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Crews v. Monarch Fire Prot. Dist.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 18, 2014

Leslie Crews; Cary Spiegel; Michael Davis, Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Monarch Fire Protection District; Kim Evans; Steve Swyers, Defendants - Appellees

Submitted September 8, 2014.

Page 1086

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis.

For Leslie Crews, Cary Spiegel, Michael Davis, Plaintiffs - Appellants: Martin M. Green, Joe David Jacobson, Allen P. Press, GREEN & JACOBSON, Saint Louis, MO.

For Monarch Fire Protection District, Kim Evans, Steve Swyers, Defendants - Appellees: Michael Bakewell, Clayton, MO; Robyn Fox, Natalie Higgins, Steven James Hughes, PITZER & SNODGRASS, Saint Louis, MO.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, SMITH and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1087

RILEY, Chief Judge.

Three ex-fire chiefs--Leslie Crews, Cary Spiegel, and Michael Davis (collectively, chiefs)--appeal the district court's[1] adverse grant of summary judgment on

Page 1088

their procedural due process claims challenging the manner of their terminations. The chiefs' claims focus on the abruptness of the termination decision by Monarch Fire Protection District's (Monarch) board of directors (board) and on two board members' public statements allegedly damaging the chiefs' reputations. With appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm the grant of summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

In 2011, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict against Monarch in an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by some of Monarch's female firefighters. See Kessler v. Monarch Fire Prot. Dist., 352 S.W.3d 677 (Mo.Ct.App. 2011) (per curiam). Four days after the decision was filed, Monarch's board held a closed, special meeting. Of Monarch's three directors--Kim Evans, Steve Swyers, and Robin Harris--only Evans and Swyers were physically present. Harris participated by telephone, but for this reason was unable to vote. During the meeting, the board voted to request the resignations of several of Monarch's high-ranking officers (including the chiefs) with the understanding that absent a resignation, the board would vote to terminate each chief's employment. Charles Billings, Monarch's attorney, informed Fire Chief Clifford Biele, Monarch's first-in-command under the board, of this decision and provided Chief Biele with resignation letters for the chiefs to sign.

Chief Biele called Crews and Spiegel (the only two present at the time) into his office and informed them of the board's decision. He explained the board voted to discharge the chiefs in light of the sexual discrimination found to have occurred at Monarch, and he informed Crews and Spiegel they would be terminated if they did not sign the resignation letters. Billings also spoke with Crews and Spiegel, explaining the decision was due to the recent Missouri appellate decision. Crews and Spiegel asked for time to think over their options, and after spending about a half hour in their own offices, they returned to Chief Biele and refused to resign. They maintained " there was no reason for them to resign" and they were being " wrongfully terminated." Two police officers who were standing by then escorted Crews and Spiegel off the premises.

Chief Biele telephoned Davis, who was off duty at the time, and gave him the same news and option to resign. After taking time to consider, ...


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