Joyner v. Lancaster, C-82-765-WS.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
Citation553 F. Supp. 809
Decision Date23 December 1982
Docket NumberNo. C-82-765-WS.,C-82-765-WS.
PartiesHarry Leon JOYNER, Plaintiff, v. Manly LANCASTER, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff of Forsyth County; and the County of Forsyth, a public body corporate, Defendants.

Jim D. Cooley and David C. Pishko of Pfefferkorn & Cooley, Winston-Salem, N.C., for plaintiff.

Bynum M. Hunter and Ben F. Tennille of Smith, Moore, Smith, Schell & Hunter, Greensboro, N.C., and P. Eugene Price, Jr., Forsyth County Atty., Winston-Salem, N.C., for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HIRAM H. WARD, Chief Judge.

On July 9, 1982, plaintiff Harry Leon Joyner filed a complaint against defendants Manly Lancaster and Forsyth County in which plaintiff alleges that the defendant Lancaster discharged him from employment in the Sheriff's Department because of his support of Lancaster's opponent in a Democratic Party primary election campaign. Plaintiff seeks relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This matter is now before the Court upon plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction (July 9, 1982). Plaintiff requests reinstatement to his former position in the Sheriff's Department pending the determination of this case. The parties presented testimony and exhibits at a hearing on November 29, 1982, and oral arguments on December 8, 1982. The parties also submitted evidence in affidavit form.

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. The Forsyth County Sheriff's Department (Department) employs approximately 160 people, 157 of whom are deputized, and approximately 36 reserve deputies. In the spring of 1982 the command officer staff included one major and five captains, three of whom command Patrol Divisions. Each Patrol Division is on duty daily during one of three shifts. Subordinate to the captains are several lieutenants who are also command officers.

2. Clement Manly Lancaster, a defendant, began employment as a deputy in 1950 and was elected sheriff on the Democratic Party ticket in 1970. The citizens of the county re-elected Lancaster as sheriff in 1974, 1978, and 1982. The office of sheriff is created by Article VII, Section 2 of the North Carolina Constitution. The sheriff has the exclusive right to hire, supervise, and discharge employees in his office, excluding the hiring of close relatives. N.C. Gen.Stat. § 153A-103.

3. Harry Leon Joyner, the plaintiff, was employed as a deputy in the Department in May, 1962, by Sheriff Ernie Shore. While Shore was sheriff plaintiff attained the rank of senior deputy.

4. Soon after becoming sheriff in 1970 Lancaster adopted a military-type rank system in the Department and assigned the rank of lieutenant to plaintiff because he was a senior deputy. On or about May 1, 1974, Lancaster promoted plaintiff to the rank of captain primarily because of plaintiff's seniority in the Department.

5. The parties dispute the scope of the duties of a captain. As a captain plaintiff was the immediate commanding officer of a Patrol Division, a unit of approximately 16 men. In this capacity plaintiff was the "watch commander" when his division was on duty and would be the highest ranking deputy on duty during the two evening shifts. At the hearing plaintiff denied participating in policy or procedure making, but admitted that his job involved the implementation of procedure and that at times he had to exercise independent judgment. Plaintiff also stated that an outline of duties of a captain in the Department prepared in 1979 by the North Carolina Institute of Government was accurate ((Affidavit of Manly Lancaster, Attachment (September 3, 1982) (hereafter Lancaster Affidavit)).

The Court finds that the position of captain was a command level, policymaking position. Captains are responsible for planning and directing patrol division activities and must make frequent independent decisions. Lancaster Affidavit, Attachment. Captains supervise and evaluate the work of subordinates and must work closely with other supervisory personnel. Also, patrol division captains direct the Department's response to emergencies. Lancaster Affidavit, Attachment; Deposition of Clement Manly Lancaster at 101 (December 7, 1982) (hereafter Lancaster Deposition). Lancaster's testimony provides a thorough description of a captain's duties. Captains are the sheriff's communication links with the deputies in the field. The sheriff relies on the captains to advise him when making employment decisions and to inform him of problems and solutions to problems within the Department. Lancaster states that he confides in the captains by telling them confidential information regarding contemplated changes in policy or procedure. Lancaster Affidavit ¶¶ 6 & 7. Captains are essential in implementing new policy or procedure. Affidavit of G.R. Dillon ¶ 6 (November 29, 1982) (hereafter Dillon Affidavit). Others testified about the confidential nature of a captain's duties and his role in policymaking and implementation. Affidavit of E.D. Alston ¶¶ 3 to 7 (September 3, 1982) (Alston is a Patrol Division captain). J.W. Seivers, a captain, stated in an Affidavit (September 3, 1982) (hereafter Seivers Affidavit) that plaintiff attended command level meetings at which internal problems and policy and procedures changes were discussed. Trust and confidence must also exist among the command officers. Affidavit of E.P. Oldham ¶ 6 (September 3, 1982) (Oldham is a lieutenant).

6. Since the position of sheriff is an elected one and command level officers such as captains are privy by the very nature of their duties to confidential information about the internal affairs of the Department, such officers are in a position where at least the potential exists to use this information for partisan political purposes. Sheriff Paul H. Gibson of Guilford County, North Carolina, persuasively testified that a sheriff must be able to trust his officers not to so abuse their positions. Affidavit ¶¶ 2 and 4 (September 3, 1982). This situation is particularly significant because the captain's duties include representing the sheriff in dealing with civic groups and the general public. Lancaster Affidavit, Attachment.

7. Around November, 1981, plaintiff learned that Robert Woods, a friend, planned to challenge Lancaster in the Democratic Party primary election. At that time plaintiff intended to support and vote for Lancaster.

8. In November, 1981, plaintiff discussed the upcoming election with Lancaster. Plaintiff told him that he and some other deputies would support Woods if Lancaster did not run. Complaint ¶ 7 (verified by plaintiff). Lancaster revealed his plan to run for re-election and his thoughts about retiring mid-term and being succeeded in office by someone within the Department selected by vote of the deputies and appointed by the Board of County Commissioners. Plaintiff expressed his feeling that he could support no one within the Department as a successor.1

9. Between November, 1981, and March, 1982, plaintiff decided to vote for Woods but not publicly support him.2

10. On May 8, 1982, plaintiff received a standard annual pay raise. Plaintiff's Hearing Exhibit # 1. While serving as a captain plaintiff received standard (cost-of-living) pay raises and no merit pay raises. Dillon Affidavit ¶ 2; Lancaster Affidavit ¶ 8.

11. In early May, 1982, J.W. Seivers, captain of the Department's Criminal Investigation Division, asked plaintiff bluntly if he supported Woods. Plaintiff responded affirmatively. Seivers severely criticized plaintiff for this decision, describing it as an act of disloyalty. Deposition of Harry Leon Joyner at 16-17 (December 7, 1982) (hereafter Plaintiff's Deposition); Complaint ¶ 8; Seivers Affidavit ¶ 9. This incident caused plaintiff to publicly campaign on Woods' behalf since he felt his job was in jeopardy. Plaintiff's Deposition at 17.

12. Seivers, not plaintiff, reported this incident to Lancaster. Lancaster instructed Seivers and others that he "could take" plaintiff's campaigning and discouraged them from confronting or approaching plaintiff about Woods. Seivers Affidavit ¶ 9; Lancaster Deposition at 120.

13. In May, 1982, Major Dillon, the second in command in the Department, asked deputies for contributions for Lancaster's campaign and for signatures on a petition supporting Lancaster. Plaintiff refused the request. Although Lancaster testified at the hearing that he permitted Dillon to do this and instructed him to tell the deputies that the request was not mandatory, this activity violated the County Code since the solicitation occurred on government property during working hours. Complaint ¶ 9. Consequently, Lancaster ordered Dillon to refund the money contributed.

14. The refunding of the contributions precipitated a mandatory meeting of the deputies at a skating rink in Kernersville, North Carolina. Lancaster testified that he addressed the gathering but could not remember his remarks. Plaintiff testified that Lancaster told the assembled deputies of his awareness of the lack of 100% support within the Department for his re-election and his lack of concern about it. Complaint ¶ 10. Carl Parrish, an attorney, renewed Dillon's previous requests and plaintiff again declined them.

15. In May and June, 1982, plaintiff publicly campaigned for Woods. He talked with civilian acquaintances about Woods and helped distribute campaign literature and posters, but engaged in neither activity while on duty or in uniform. However, plaintiff participated in frequent conversations at the Department about the campaign. Complaint ¶ 11; Plaintiff's Deposition at 31. Several deputies testified that he never tried to pressure them into supporting Woods. Affidavits of Lee T. Shelton ¶ 7; Ednee M. Gaylor ¶ 7; Terry E. Ford ¶ 7; Douglas K. Cesario ¶ 7; Alexander J. Niforos ¶ 7; F. Ray Bottoms ¶ 3 (November 29, 1982). Lancaster testified that he received reports that plaintiff was attempting to wrongly influence the votes...

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