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Holsey v. Stellner

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

April 27, 2018

ERICK HOLSEY, Plaintiff,
RICHARD STELLNER, individually, and CLASTSKANIE RURAL FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, an incorporated Special District, Defendants.


          Youlee Yim You United States Magistrate Judge


         Plaintiff Erick Holsey (“Holsey”) has brought suit against the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District (“CRFPD”) and a Human Resources consultant employed by CRFPD, Richard Stellner (“Stellner”). Holsey's claims turn on the process used to deny him the position of Assistant Fire Chief in late 2015 and early 2016. He alleges two claims against both defendants under 42 USC § 1983, one for injunctive relief (First Claim) and one for damages (Second Claim), as well as a claim against CRFPD for violation of Oregon's veterans' preference laws under ORS 408.225-.237 (Third Claim). Holsey seeks past and future economic damages of at least $5, 000 per month, $300, 000 in non-economic damages, and “deterrence damages” in an amount to be proven at trial. Compl. 12, ECF #1.

         This court has federal question jurisdiction over Holsey's two constitutional claims under 28 USC § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over Holsey's statutory claim pursuant to 28 USC § 1367(a).

         Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF #11), seeking summary judgment against all three of Holsey's claims. For the reasons that follow, the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.


         A party is entitled to summary judgment if the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” FRCP 56(a). The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “When judging the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the district court is not to make credibility determinations or weigh conflicting evidence, and is required to draw all inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Musick v. Burke, 913 F.2d 1390, 1394 (9th Cir. 1990); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (“The evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.”). Although “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment, ” the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position [is] insufficient . . . .” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252, 255. “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation and quotation marks omitted).


         1. Proffered Facts

         Holsey is a service-connected disabled veteran under ORS 408.225(c). Joint Statement of Facts, ¶ 4, ECF #15. CRFPD is a public employer in accordance with ORS 408.225(e). Id. ¶ 3. Stellner is a human resources consultant who was hired by CRFPD. Id. ¶ 2.

         On or about November 20, 2015, CRFPD requested applications for the position of Assistant Fire Chief from internal candidates. Id. ¶ 7. Candidates were asked to submit written applications, answer two essay questions, and participate in panel interviews. Declaration of Richard Stellner (“Stellner Decl.”), ¶ 14, ECF #12.

         Two internal candidates applied: Holsey and his brother, Bruce Holsey. Id. ¶ 5.

         On or about December 4, 2015, Holsey confirmed with CRFPD Fire Chief Steven Sharek (“Sharek”) that the application process would include the veterans' preference. Response, Ex. 1 (Decl. of Sean Riddell (“Riddell Decl.”), Ex. 2), ECF #14-1. That same day, Sharek instructed Stellner to ensure that the application process met “all requirements” of the veterans' preference. Riddell Decl., Ex. 3, ECF #14-1.

         Stellner drafted a document that set forth the hiring process, called “Management Recruitment Process.” Joint Statement ¶ 9, ECF #15. There were four drafts of this document, and the fourth and final draft, Draft D, was the draft used in the process. Id.; Stellner Decl., Ex. 2, ECF #12.

         The third draft, Draft C, involved a 90-point system with veterans' preference points worth an additional 10 points, resulting in a possible total of 100 points. Joint Statement ¶ 11. When the applications were initially received, the Draft C scoring system was used, and Holsey received a score of 63 out of 90, while his brother received a score of 61 out of 90. Id. ¶ 12; Riddell Decl., Ex. 4, ECF #14-1.

         On January 13, 2016, [1] Stellner informed CRFPD board members of the applicants' initial scores. Joint Statement ¶ 13. Board members raised concerns about the Draft C method of scoring. Stellner Decl. ¶ 7, ECF #12. Jim Gibson (“Gibson”) and John Moore (“Moore”) were two of those board members. Id. ¶ 14. Gibson and Moore exchanged emails with Stellner about the scoring method. Riddell Decl., Ex. 6, at 3, ECF #14-1. Gibson expressed his preference for a 100-point scoring system. Id. Moore wrote that, although his father is a disabled veteran, he believed that applying the veterans' preference was “preferential treatment” and “[didn't] see that as necessary.” Id. Moore added that, if the candidate had been an officer in the military, that experience could be viewed as a leadership position, but otherwise he would “argue favoritism.” Id. Moore testified at his deposition that “all things being equal, ” a disabled veteran was not more attractive than a non-disabled one, and military experience did not make someone a more attractive candidate. Moore Deposition 12, ECF #22, at 16. Moore also expressed his opinion that the veterans' preference laws should not have been applied to the Assistant Fire Chief application process. Id. at 12.

         Stellner reviewed Bureau of Labor and Industry (“BOLI”) materials and concluded that a veterans' preference point meant a percentage point. Stellner Decl. ¶¶ 7, 8. In his view, converting to a 100-point system meant that adding 10 points for a veterans' ...

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