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Monroe v. City of Lawrence

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

January 27, 2014

MICHAEL MONROE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF LAWRENCE, KANSAS and TARIK KHATIB, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Michael Monroe brings suit against Defendant City of Lawrence, Kansas and Defendant Tarik Khatib, Chief of Police for the Lawrence Police Department. Plaintiff asserts three claims: (1) denial of his liberty interest without due process pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Lawrence, (2) race discrimination under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. against the City of Lawrence, and (3) race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 against the City of Lawrence and Chief Khatib. Defendants seek dismissal of Count I against the City of Lawrence and Count III against Chief Khatib. The Court largely denies the motion but grants it in small part.

I. Factual and Procedural Background[1]

Plaintiff Michael Monroe is an African-American and resides in Lawrence, Kansas. Defendant City of Lawrence ("City") is a home-rule municipal corporation. Defendant Tarik Khatib ("Chief Khatib") is the Chief of Police for the Lawrence Police Department ("LPD").

Monroe was employed by the City in the LPD from 1991 until his ultimate termination on July 23, 2012. When Monroe began with the LPD, he was a patrol officer. In 2011, Monroe worked as a Sergeant in the Investigations Division, the position from which he was terminated.

2010 Investigation

In or about the spring of 2010, after the KU cash-for-tickets scandal was reported in the news, an LPD employee informed then Captain Khatib about an arrangement between a Caucasian LPD sergeant ("MS") and a member of the Kansas University Athletic Department ("RJ"). Captain Khatib and Captain Zarnowiec spoke with MS and asked whether MS received free athletic event tickets from RJ "in exchange for taking care of traffic tickets." MS admitted to Captain Khatib that he had taken care of a few traffic tickets for RJ and admitted that he had received tickets from RJ. MS, however, denied that he had received athletic tickets in exchange for taking care of the traffic tickets. Captains Khatib and Zarnowiec did not interview other witnesses regarding the complaint, and the LPD closed its investigation into the matter. The LPD allegedly did not discipline MS as a result of this spring 2010 complaint and investigation.

On or about July 29, 2010, the City received an anonymous letter alleging that "quid pro quos" existed between RJ and LPD officers, and specifically mentioned MS as one of the officers. The LPD allegedly did not revisit the issue with MS after this letter.

2011-2012 Investigation and Monroe's Termination

Sometime after Khatib became the Chief of Police in February 2011, the City again received an anonymous letter alleging that RJ received favors from officers of the LPD, specifically referencing MS. In May 2011, Chief Khatib contacted the LPD's Office of Professional Accountability regarding the anonymous letter. The LPD conducted an investigation based on this letter ("the 2011-12 investigation").

As part of the 2011-12 investigation, Captains Zarnowiec and Ward interviewed several civilians and LPD officers, including Monroe. Captains Zarnowiec and Ward interviewed Monroe on January 11 and 18, 2012, regarding the allegations in the second anonymous letter. During the interviews, Monroe stated that several years before the interviews (and before the investigation of the spring 2010 complaint), and at the request of MS, he dismissed two to three traffic tickets RJ had received. Monroe stated that he dismissed the tickets because RJ was a friend of MS. Monroe denied that he dismissed tickets in exchange for KU athletic event tickets. Monroe also stated during the interviews that he had received tickets to KU sporting events, but he paid for all of those tickets with the exception of tickets that he had received from a third party for one weekend at the Big 12 tournament. As a result of the 2011-12 investigation, the City offered MS the opportunity to resign his position with the LPD in lieu of termination. Monroe was not offered such a choice.

On or about February 6, 2012, Captain Mike Pattrick informed Monroe that he was being placed on administrative leave as a result of the 2011-12 investigation. On or about February 13, 2012, Chief Khatib met with Monroe and informed him that he would be demoted from Sergeant to officer assigned to the Patrol Division, effective February 26, 2012 as a result of the 2011-12 investigation. Chief Khatib provided Monroe with a letter, dated February 13, 2012, confirming his decision to demote Monroe.

On or about February 15, 2012, Chief Khatib received Monroe's written objection to the demotion decision. On February 21, 2012, Monroe was re-interviewed by Captains Zarnowiec and Ward as part of the ongoing 2011-12 investigation. On March 7, 2012, Chief Khatib met with Monroe and informed him that, instead of a demotion, Monroe's employment with the LPD would be terminated, effective March 22, 2012.

Chief Khatib also sent a letter to Monroe on March 7, 2012 and "invited" Monroe to attend a meeting on March 21 in which Monroe could "present information in support of the reasons why you should not be discharged as an employee of the City of Lawrence." A second March 7 letter provided that if Monroe was "dissatisfied with, or take exception to, any discipline imposed upon you, " he could "exercise the rights afforded to you by the City grievance policy." Monroe contends that the language in these two letters demonstrates that Chief Khatib had already decided to terminate ...


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