court dismissed his procedural due process claim. The Court also dismissed Maurer's state law "Whistleblower Law" and defamation claims because he had failed to allege elements essential to each cause of action. The Court granted Maurer leave to amend his complaint, and Maurer filed an amended complaint.[3]

The amended complaint sought to rehabilitate Maurer's procedural due process claim by providing two new justifications for his alleged property interest in his employment. First, Maurer contended that although the Volunteer Department was his nominal employer, Tangipahoa Parish, acting through its special district, the Fire District, was Maurer's de facto employer.[4] He alleges that Tangipahoa, acting through the Fire District, "has the right to control all of the volunteer fire departments... because of its authority concerning personnel and finances."[5] Second, he argues that he is entitled to the protections of the Louisiana classified civil service system, again relying on his de facto employer argument to support his position. The amended complaint also contains more detailed factual allegations regarding the allegedly defamatory statements made by various defendants.

Before the Court ruled on defendants' second round motions to dismiss, Maurer moved for leave to file a second amended complaint.[6] The second amended complaint primarily added detail to support Maurer's procedural due process claims. It also deleted Maurer's stigma-plus-infringement claim and deleted his defamation claim against all defendants but Mayor of Independence, Michael Ragusa. The Court granted Maurer leave to amend, and relying on the second amended complaint, ruled on defendants' second motions to dismiss.[7] The Court's March 2, 2015 order again held that Maurer was not entitled to the procedural protections of the Louisiana Firefighter Bill of Rights, La. Rev. Stat. § 33:2181.[8] The Court also held, however, that Maurer's factual allegations plausibly supported the inference that the Tangipahoa Fire District retained the right of employee selection, appointment, supervision, and discharge over Maurer. Therefore, Maurer plausibly alleged that his position as fire chief, a potential de facto employee of the Fire District, qualified for classified civil service protection under the Louisiana Constitution.[9] On this basis, the Court allowed Maurer's due process claim to proceed against both the Fire District and the Volunteer Department.

At issue in the Volunteer Department's motion to amend the Court's March 2, 2015 order is whether Maurer can maintain his procedural due process claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on his de facto employment with the Fire District, a municipal entity, against the Volunteer Department, a private, non-profit volunteer organization.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Parties

Plaintiff David Maurer is the former chief of the Volunteer Department. After he was fired, Maurer sued four groups of defendants-thirteen defendants in all. First, he sued the town of Independence and Independence's mayor, Ragusa. Independence is a political subdivision of Louisiana.

Second, he sued the Volunteer Department and five members of its board of directors: Jeremy Baham, Eric Anthony, Jonathan Tallo, Christopher McKinney, and Anthony Parazzo ("IVFD Defendants"). The Volunteer Department is a domestic corporation that provides fire protection services to Independence and the surrounding area.

Third, Maurer sued Tangipahoa Parish Rural Fire Protection District Number 2 (Fire District), together with two members of the Fire District's Board of Commissioners, Nicholas Muscarello and Carlo Bruno, and the Fire District's administrator, Dennis Crocker ("Fire District Defendants"). The Fire District is a political subdivision of Louisiana.

Finally, Maurer sued Tangipahoa Parish Government, which is also a political subdivision of Louisiana. Maurer sued all of the individual defendants in ...


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