Mansoor v. County of Albemarle

Decision Date05 February 2002
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.3:00CV00047.,CIV.A.3:00CV00047.
Citation189 F.Supp.2d 426
PartiesKarl MANSOOR, Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Virginia

Deborah Chasen Wyatt, Wyatt & Assoc., Charlottesville, VA, Barbara S. Jenkins, Jenkins & Hagy, P.L.C., Charlottesville, VA, for plaintiff.

Mark Dudley Obenshain, Wharton, Aldhizer & Weaver, PLC, Harrisonburg, VA, for County of Albemarle, Robert Tucker, Larry Davis, Mark Trank, John Miller, Richard Douglas Rhoads, defendants.

William N. Watkins, Sands, Anderson, Marks & Miller, Richmond, VA, for Cynthia Favret, defendant.

John Joshua Wheeler, Charlottesville, VA, for amicus.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MICHAEL, Senior District Judge.

The plaintiff, Karl Mansoor, a police officer for the Albemarle County Police Department, brought this § 1983 claim against the County of Albemarle and six individual defendants whom he alleges all took part in a conspiracy to deprive him of his First Amendment rights. Five of the individual defendants work for the county (hereinafter "county defendants"): Robert Tucker, chief executive of Albemarle County, Larry Davis and Mark Trank, counsel for the county, John Miller, chief of the county police department, and R. Douglas Rhoads, captain of the police department. The sixth defendant, Dr. Cynthia Favret, is the psychologist hired by the county to evaluate the plaintiff. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants were all involved in the creation of a plan which conditioned the plaintiff's further employment on his not making any critical statements about any county employee at any time to any third party. The plaintiff also alleges a state law claim of fraud against the county defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's summary judgment motion shall be granted in part and denied in part; the county and county defendants' summary judgment motions shall be granted in part and denied in part; and the summary judgment motion of defendant Favret shall be granted.

I.

The following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted. The plaintiff began work for the Albemarle County Police Department on August 1, 1994, and regularly received above average reviews for his performance. In April 1997, the plaintiff attended a Board of Supervisors' meeting where he expressed criticism about a proposed pay plan for the police department. The plaintiff also challenged defendant Tucker for allegedly derogatory remarks he made about the police department to a local journalist. Defendant Tucker later sent a letter to the plaintiff in which he denied any such remarks and called on the plaintiff to prove his accusation.

The plaintiff claims that after this incident, he was the target of retaliatory acts including being deprived of overtime work at a local shopping mall, being denied a training opportunity and even being the victim of an attempted assault by a police sergeant. (Pl.'s Ex. X.) Moreover, the plaintiff states that he went to Chief Miller to discuss various concerns he had, but to no avail. According to the plaintiff, the result of the stress and pressure from his workplace contributed to the onset of panic attacks with symptoms including extreme anxiety, rapid heart beat, profuse sweating, shaking and shortness of breath. In early 1998, the plaintiff sought treatment from a private counselor, Dr. Hocking, who diagnosed him with a panic disorder. At the recommendation of the doctor, the plaintiff took a forty day medical leave beginning in March 1998.

In early May 1998, Dr. Hocking recommended that the plaintiff be allowed to return to work. In a letter to Lieutenant S. Earl Newton, Dr. Hocking indicated that the plaintiff showed significant improvement and that while the panic disorder was not fully resolved it was manageable. (Defs.' Ex. 5.) At around this same time, the plaintiff delivered to defendant Miller a letter dated April 20, 1998, in which the plaintiff laid out grievances, complaints and concerns going back to the plaintiff's first days in the department. This included references to the above-mentioned incidents regarding overtime work at the mall, the events surrounding the Board of Supervisors' meeting, the alleged assault attempt by a sergeant as well as claims of plaintiff's sexual harassment by a female supervisor. The plaintiff also criticized the department's new high speed pursuit policy with the plaintiff vowing to hold Miller, Tucker and all members of the Board of Supervisors responsible if either he or a citizen was ever injured because of the policy. (Defs.' Ex. 4.)

According to defendant Miller, the tone of the plaintiff's letter taken together with the somewhat muted endorsement of Dr. Hocking failed to satisfy his concerns about the plaintiff's fitness to return to duty. As such, he asked defendant Rhoads and Lieutenant Newton to meet with Dr. Hocking to discuss the plaintiff's fitness for duty. Dr. Hocking explained that the lengthy complaint letter sent by plaintiff was a type of therapeutic exercise written earlier in his treatment and did not reflect the plaintiff's present attitude toward work.

The defendant claims he remained concerned. Meanwhile, the plaintiff had received news that his claims for workman's compensation for reimbursement of medical expenses and leave were denied. On or about June 6, 1998, the plaintiff discussed with Chief Miller the possibility of getting reimbursed. On June 25, 1998, Chief Miller sent a letter to Dr. Hocking in which he requested information on the causal factors of the plaintiff's disorder. He explained that this request was in order to evaluate the plaintiff's request for reimbursement of certain medical expenses and to determine if the plaintiff continued to be fit for duty. (Defs.' Ex. 9.) In his response, Doctor Hocking stated that "a growing feeling of powerlessness, underlying anger, and a sense that [the plaintiff] somehow could not express his dissatisfaction or concerns to his superiors in the department contributed to [the plaintiff's] development of a panic disorder." (Defs.' Ex. 10.) The doctor concluded with his opinion that the "factors which did contribute to his panic disorder, in my opinion, are much less clear cut, clearly open to interpretation, but nevertheless are job-related in the broader sense of the term." (Defs.' Ex. 10.)

After Chief Miller received Dr. Hocking's letter, he informed defendant Rhoads in a memo that he believed a second opinion was warranted. The plaintiff was requested to report to Dr. Favret for an evaluation. While defendant Miller maintains that this request was the result of his underlying concern for the plaintiff's fitness for duty, the plaintiff claims that he was unaware of this purpose. Indeed, the plaintiff states that he was led to believe that the appointment with Dr. Favret was set up because the department needed to be satisfied that the cause of the plaintiff's panic disorder was job-related for the purposes of his reimbursement claim. While Chief Miller and Lieutenant Newton recall that the question of reimbursement may have been mentioned in their discussion with the plaintiff, they both also state that they had informed the plaintiff that he needed to see Dr. Favret for a determination of fitness of duty. The plaintiff himself confirmed his awareness of defendant Miller's concerns over his fitness for duty, in an email from the plaintiff to defendant Miller, dated July 17, 1998. In this communication, the plaintiff acknowledged that defendant Miller had asked for information from Dr. Hocking in order to determine the plaintiff's fitness for duty. (Pl.'s Ex. LL.) In addition, at his first meeting with Dr. Favret, the plaintiff signed a consent form which stated that the "purpose of this psychological consultation ... is to determine psychological status as it pertains to my ability to discharge my duties in the capacity of police officer...." (Defs.' Ex. 13.)

Still, the plaintiff maintains that he was essentially duped into going to this evaluation on the pretense that his request for reimbursement required a second opinion. The plaintiff believes that this evaluation was the beginning of a plot by the county defendants, in concert with Dr. Favret, to deprive the plaintiff of his First Amendment rights. The first step, according to the plaintiff, was to obtain an unfavorable evaluation from Dr. Favret.

The plaintiff continued in his work as a police officer during this time. Indeed, he received a letter from a local resident praising his professional response to a burglary alarm at a resident's home. (Pl.'s Ex. FF.) That summer, the plaintiff also filed a performance complaint against Chief Miller for failure to investigate the events surrounding his overtime work at the mall, the events related to the Board of Supervisors' meeting in April 1997 and for failure generally to investigate the other incidents mentioned by the plaintiff in his April 20, 1998 letter. (Defs.' Ex. 11.)

In September 1998, the plaintiff sent an email to defendant Rhoads inquiring into what defendant Miller was doing about investigating the plaintiff's complaints. Later in the month, police officers were given a questionnaire and asked to check off from a two column list of items that which they considered to be the priorities for the department. In reply, the plaintiff put his suggestions and grievances in a four page single spaced letter sent to Miller, Tucker, and the Board of Supervisors. In October, the plaintiff forwarded an email to the entire department commenting on the department's vehicle policy and calling for a stop to using benefits to "as tools for harassment and intimidation in disciplinary measures." (Defs.' Ex. 21.) In an October 18, 1998 email to defendant Miller and forwarded to defendant Tucker and the Board of Supervisors, the plaintiff indicated that many members of the department and many citizens in the community...

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3 cases
  • Burrell v. Anderson, No. CIV.04-43-P-K.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maine
    • January 13, 2005
    ...Burrell relies primarily on Mansoor v. Trank 319 F.3d 133, 138-39 (4th Cir.2003) and the decision below, Mansoor v. County of Albemarle, 189 F.Supp.2d 426, 432 — 35 (W.D.Va.2002), a case which addressed First Amendment rights in the context of adverse employment action. The dynamics of thos......
  • Durstein v. Alexander, CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:19-0029
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
    • December 13, 2019
    ...did affirm the lower court's decision which applied NTEU to a restraint imposed on a single employee. Mansoor v. County of Albemarle, 189 F. Supp. 2d 426, 433-38 (W.D. Va. 2002). ...
  • Mansoor v. Trank
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit
    • February 4, 2003
    ...of public concern, and thus concluded that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity. See Mansoor v. County of Albemarle, 189 F.Supp.2d 426, 432-34, 440-41 (W.D.Va.2002). Appellants offer several arguments as to why the district court erred in so holding. We address these argumen......

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