United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division
JAMES L. WENZEL, Plaintiff,
KLAMATH COUNTY FIRE DISTRICT NO. 1, Defendants.,
D. CLARKE, United States Magistrate Judge
James Wenzel brings claims against the defendants, Klamath
County Fire District No. 1, ("KCFD1"), the KCFD1
Board of Directors ("Board"), attorney Stephen
Hedlund, and private investigator Jim Toddy. Plaintiff
alleges that he was wrongfully terminated in violation of his
due process rights, and related state law claims.
case comes before the Court on various discovery disputes.
For the reasons below, Plaintiffs Motion for Clarification or
Reconsideration (#97) is DENIED. Plaintiffs request for
production of the August 6, 2013, Executive Session audio
recording is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. The other
disputes are resolved as stated below.
factual background of this case has been thoroughly discussed
in previous opinions by the Court and briefing by the
parties. The Court will only briefly review it here.
Plaintiff James Wenzel was the Fire Chief of Klamath County
Fire District No. 1 (KCFD1) for six years from January 2008
to December 31, 2013. He alleges an exemplary work history.
KCFD1 Board of Directors is a defendant in this case, which
arises out of the Board's decision not to renew, or to
terminate, Plaintiffs contract as Fire Chief of KCFD1.
Stephen Hedlund is an attorney in private practice; he was
retained as an independent contractor attorney to KCFD1 and
the Board. Plaintiff claims Hedlund went out of his way to
try to damage Wenzel's annual performance review, and he
began making unfounded accusations against Wenzel, which lead
to a flawed employment investigation, a false report that
damaged his personal and professional reputation, and
ultimately, termination of his position.
Jim Toddy is a private investigator who was hired by the
Board to conduct an investigation of Plaintiff Wenzel during
the spring and summer of 2013. Plaintiff alleges that Toddy
was a close personal friend and associate of Hedlund, that
Toddy took direction from Hedlund, and that the two of them
conducted an intentionally biased investigation in order to
create a damaging report. Plaintiff alleges that the
investigation was biased, incomplete, and poorly conducted.
He alleges that he was not given a chance to respond to any
of the accusations or produce evidence or witnesses to
support his position.
report dated June 24, 2013 ("Toddy Report"), Toddy
set out his findings. Plaintiff alleges that these findings
included "a multitude of false, misleading, and highly
derogatory statements concerning Wenzel." Plaintiff
alleges that the report was "replete with harsh negative
judgments about Wenzel" and "vitriolic personal
commentary about Wenzel" that was "unfounded and
unwarranted, " and displayed a "shocking and
inappropriate level of personal animosity against
Wenzel." Plaintiff further alleges that the Toddy Report
was the first notice he had regarding the specific
accusations against him. He claims he promptly requested an
opportunity to respond to the accusations, but that he was
never given a hearing concerning the Toddy Report.
August 6, 2013, the KCFD1 Board held a meeting and executive
session to seek legal counsel from attorney Hedlund, and to
discuss the Toddy Report. On or about August 19, 2013 the
KCFD1 Board held a meeting to vote on whether to terminate
Wenzel's employment. Wenzel was not given an opportunity
to be heard concerning the Toddy Report, but he did submit a
written response, and he asked again to be given a full
hearing on the accusations. Plaintiff was not allowed to
participate in the August 19 Board meeting, but he alleges
that Hedlund encouraged and advised the Board to terminate
his employment. The following day, Plaintiff received written
notice of his termination. Pursuant to the August 20 notice,
Plaintiff Wenzel's employment with KCFD1 was to terminate
on December 31, 2013. After receiving the notice, Plaintiff
renewed his requests for a hearing. Plaintiff alleges that
Hedlund and the Board indicated to him that he would be
allowed to get a hearing, but "in a letter dated
December 6, 2013, signed by Hedlund, the request for a
hearing was denied."
parties have a variety of disputes for the Court to resolve.
Of them, the most important is the dispute over whether or
not the audio recording of the August 6, 2013, Executive
Session meeting of the KCFD1 Board of Directors is
discoverable. Defendants claim that the recording is
privileged and not subject to disclosure. The Court agrees,
but only in part. As discussed below, any portion of the
recording in which attorney Hedlund is speaking, or being
asked a direct question by a member of the Board, should be
redacted. However, any part in which a member of the Board is
discussing his or her reaction or view of the Toddy Report,
and the report's impact on that person's evaluation
of Plaintiff s continued employment is discoverable and
should be disclosed.
Audio Recording of Executive Session on August 6, 2013 is
ordered to be produced in part.
August 6, 2013, two weeks after receiving the Toddy Report,
the KCFD1 Board of Directors met in public session, and then
closed the meeting to the public and met in an Executive
Session with their attorney, defendant Hedlund. The audio
recording of that executive session has been submitted for