United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael J. McShane, United States District Judge.
Christopher White is a deputy sheriff at the Marion County
Sheriff's Office. He previously worked as a police
officer for the City of Turner Police Department in Turner,
Oregon. Mr. White brings this action against the City of
Turner and two of its employees for allegedly filing a
libelous complaint with the Marion County Sheriff in
retaliation for critical statements Mr. White made about his
former employer. Mr. White asserts one claim pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for First Amendment retaliation and one
state-law claim for defamation. Defendants move in relevant
part to dismiss the Section 1983 claim under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) and to strike the defamation claim pursuant to Or.
Rev. Stat. § 31.150. Because a public official's
defamatory statements, standing alone, cannot give rise to a
cognizable claim for First Amendment retaliation, and because
the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over
the remaining state-law claim, Defendants' motion to
dismiss is GRANTED and their motion to strike DENIED as moot.
Mr. White's Complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice.
White worked as a police officer for the City of Turner
Police Department from May 9, 2013 to November 8, 2015.
Compl. ¶¶ 10, 12, ECF No. 1. Upon resigning his
position with the City of Turner, Mr. White joined the Marion
County Sheriff's Office as a deputy sheriff. Compl.
¶ 12. His wife, non-party Larissa White, was hired on
October 27, 2015 to replace him as a police officer at the
City of Turner Police Department. Compl. ¶ 13.
White worked at the City of Turner Police Department until
she was terminated on July 31, 2017. Compl. ¶ 19.
Although the circumstances of her termination are disputed
and the subject of separate constitutional and whistleblower
litigation, see White v. Taylor, No.
6:18-cv-00550-MK (D. Or. filed Mar. 30, 2018), the City of
Turner represents that Mrs. White was dismissed for falsely
reporting hours on her time sheets, Compl. ¶¶
her termination, Mrs. White applied for unemployment benefits
with the Oregon Employment Department (“OED”).
Compl. ¶ 20. An investigation of her application by the
OED concluded that Mrs. White had not committed a
“willful or wantonly negligent violation” of the
City of Turner's personnel policy. Compl. ¶¶
21-22. She was therefore eligible for unemployment benefits
and awarded the same on August 18, 2017. Compl. ¶ 22.
City of Turner appealed the OED's decision. As part of
that appeal, Mr. White submitted a declaration in support of
his wife's application for benefits. Compl. ¶¶
23-24. The declaration, recorded on November 14, 2017,
contained the following statements:
1. During my time as a police officer with the City of
Turner, there was no formal policy regarding the use of sick
leave, comp time, or flex time.
2. During my time as a police officer with the City of
Turner, the City provided no formal training regarding the
use of sick leave, comp time, or flex time.
3. During my time as a police officer with the City of
Turner, I was not required to ask permission to use sick
leave, comp time, and/or flex time.
Compl. ¶ 24. The City of Turner ultimately withdrew its
appeal, but not before viewing Mr. White's declaration.
See Compl. ¶¶ 24-25, 27.
thereafter, City of Turner Manager David Sawyer lodged a
formal written complaint with Mr. White's current
employer, the Marion County Sheriff's Office. Compl.
¶ 27. In his complaint, Mr. Sawyer alleged that Mr.
White had submitted false statements as part of Mrs.
White's unemployment proceeding. Compl. ¶ 27.
Specifically, Mr. Sawyer maintained that Mr. White's
description of the City of Turner's timekeeping policies
and practices in his declaration was “false and
dishonest.” Compl. ¶ 27.
response, on December 12, 2017, the Marion County
Sheriff's Office opened an internal affairs investigation
into Mr. White. Compl. ¶ 28. Mr. White was provided with
a formal Notice of Investigation and interviewed in
connection with the investigation on January 17, 2019. Compl.
¶¶ 29-30. The Marion County Sherriff's Office
failed to find any “evidence of untruthfulness”
and, unable to sustain the allegations that Mr. White had
submitted false or dishonest statements, closed its
investigation without further action. Compl. ¶ 31.
White filed the instant action on November 1, 2018. He brings
one claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for First
Amendment retaliation against Mr. Sawyer, Mr. Taylor, and the
City of Turner. He also brings one claim for state-law
defamation against Mr. Sawyer. All three defendants move to
dismiss the Section 1983 claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). Mr. Sawyer also moves to dismiss the defamation