The Herald Bulletin

Overnight Update

Local Politics

March 17, 2014

Court rules against Anderson

Former city workers lawsuit moving forward

ANDERSON – A federal court has denied the City of Anderson’s motion for summary judgment in a case filed by 10 former city employees terminated when Kevin Smith began his second term as mayor.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued the ruling Thursday allowing the lawsuit filed by the 10 former city employees to move forward. The case is set for trial Oct. 27.

In the ruling, the court found that two of the defendants, Robin Allman and Margaret Baugher, can file a claim directly against Smith. The mayor was granted qualified immunity in the lawsuit filed by the eight other plaintiffs. The two women have the opportunity to recover punitive damages.

The 10 plaintiffs allege their First Amendment rights were violated, contending they were terminated for political reasons. Each supported the re-election campaign of Democrat Kris Ockomon in the 2011 campaign against Smith, a Republican.

In the filing by the city seeking a summary judgment, Smith didn’t dispute that the terminations were politically motivated, but asserted each former employee was in a policy making or confidential position.

The court ruled that the City of Anderson and Smith failed to demonstrate as a matter of law that any of the 10 former employees worked in a position where political loyalty was a valid qualification for employment.

The plaintiffs are:

— Allman, who had been the office manager in the Utility Department, but in mid-December took a job as a cashier after being told she would be fired from her utility office manager position. Smith then promoted her back to the position of office manager before firing her. She worked for the city for more than 10 years.

— Margaret Baugher, a nine-year city employee who was a customer service supervisor in the utility department.

— Mark Baugher, a 33-year employee who was a street supervisor/dispatcher for the City of Anderson Transportation System.

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