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Myrick v. City of Indianola

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

September 24, 2014

DANA MYRICK, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF INDIANOLA, MISSISSIPPI, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

DEBRA M. BROWN, District Judge.

This is an employment discrimination action brought by Plaintiff Dana Myrick against his former employer, the City of Indianola, Mississippi. Plaintiff alleges that the City terminated his employment in violation of 42 U.S.C. ยง 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq. Before the Court is the City's motion for summary judgment. Doc. #38.

I

Summary Judgment Standard

"Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues as to any material facts, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Norwegian Bulk Transport A/S v. Int'l Marine Terminals P'ship, 520 F.3d 409, 411 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 22-23 (1986)). To award summary judgment, "[a] court must be satisfied that no reasonable trier of fact could find for the nonmoving party or, in other words, that the evidence favoring the nonmoving party is insufficient to enable a reasonable jury to return a verdict in her favor." Id. at 411-12 (internal quotation marks omitted). To this end, "[t]he moving party bears the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact." Id. at 412.

"If, as here, the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may demonstrate that it is entitled to summary judgment by submitting affidavits or other similar evidence negating the nonmoving party's claim, or by pointing out to the district court the absence of evidence necessary to support the nonmoving party's case." Morris v. Covan World Wide Moving, Inc., 144 F.3d 377, 380 (5th Cir. 1998). If the moving party makes the necessary demonstration, "the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show that summary judgment is inappropriate." Id. In making this showing, "the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Cotroneo v. Shaw Env't & Infrastructure, Inc., 639 F.3d 186, 191-92 (5th Cir. 2011) (internal punctuation omitted). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court "resolve[s] factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).

II

Relevant Facts

A. Relevant Persons

Plaintiff Dana Myrick is an African American male who served as Fire Chief of the City of Indianola, Mississippi, from 2010 until 2012. Doc. #1 at Ex. A; Doc. #42-7 at 5; Doc. #42-6 at 9-11. During the time relevant to this lawsuit, the Board of Aldermen of the City of Indianola, which is comprised of five persons, [1] consisted of: (1) Otis Anthony, an African American, who served as Alderman from January 2010 through January 2014, Doc. #42-1 at 4, 6; (2) Carver Randle, an African American, who has served as Alderman since 2010, Doc. #42-2 at 4, 9; (3) Vivian Jenkins, an African American, who served as Alderwoman from approximately July 2009 through January 2014, Doc. #42-3 at 4-5; (4) Larry Brown, a white man, who has served as Alderman since approximately 1997, Doc. #42-4 at 4-5; and (5) Gary Fratesi, a white man, who has served as Alderman since approximately 1998, Doc. #42-5 at 4. Steve Rosenthal, a white man, has served as Mayor of Indianola since January 2010. Doc. #42-6 at 8.

B. Plaintiff's Promotion

When Rosenthal entered office in January 2010, he placed all department heads on probation. Doc. #42-6 at 7-8. At the time, Rufus Powell, a white man, served as the City's Fire Chief. Id. Commensurate with Rosenthal's probation initiative, Powell was placed on probation. Id.

At the end of the six-month probation period, Rosenthal determined that Powell had failed to correct "some management [and] morale problem[s]." Id. at 8. Based on this failure, Rosenthal recommended Powell's termination to the Board. Id. at 8-9. The Board unanimously approved Powell's termination. Id. at 9. Following Powell's removal, Plaintiff, who was then the Assistant Fire Chief, assumed the role of Interim Chief. Id. at 9-10.

After advertising the position of Fire Chief and receiving five applications, Rosenthal recommended that the Board hire Plaintiff. Doc. #42-6 at 9-10. The Board unanimously approved Plaintiff's promotion before the end of its 2010 session.[2] Id. at 10-11.

C. Eugene Snipes

Sometime after his promotion, Plaintiff recommended that Eugene Snipes, an African American man, be appointed to Assistant Chief. Doc. #42-7 at 8-9. Plaintiff testified that after making this recommendation, he was "repeatedly battered and instructed to go back and readvertise for the position even though... Snipes was the only applicant to put in an application." Id. at 16-17. Despite this alleged opposition, Rosenthal did not issue a veto after the Board approved the hiring of Snipes as Assistant Chief. Doc. #42-7 at 19.

Plaintiff testified that Alderman Brown and Alderman Fratesi, who both voted for Snipes to become Assistant Chief, became "upset with [Plaintiff] because [he] did not appoint a white assistant chief." Doc. #42-7 at 5-6, 8. Plaintiff believed this anger stemmed from an unofficial policy of the Board preferring to have a Chief and Assistant Chief of different races.[3] Doc. #42-7 at 6-8. Whatever the reason, in the wake of his recommendation of Snipes, Plaintiff observed that his "job performance started being micromanaged." Id. at 8.

D. Plaintiff's Demotion

In February 2012, Plaintiff traveled to Atlanta to attend a training on grant writing without obtaining approval from the Board or Rosenthal, and without requesting leave for the time off. Doc. #42-7 at 23. When Plaintiff returned from the trip, Rosenthal told him, "you know the procedure[] is that you go through the board and get approved for overnight stay." Doc. #42-6 at 12. Rosenthal also requested paperwork reflecting the subject matter of the training and where Plaintiff stayed while in ...


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