Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bagala v. Lafourche Parish Government

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 4, 2019

REGGIE BAGALA
v.
LAFOURCHE PARISH GOVERNMENT, ET AL.

         SECTION: “J” (5)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          CARL J. BARBIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are two Motions to Dismiss (Rec. Docs. 25, 26) filed by Defendants, Lafourche Parish Government and Jimmy Cantrelle. Plaintiff, Reggie Bagala, opposes both motions (Rec. Doc. 27). Having considered the motions and legal memoranda, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motions should be GRANTED.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This litigation arises out of Plaintiff's termination from his position as the Parish Administrator for the Lafourche Parish Government. On November 16, 2016, Jimmy Cantrelle, the Lafourche Parish President (“Mr. Cantrelle”), asked Plaintiff to make “polling” phone calls to various Lafourche Parish council members regarding a potential change in the Lafourche Parish employee health insurance contract. After calling two council members, Plaintiff informed Mr. Cantrelle that he would not make any more calls because he believed the calls violated the Louisiana Open Meetings Law.

         On December 2, 2016, the Lafourche Parish Council directed the Lafourche Parish District Attorney to investigate whether the calls were unlawful. Plaintiff alleges that he participated in the investigation by speaking with the District Attorney. Ultimately, the District Attorney concluded that there was not a factual basis for criminal charges against Mr. Cantrelle. On January 31, 2017, Mr. Cantrelle fired Plaintiff from his position as the Parish Administrator. Although Plaintiff was subsequently appointed by the Lafourche Parish Council as the Legislative Auditor, Plaintiff alleges that his new salary is substantially lower, and he has fewer benefits.

         On January 31, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit against the Lafourche Parish Government (the “LPG”) and Mr. Cantrelle, individually and in his official capacity as Lafourche Parish President, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Plaintiff was terminated in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants infringed his freedom of speech after he spoke out against Mr. Cantrelle. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated the Louisiana Whistleblower Statute by firing him after he voiced his opinion that Mr. Cantrelle's conduct violated the Louisiana Open Meetings Law.

         Thereafter, Mr. Cantrelle and the LPG filed separate motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which Plaintiff opposed. This Court heard oral argument on May 16, 2018 and ruled that Plaintiff failed to state a claim against Defendants. However, the Court permitted Plaintiff to file an amended complaint curing the deficiencies within fourteen days. Plaintiff filed his amended complaint one day late. Subsequently, Mr. Cantrelle and the LPG again filed separate motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which Plaintiff opposes.

         PARTIES' ARGUMENTS

         1. Defendant Jimmy Cantrelle's Motion

         Mr. Cantrelle argues that all of Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because his Amended Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Rec. Doc. 25). Mr. Cantrelle raises three arguments in support of this position.

         First, Mr. Cantrelle argues that Plaintiff has not alleged any set of facts that establish a claim for First Amendment employment retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because his speech was not constitutionally protected and, even if it was entitled to protection, Mr. Cantrelle has qualified immunity because his actions were objectively reasonable. (Rec. Doc. 25 at 1). Mr. Cantrelle emphasizes that Plaintiff merely amended his complaint to state that he was engaging in speech as a “citizen” instead of as a “Public Official” as the complaint previously indicated. (Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 4). Mr. Cantrelle argues that because Plaintiff's speech does not meet any of the criteria outlined in Lane v. Franks, 134 S.Ct. 2369, 189 L.Ed.2d 312 (2014), it is properly classified as employee speech and is not protected by the First Amendment. (Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 4, 5). Specifically, Mr. Cantrelle asserts that Plaintiff's speech about Mr. Cantrelle and the Open Meetings Law is not “truthful” like the speech in Lane- which involved conviction on multiple criminal charges-because investigations conducted by the District Attorney and the Louisiana Board of Ethics yielded no grounds to bring charges against Mr. Cantrelle for his conduct. (Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 5). Additionally, Mr. Cantrelle contends that unlike the speech at issue in Lane, Plaintiff's speech was not “sworn testimony.” (Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 6). Plaintiff did not allege in his Amended Complaint that he was compelled to speak. (Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 6). Finally, Mr. Cantrelle argues that Plaintiff's speech differs from the speech at issue in Lane in that it was pursuant to his job as Parish Administrator. (Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 6). Specifically, Mr. Cantrelle asserts that (1) Plaintiff's duties included reporting impropriety, (2) the District Attorney to whom Plaintiff reported Mr. Cantrelle's conduct is within the chain of command, and (3) assisting with an investigation into workplace conduct constitutes employee speech. (Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 7 to 12).

         Second, Mr. Cantrelle contends that Plaintiff's whistleblower claim must be dismissed because Plaintiff has not alleged any set of facts that satisfy the criteria of La. R.S. 23:967. (Rec. Doc. 25 at 2). Mr. Cantrelle asserts that Plaintiff's new allegation that Plaintiff “discuss[ed]” the matter with unidentified others is fatally vague for its failure to identify the “who, what, and when” of the alleged speech. (Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 12). Moreover, Mr. Cantrelle points out that Plaintiff failed to allege how Mr. Cantrelle allegedly learned about these unspecified discussions. (Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 13).

         Finally, Mr. Cantrelle argues that Plaintiff's new theory of recovery based on a provision of the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics must be dismissed because La. R.S. 42:1169 does not provide a private right of action for a plaintiff to sue in state or federal court. (Rec. Doc. 25 at 2, Rec. Doc. 25-1 at 3).

         2. Defendant Lafourche Parish Government's Motion

         The LPG argues that this Court should dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint in its entirety because it does not overcome the deficiencies that prompted the dismissal of Plaintiff's original Complaint. (Rec. Doc. 26-1 at 1). The LPG first asserts that dismissal is appropriate because Plaintiff has failed to plead a claim for First Amendment retaliation. (Rec. Doc. 26-1 at 4). The LPG echoes Mr. Cantrelle's contention that Plaintiff's labeling of the speech at issue as “citizen” rather than “Public Official” does not remedy his failure to set forth facts showing a violation of his First Amendment rights. (Rec. Doc. 26-1 at 4, 5). The LPG argues that dismissal is appropriate for each of the four categories of speech upon which Plaintiff bases his retaliation claim because they constitute employee speech. (Rec. Doc. 26-1 at 7). First, the LPG avers that Plaintiff's objection to Mr. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.