289 F.3d 513 (8th Cir. 2002), 01-3133, Cooksey v. Boyer

Docket Nº:01-3133
Citation:289 F.3d 513
Party Name:Cooksey v. Boyer
Case Date:May 07, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 513

289 F.3d 513 (8th Cir. 2002)

Donald G. COOKSEY, Appellant,

v.

John L. BOYER, individually and in his former, official capacity as Mayor of the City of Potosi, Missouri; City of Potosi, Missouri, by and through the following City officers: Doris Eye, City Clerk, City Clerk; Wayne Malugen, Alderman and Acting Mayor; David Sansegraw, Alderman; John Boyer, Alderman; and Harry "Bud" Forbes, Alderman, Appellees.

No. 01-3133.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 7, 2002

Submitted: April 16, 2002.

Page 514

Mark L. Akers, Clayton, MO, argued, for appellant.

Robert J. Isaacson, St. Louis, MO, argued, for appellees, City of Potosi, Doris Eye, Wayne Malugen, David Sansegraw and Harry" Bud" Forbes.

Tom R. Burcham, III, Farmington, MO, argued, for appellee, John L. Boyer.

Before: BOWMAN, RILEY, and MELLOY, Circuit Judges.

MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

Appellant Donald G. Cooksey appeals the district court's 1 adverse grant of summary judgment on his substantive due process claim. Because we find no constitutional violation occurred, we affirm.

I.

In 1990, Donald G. Cooksey was appointed chief of police of Potosi, Missouri, a town of approximately 3000 residents. As chief of police, Cooksey supervised a small police force and administrative staff. He reported to the police commissioner, the Board of Aldermen and the mayor. In April 1998, John L. Boyer was elected mayor. For reasons not fully clear from the record, Boyer harbored significant animosity toward Cooksey and, in fact, his campaign platform included a promise to reorganize the police department and replace Cooksey.

In the spring of 1998, Cooksey sought treatment for stress. On June 10, 1998, in accordance with City policies, Cooksey submitted a statement from his psychologist explaining his need for excused leave: "Donald Cooksey is under my care and should not return to work until further notice. I have seen him since April (1998) and currently recommend he dramatically reduce his stress, including sick leave from work. Sincerely, Georgia Bensen, Ph.D." On June 25, 1998, Cooksey submitted another note from Dr. Bensen stating he would soon be able to return to work. The note read, in full: "This is to approve Donald Cooksey's return to full-duty effective July 6, 1998. He will remain in my

Page 515

care, however, in light of the stress associated with his job." Cooksey returned to work on July 6.

At a regularly scheduled meeting of Potosi's Board of Aldermen, on July 13, 1998, then-Mayor Boyer disclosed in open session that Cooksey was undergoing treatment for stress by a psychologist. A discussion ensued which resulted in an agreement that Cooksey would need to provide a physician's report confirming his fitness for duty. The transcript of the meeting demonstrates that no further information regarding Cooksey's health was known, or disclosed, by Boyer or the Board members. At the next Board meeting, Cooksey's status was again briefly discussed when a Board member questioned the wording of the Board's letter to Cooksey with regard to the requested fitness for duty report. The topic of Cooksey's health was discussed at one other meeting, on August 10, 1998. The minutes from that meeting provide: "Alderman David Sansegraw transmitted to the Mayor on August 5, 1998, a fitness for duty report submitted July 28, 1998. The report stated Don Cooksey is fully able, mentally and physically, to return to work, signed by Dr. Becky Beremer, D.O."

In February 1999, the mayor sent Cooksey a letter informing him that he was terminated. It was ultimately determined that the mayor's action had not been approved by the Board and Cooksey was reinstated to his position as chief of police on March 29, 1999. On April 8, 1999, the Board impeached Boyer. The impeachment was based, in part, on his treatment of Cooksey. Cooksey remained in his position until January 2000, at which point he resigned, citing his inability to work in a town where his reputation had been maligned and his mental fitness continued to be questioned.

II.

We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo, giving the nonmoving party the most favorable reading of the record. Gentry v. Georgia-Pacific Corp., 250 F.3d 646, 649 (8th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). "Summary judgment is appropriate where one party has failed to present evidence sufficient to create a jury question as to an essential element of its claim.' " Id. at 649-50 (quoting Whitley v. Peer Review Sys., Inc., 221 F.3d 1053, 1055 (8th Cir. 2000) (citing Chock v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 113 F.3d 861, 865 (8th Cir. 1997))). In order to survive a motion for summary judgment under § 1983, the...

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