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Sifre v. City of Reno

United States District Court, D. Nevada

August 26, 2014

PAUL SIFRE, Plaintiff,
CITY OF RENO et al., Defendants.


ROBERT C. JONES, District Judge.

This case arises out of alleged retaliation against a police sergeant by his superiors based on protected speech. Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 9). For the reasons given herein, the Court grants the motion in part.


Plaintiff is Reno Police Department ("RPD") Sergeant Paul Sifre. ( See Am. Compl. ¶ 2, Apr. 7, 2014, ECF No. 8). Defendants are the City of Reno, RPD Chief Steve Pitts, RPD Deputy Chief Tom Robinson, RPD Deputy Chief Dave Evans, and RPD Lieutenant Rob Van Diest. ( Id. ). Plaintiff has brought a single claim against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for First Amendment retaliation. ( See id. 7-8).

Plaintiff alleges that on January 3, 2011, Van Diest ordered Plaintiff to falsify a statement concerning non-party RPD officer Chris Good. ( See id. ¶ 4). When Plaintiff refused, Van Diest began to harass Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶¶ 6-7).

On January 29, 2011, Van Diest "ordered Plaintiff to stay away from Plaintiff's own team." ( Id. ¶ 14). When Plaintiff refused, Van Diest told Plaintiff he would receive a negative remark concerning his refusal in his performance evaluation. ( Id. ).

In May 2011, Plaintiff was the subject of an internal affairs investigation, the nature of which Plaintiff does not allege. ( See id. ¶ 15). Chief Pitts sustained two of the charges, despite a review board's unanimous vote not to sustain any charges, and ordered Plaintiff into a performance improvement program. ( Id. ¶¶ 16-18). When they learned Plaintiff intended to appeal, Pitts and Evans reduced the discipline to training to avoid an appeal. ( See id. ¶ 19). As a result of the internal affairs investigation, in late May or early June of 2011, two sergeants who Plaintiff does not identify recommended that Plaintiff volunteer to leave his graveyard shift because Defendants intended to remove him from it anyway. ( See id. ¶ 24). Plaintiff changed shifts on June 3, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 26).

In May 2011, Van Diest also ordered Plaintiff to keep his team out of the downtown area. ( Id. ¶ 21). Plaintiff protested. ( Id. ).

In May 2011, Plaintiff was passed over for promotion despite being ranked fourth on a promotion test "and should have been selected had Defendants followed proper procedures." ( Id. ¶ 22).

In June 2011, Plaintiff applied for the position of SET Team Sergeant. ( Id. ¶ 27). Although he was the only eligible applicant when the position was announced, Evans changed department policy to make other sergeants eligible for the position so that Plaintiff would not be selected. ( Id. ¶¶ 27-28).

In July 2011, Plaintiff was advised that Defendants had ordered Plaintiff not to have any more "ride-alongs" because the females who rode along with Plaintiff were "too good looking." ( Id. ¶ 29). Plaintiff's protests to his superiors fell on deaf ears, and eventually non-party Deputy Chief Whan changed department policy to limit "ride-alongs" to family members-an order referred to as "another Sifre rule." ( Id. ¶¶ 30-32).

Plaintiff applied for Lieutenant again in May 2012. ( Id. ¶ 35). Non-party Sergeant Donohue was selected over Plaintiff, despite being ranked sixth or seventh on the promotion test. ( Id. ). Donohue was thereby the second sergeant promoted to lieutenant off of the list mentioned, supra, on which Plaintiff ranked fourth. ( Id. ). In July 2012, non-party Sergeant Katre was promoted, despite being ranked sixth or seventh on the list. ( Id. ). In September 2012, non-party Sergeant Burfield was the fourth sergeant promoted off of the list. ( Id. ).[1]

In December 2012, non-party Deputy Chief Venzon announced that the lieutenant's list would be vacated and a new test administered, despite Evans's prior assurance that the previous list would remain in effect for two years. ( Id. ¶ 39). Before the new lieutenant's test was administered, non-party Officer Kellie Fox found copies of the test questions in a copier at the RPD main station. ( Id. ¶ 40). Plaintiff reported the incident to Pitts and asked him to investigate. ( Id. ). Pitts said he would consult with Civil Service Director Bailey. ( Id. ). Bailey claimed the questions were accidentally printed to the main station a week after the test had occurred. ( See id. ¶ 41).[2] An RPD technology expert indicated to Plaintiff that such a printing error could not have occurred. ( Id. ¶ 42). Plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the Civil Service Commission concerning the apparent leak of the test questions but is unaware of any further investigation. ( Id. ¶ 43).

In February 2013, Plaintiff applied for the position of training supervisor. ( Id. ¶ 44). Although he was more qualified than the unidentified person selected, he was denied the position because he had challenged the lieutenant selection process. ( Id. ). Plaintiff later applied for a special assignment to the Gang Unit but was ...

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