24 F.3d 1526 (6th Cir. 1994), 93-5222, Williams v. Com. of Ky.

Docket Nº:93-5222, 93-5656.
Citation:24 F.3d 1526
Party Name:Maggie WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY; Cabinet for Human Resources; John Hodgkin; Ronald Holland; Frank J. Willey; Lynne McWilliams; P. Kenneth Cox; Margaret Whittet; Darvin Allen, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:May 26, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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24 F.3d 1526 (6th Cir. 1994)

Maggie WILLIAMS, Plaintiff-Appellee,


COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY; Cabinet for Human Resources;

John Hodgkin; Ronald Holland; Frank J. Willey;

Lynne McWilliams; P. Kenneth Cox;

Margaret Whittet; Darvin

Allen, Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 93-5222, 93-5656.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 26, 1994

Argued April 21, 1994.

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James M. Mooney, Eugene F. Mooney (argued and briefed), Mooney, Mooney & Mooney, Lexington, KY, for plaintiff-appellee.

Robert Y. Gwin (argued), D. Patton Pelfrey, Robert W. Dibert, Charles E. Allen, III (briefed), Brown, Todd & Heyburn, Louisville, KY, for defendants-appellants.

Before: MILBURN and GUY, Circuit Judges; and TIMBERS, Senior Circuit Judge. [*]

MILBURN, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Maggie Williams is a tenured employee of the Commonwealth of Kentucky with more than twenty years of service in the Cabinet for Human Resources, Department for Employment Services ("DES"), Division for Field Services. From February 1985 until May 3, 1990, Ms. Williams was the Field Office Manager of the DES office in Winchester, Kentucky, and its satellite office in Richmond, Kentucky, where she supervised approximately thirty employees. These offices administer unemployment insurance and employment services programs for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Williams brought this action under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 challenging her demotion from the position of Field Office Manager to Senior Unemployment Insurance Examiner. 1 She alleged that defendants violated her procedural due process rights by demoting her without prior notice and hearing and violated her rights under the First Amendment by demoting her for engaging in protected free speech. Williams also alleged violations of state law. The district court denied defendants' motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity and granted Williams' motion for partial summary judgment on her procedural due process claim. In these consolidated appeals, the issues are (1) whether defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as to Williams' free speech claim, (2) whether the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity as to Williams' procedural due process claim,

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(3) whether the district court erred by granting partial summary judgment to Williams on the procedural due process claim, and (4) whether the Eleventh Amendment prohibits the claims for injunctive relief.


Williams' complaint and affidavit indicate that she believes the problems she experienced with her supervisors, which eventually resulted in her demotion, began in November 1988, when she attended a meeting of DES office managers in Louisville, Kentucky. Williams states that at this meeting, the managers were told that they were expected to hire and promote the "Governor's people" for positions under their supervision and that failure to cooperate would result in "serious consequences." Williams alleged that the plan to hire the "Governor's people" violated the state merit system laws, and she made her position on this matter clear to her supervisors. She also informed the employees under her supervision that she would not help political employees obtain merit positions.

Williams alleged that in February 1989, defendants Cox, Whittet, and Willey caused the state to hire a political appointee, Franklin L. Gibson, as an unclassified "federally funded time limited" employee in the Richmond DES office; thus, he was placed under Williams' supervision. Gibson's job was to recruit applicants to the Federal Job Corps program. During Gibson's six-month probationary period, Williams informed defendants Cox and Hodgkin that she believed Gibson was engaging in political activities on the job and was using the DES office telephones to conduct his private business. Williams also informed defendants that Gibson failed to account to his supervisors, including Williams, for his work time and travel activities and that Gibson had submitted a falsified travel voucher. Consequently, in June 1989, Williams recommended to defendants Cox, Whittet, and Willey that Gibson not be retained after his probationary period due to his political activities on the job. Defendants declined to follow Williams' recommendation. Williams reported Gibson's falsified voucher, and an alteration of the voucher authorized by defendant Cox, to the Kentucky Attorney General's office. Williams also reported to the Kentucky State Police her suspicions regarding Gibson's unauthorized telephone calls.

Thereafter, Williams alleges that defendant Cox attempted to force her to change her unfavorable recommendation of Gibson and that upon her refusal to comply with his request, he gave her an adverse job performance rating. Subsequently, an administrative review hearing was held in August 1989 to determine whether Williams' employment should be terminated. As a result of the hearing, a formal reprimand was entered in Williams' personnel record.

In October 1989, defendant Allen instituted, and defendant Holland conducted, an investigation of Williams' management of the Winchester DES office. As a result of this investigation, defendant Allen issued a memorandum to all employees of the Winchester DES office directing them to refrain from making derogatory comments about claimants, clients, job seekers, employer representatives, or other members of the public, as well as co-workers, subordinates, or supervisors. Notwithstanding this directive, Williams continued to report politically motivated activities of DES employees. Williams informed defendants Hodgkin, Allen, Whittet, and Holland that she suspected that James B. Little, an employee in the DES Winchester office, had "bought" Williams' job and was engaging in political patronage activities in making job referrals, soliciting or accepting gratuities from job applicants, and committing criminal acts of vandalism against Williams. On April 6, 1990, Williams formally reprimanded Little for engaging in partisan political activities on the job.

In response to the reprimand, Little filed a formal grievance with defendant Hodgkin, objecting to the reprimand and requesting an investigation of Williams' management of the Winchester DES office. On April 26, 1990, defendant Allen requested the Cabinet for Human Resources' Office of Inspector General to conduct another investigation of the management of the Winchester DES office. On May 3, 1990, Williams was removed from her Field Office Manager position and temporarily

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assigned to work as an interviewer in the DES office in Georgetown, Kentucky. Defendants state that Williams was temporarily reassigned to facilitate the investigation of the Winchester DES office. This assignment was extended through an administrative procedure known as detail to special duty until the investigation had been completed.

In February 1991, Williams reported threats she had received and acts of vandalism perpetrated against her to the police and Federal Bureau of Investigation. She also related the political activities and violations of Kentucky law allegedly occurring at DES.

After the Office of Inspector General's investigation of the Winchester office had been completed, defendant Holland recommended to defendant Allen that Williams be terminated or demoted because the investigation revealed that (1) Williams had given preferential treatment to some employees, allowing them to violate regulations, while refusing to help other selected employees seek advancement through the merit system; (2) Williams had maintained a pattern of verbal abuse toward employees and citizens in violation of defendant Allen's memorandum directing that she and other employees refrain from making such derogatory comments; and (3) Williams had continued to "factionalize" the Winchester office by threatening to retaliate against employees who associated with Little. After additional investigation, James Thompson, the DES Regional Supervisor, concluded that Williams should be terminated for insubordination and possible criminal conduct in her management of the Winchester office. Instead of accepting this recommendation, defendant Allen requested a demotion for Williams.

On May 30, 1991, Thompson and defendant Hodgkin hand delivered an eighteen-page letter from defendant McWilliams to Williams at the Georgetown DES office advising Williams of her demotion. The letter detailed the reasons for the demotion and concluded by advising Williams that as an employee with status in her position she was entitled to "appeal this action to the Personnel Board, within thirty (30) days after receipt of this notice." J.A. 1027.

Williams filed this action in the district court against the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Cabinet for Human Resources, and various individual supervisors and administrators. The individuals were sued in both their individual and official capacities. The complaint consisted of five counts: (1) deprivation of employment rights without due process under the Fourteenth Amendment in violation of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, (2) deprivation of employment rights for exercising free speech rights under the First Amendment in violation of 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, (3) reprisal for reporting suspected violations of Kentucky law in violation of Ky.Rev.Stat. Ann. Sec. 61.102, (4) demotion without just cause in violation of Ky.Rev.Stat.Ann. Sec. 18A.095, and (5) wrongful discharge. Williams sought restoration to her position as Field Office Manager of the Winchester DES office, expungement from her personnel record of all references to her reprimand and demotion, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, and a declaratory judgment that defendants violated her rights under federal and state law.

Defendants moved for summary judgment arguing that the Eleventh...

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