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Dade v. Franklin County

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

June 10, 2019

CLINTON J. DADE, Plaintiff,
FRANKLIN COUNTY, OHIO, et al, Defendants.

          Chelsey M. Vascura Magistrate Judge

          OPINION & ORDER


         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 21). For the reasons below, there remains no genuine dispute of material facts. Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Clinton J. Dade was employed by the Franklin County Sheriff's Office from September 2015 to August 2016. After he was fired, Plaintiff brought this suit against Franklin County, Ohio; Dallas Baldwin, Franklin County Sheriff, in his official capacity; and Zachary Scott, the former Franklin County Sheriff, in his individual and official capacities. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants interfered with his constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of intimate association and, because Defendants did so under color of law, are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff requests reinstatement, back pay and actual damages, compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and injunctive relief declaring the relevant Franklin County Sheriff's Rule of Conduct to be constitutionally vague and overbroad.

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint (ECF No. 1) in June 2017. Defendants subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 21) to which Plaintiff filed a memorandum contra (ECF No. 26). Defendants filed a reply. (ECF No. 28). This is now ripe for review.

         B. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was a probationary Sheriff's Deputy, hired on September 14, 2015. (ECF No. 20, Ex. 4). Plaintiff was given paperwork outlining the Sheriff Office's (“the Office”) employment policies, including policies concerning probationary employees. (ECF No. 20 at 27; ECF No. 20, Ex. 8). Plaintiff was informed that his probationary period was one year, and that “during the one year probationary period that follows the employee's hire date, ” a probationary employee “can be removed from service without cause at any time.” (Id.). The Office also maintains rules of conduct for its employees. (ECF No. 20, Ex. 32). Plaintiff received a copy of these regulations during his training. (ECF No. 20 at 131). Two rules relevant here are AR102.19 and AR102.29. The first, AR102.19, is titled “Association with Wrong Elements, ” and reads in full:

Personnel will avoid association or dealings with persons whom they know, or should know, are persons under criminal investigation or indictment, or who have a reputation in the community or the Office for involvement in felonious or criminal behavior, except as necessary to the performance of official duties, or when unavoidable because of other personal relationships. (ECF No. 20, Ex. 32).

AR102.29 is titled “Unbecoming Conduct, ” and reads in full:

Personnel will conduct themselves at all times, both on and off duty, in such a manner as to reflect most favorably on the Office. Unbecoming conduct will include that which brings the Office into disrepute or reflects discredit upon the individual as a member of the Office or that, which impairs the operation, or efficiency of the Office or the individual. (Id.)

         On May 1, 2016, the Office received an email from Michelle Whitehall making allegations against Plaintiff. Ms. Whitehall and Plaintiff have two kids together, one daughter and one son, although it appears Plaintiff only knew the son was his during the events relevant here. (ECF No. 20 at 106:19-107:11). According to Defendants' Internal Affairs Investigation file, Ms. Whitehall alleged Plaintiff “had beaten her on several occasions.” (ECF No. 17, Ex. 1 at 4). Ms. Whitehall said she had pictures of the marks he left. (Id.). Ms. Whitehall also alleged Plaintiff “consumes alcohol daily and drinks and drives…and would tell stories of what he did to inmates while working at Franklin County Sheriff's Office.” (Id.)

         Following Ms. Whitehall's email, the Office opened an internal investigation. First, the Office discovered that Plaintiff had a “speed and seat belt conviction” from March 2016 which he had not disclosed to the Office. (ECF No. 17, Ex. 1 at 4). Internal Affairs interviewed Plaintiff and made multiple efforts to contact Ms. Whitehall. (Id.). Ms. Whitehall “chose not to cooperate” with the investigation, so “with the lack of any evidence supporting her allegations, ” Internal Affairs recommended the case be closed as “unfounded.” (Id. at 6). However, Plaintiff was reprimanded for failing to report his speed and seatbelt violation. (ECF No. 20 at 43:12-22).

         On August 9, 2016, officers from the Columbus Police Department (CPD) responded to a “domestic violence/assault” involving Plaintiff and Ms. Whitehall. (ECF No. 20, Ex. 2 at 3). Both parties gave statements, which agree about only certain facts from the evening. In a statement to the Office, Plaintiff said “at around 1am, I was told by my sons mother [sic] that I could come over and she would preform [sic] oral sex on me.” (ECF No. 19, Ex. 2 at 6). Ms. Whitehall met Plaintiff in his car, where the two talked and drank wine; when they finished the wine, Plaintiff “drove to a nearby bar and purchased a few beers to go.” (Id. at 3). Although Ms. Whitehall began to perform fellatio, at some point she stopped, and “an argument erupted about whether Deputy Dade's girlfriend was around their son, ” at which point Plaintiff asked Ms. Whitehall to get out of the car. (Id.).

         At this point, the two stories diverge: Plaintiff alleges Ms. Whitehall refused to get out of the car and instead threw a beer at him, so he dialed 911. (Id.). He alleges Ms. Whitehall hit him in the face and tore his shirt; that she re-entered the car “while clawing at his face”; that she placed him in a headlock and he bit her on the stomach. (Id.). Plaintiff said that he began to walk away, leaving Ms. Whitehall in the car, but he realized his phone was still in the car, so he walked back and attempted to drive away. But while he did so, Ms. Whitehall climbed back into the car, so he stopped the car and dragged her out and on to the grass, before he eventually drove away. (Id.).

         In Ms. Whitehall's version of events, Plaintiff choked her, and she responded by hitting him. Plaintiff allegedly threw her to the ground once they were both out of the car; and when they were back in the car, Ms. Whitehall alleges Plaintiff punched her, bit ...

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