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Stegmaier v. City of Reno

United States District Court, D. Nevada

September 18, 2014

JAMES J. STEGMAIER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF RENO, ex rel., its RENO POLICE DEPARTMENT, a government entity, et al., Defendants.

ORDER (DEF'S MOTION TO DISMISS - DKT. NO. 7)

MIRANDA M. DU, District Judge.

I. SUMMARY

Before the Court is Defendant City of Reno's Motion to Dismiss ("Motion"). (Dkt. no. 7.) For the reasons stated below, the Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

II. BACKGROUND

The Complaint is full of factual allegations that are often vague and confusing such that the chronology and purpose of the facts are often difficult to discern. As best as the Court can piece it together, the following are the Complaint's key allegations. Plaintiff was at all relevant times an officer with the Reno Police Department ("RPD"). On or about July 2011, Lt. Amy Newman invited Plaintiff on a lunch date while he was in uniform and in a patrol unit. (Dkt. no. 1 ¶ 9.) On that date, Lt. Newman brought Plaintiff to a home she was considering buying to show Plaintiff a hidden "sex room" in the attic. ( Id. ) Lt. Newman wanted Plaintiff to enter the room, which contained a padlocked door and a single chair in the center, but Plaintiff refused. ( Id. ) On or about August 2011, Lt. Newman asked Plaintiff to accompany her to the Washoe County Coroner's office so that he could take photos with female employees who wanted to see a "cop in motor (knee-high) boots." ( Id. ¶ 10.) On or about October 2011, Lt. Newman gave Plaintiff a "sock monkey" as a gift and "stated that every boy' needs a sock monkey."[1] ( Id. ¶ 13.)

On or about August 2011, Lt. Newman and her partner announced they were "coming out" to Plaintiff and a subordinate. ( Id. ¶ 11.) Lt. Newman and her partner had a penthouse suite where they engaged in sexual activity and Lt. Newman encouraged Plaintiff to use the suite. ( Id. ) Lt. Newman attempted to have Plaintiff and a subordinate go into the suite, saying that whatever happened in the room would stay in her "circle of trust." ( Id. ) This was shocking to the subordinate and Plaintiff assured the subordinate that it was not his idea and would not happen. ( Id. ) "Plaintiff informed RPD of the incident but RPD took no action to rectify the situation."[2] ( Id. )

During an interview Plaintiff gave in an IA investigation on or about October 2011, Sgt. Myers drew a caricature of Plaintiff "orally copulating another male" and showed it to Plaintiff at the end of his interview. ( Id. ¶ 14.) On or about November 2011, Sgt. Myers, an officer in IA, made a photo depicting Plaintiff and fellow employee Sgt. Adamson wrestling and sent Sgt. Adamson an email "advising him that IA was aware of his and Plaintiff's wrestling activities...." ( Id. ¶ 15.) The wrestling photo hung for months in the office above Sgt. Adamson's desk and near Lt. Newman's office. ( Id. ) On or about December 2011, Plaintiff snuck up behind Sgt. Adamson during an interview at a DUI checkpoint and "jovially struck him with a plastic water bottle." ( Id. ¶ 16.) Lt. Newman forwarded a video of this incident to Deputy Chief Mike Whan and stated "you have to love working with these boys!" ( Id. ) Lt. Newman also forwarded the videos to other City of Reno employees and the video was played during RPD briefings. ( Id. )

On or about January 2012, Plaintiff found a file regarding Sgt. Adamson while cleaning out his new desk and gave the file to Lt. Newman.[3] ( Id. ¶ 18.) The file belonged to DC Whan. ( Id. ) Despite Plaintiff's requests, Lt. Newman never spoke to Plaintiff about the origin of the file and instead turned it over to Sgt. Adamson, creating a conflict. ( Id. ) Plaintiff tried to resolve the incident with Lt. Newman's help but Lt. Newman told Plaintiff that he should have destroyed the file after finding it. ( Id. ¶ 19.) Lt. Newman and DC Whan met with Sgt. Adamson and led him to believe that the file belonged to Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 20.) In the months following the incident with the file, Lt. Newman generated five (5) different complaints against Plaintiff, each coinciding with dates of potential promotions for Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff had not received negative remarks in past evaluations. ( Id. )

Plaintiff filed a sexual harassment complaint against Lt. Newman on or about April 2012. ( Id. ¶ 22.) On April 24, 2012, Plaintiff was put on administrative leave while IA investigated him regarding an incident "in the office where guns were drawn in a jovial manner, a quick draw' replication." ( Id. ¶ 23.) Sgt. Myers was involved in the investigation. ( Id. ) Plaintiff asked Deputy Chief Evans for advice in handling the investigation and expressed concern over Sgt. Myers' involvement. ( Id. ¶ 24.) DC Evans told Plaintiff to "fall on the sword" as per Chief Pitts' recommendation in order for Plaintiff to return to work. ( Id. ) DC Evans also advised Plaintiff to pin responsibility for the incident on Lt. Newman as Chief Pitts did not like her. ( Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff requested one-on-one meetings with Chief Pitts "numerous times" but was told that the investigation was going well and to focus on his interview for a promotion. ( Id. ¶ 29.) In early May 2012, Plaintiff spoke with Chief Pitts and asked to return to work but was told to enjoy his time off and "not to worry" about the incident. ( Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff expressed his concerns to DC Evans about IA, Sgt. Meyers being involved in the investigation, being asked to frame testimony about Lt. Newman and Plaintiff's long time on administrative leave. ( Id. ¶ 30.) However, DC Evans told Chief Pitts that he had not been talking to Plaintiff and when Plaintiff raised some of these issues to Chief Pitts he was told to file a complaint against IA. ( Id. ¶ 32.)

On June 8, 2012, Plaintiff requested an IA interview transcript and received an email from Sgt. Meyers with a pornographic video that said, "yep, you're still gay." ( Id. ¶ 35.) Shortly thereafter, Sgt. Myers sent the requested transcripts to Plaintiff. ( Id. ) Plaintiff reported the video to DC Evans who responded, "[i]f you'd just come out of the closet... you would have a better lawsuit." ( Id. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff asked DC Evans to show Chief Pitts the video in order to demonstrate how the IA investigation was compromised but DC Evans only informed Chief Pitts about the video. ( Id . ¶ 37.) Chief Pitts "sent a message thru DC Evans that he felt he was being extorted by Plaintiff and that he was not going to take any action towards Sgt. Myers for the video incident." ( Id. ) In his message to DC Evans, Chief Pitts also expressed that he thought the video was a joke and that he would "fire Plaintiff if he filed a complaint regarding the video."[4] ( Id. )

On June 14, 2012, the Discipline Review Board ("DRB") made a recommendation of "termination" as to Plaintiff. ( Id. ¶¶ 34, 37.)

Plaintiff reported the video to Jack Campbell, Reno City Attorney, and was told to "keep the cat in the bag" and not report it to anyone. ( Id. ¶ 38.) During a meeting about the video on June 21, 2012, Campbell stated, "[t]his was all in fun, joking, was it not?" ( Id. ¶ 42.) Around this time, "[s]upervisory union officials contacted Plaintiff and warned him that Chief Pitts and Jack Campbell were circling the wagons' around DC Evans and Sgt. Myers" and that "Plaintiff would be made out to be the bad guy.'" ( Id. ¶ 43.)

On July 5, 2012, Plaintiff had a scheduled IA hearing. ( Id. ¶ 44.) At this hearing, Plaintiff was also to be interviewed about the video incident regarding Sgt. Myers. ( Id. ) Chief Pitts was supposed to attend but did not. ( Id. ) Instead, he called one of the attendees, Lt. Larson, and asked if Plaintiff had shown up to the meeting. ( Id. ) After being told that Plaintiff was in attendance, Chief ...


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