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Nixon v. Mohave County Public Works Department

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 21, 2015

THEODORE E. NIXON, Plaintiff,
v.
MOHAVE COUNTY PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

H. RUSSEL HOLLAND, District Judge.

Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendant Mohave County moves for summary judgment.[1] This motion is opposed.[2] Oral argument was requested but is not deemed necessary.

Facts

Plaintiff is Theodore E. Nixon. Defendant is Mohave County, Public Works Department.[3]

Plaintiff was hired by defendant as an engineering manager. Steven Latoski, the Public Works Director for defendant, selected plaintiff for the position, with the approval of Ray Osuna, defendant's Director of Human Resources.[4] Plaintiff was an at-will employee and was subject to a 6-month probationary period when he began his employment on July 15, 2013.[5]

Plaintiff had use of a Mohave County vehicle, which was not to be used for personal travel. Latoski contends that plaintiff told him on August 7, 2013 that he "drove his County-issued vehicle on occasion to the Avi Casino in Laughlin, Nevada."[6] Latoski avers that he told plaintiff "that doing so was a violation of Mohave County rules and policies."[7] Plaintiff testified that he drove his County-issued vehicle to the car wash and convenience store that was next to the casino and that sometimes he would go have breakfast or lunch at the casino while his vehicle was being washed.[8] Plaintiff testified that he asked Latoski if there was a problem with this and Latoski replied "No, there's nothing wrong with it, but he wouldn't do it himself because of perception."[9] The GPS monitoring device on plaintiff's County-issued vehicle showed that he made ten trips to the Avi Casino vicinity during his employment.[10]

Vickie Holcomb was plaintiff's administrative assistant. Plaintiff testified that his relationship with Holcomb was "strained right from the get-go."[11] Plaintiff testified that Latoski warned him that Holcomb was having trouble with one of the janitors and that Latoski told him to "[d]eal with it as best you can."[12] Plaintiff testified that he spoke with Holcomb at one point about how she was treating the janitor (Alexis McKenna) and advised her that she had to treat everyone professionally.[13] Plaintiff testified that Holcomb "bullied" McKenna and that McKenna came to him in tears one morning because of how Holcomb was treating her.[14]

Holcomb avers that she "felt that [plaintiff] was making unwelcome and unwanted sexual and harassing advances toward" her by "standing too closely to her" and "winking" at her.[15] Holcomb avers that she told her former supervisor about the situation and he in turn spoke to Latoski.[16] Holcomb further avers that on August 8, 2013, Latoski called her to his office to discuss her concerns and she told Latoski that plaintiff was also making two other Mohave County employees uncomfortable.[17] Holcomb avers that Latoski told her to file an Employee Grievance form, [18] which she did.[19]

Latoski avers that he met with the other two employees, Lori Brown and Debbie Keller, on August 9, 2013.[20] Brown, who was an office assistant, avers that plaintiff "once put his arms around my shoulders" and that "[p]laintiff would also occasionally wink at me."[21] Keller, who was the computer coordinator, avers that plaintiff "put his hands on my shoulders two times" during "a training session on computer programs."[22]

Latoski avers that he believed Holcomb's, Keller's, and Brown's complaints because "[e]ach woman who submitted a complaint was from a different division of Mohave County and supervised by a different manager" and because "each woman had been a well-respected employee of Mohave County for many years."[23] Latoski avers that Holcomb was so upset that she was "brought to tears" while "relaying her experiences with [p]laintiff."[24]

Plaintiff testified, however, that he was told by Greg Arnold, another County employee, that there was an "old guard of certain women within the county [who] had a... collaboration, and they would use that collaboration to intimidate men and get their way."[25] Plaintiff testified that he believed that the three women "collaborated" to come up with their stories about him.[26] Plaintiff also testified that Arnold told him that Holcomb also had complained about Arnold violating her personal space.[27]

Latoski terminated plaintiff on August 9, 2013. Latoski avers that he "was the ultimate decision-maker concerning [p]laintiff's termination", although he advised Ray Osuna that he was going to terminate plaintiff.[28] Latoski avers that he terminated "[p]laintiff's employment... based both on [p]laintiff's unpermitted use of his County-issued vehicle and the complaints received by Ms. Holcomb, Ms. Brown, and Ms. Keller."[29] Latoski avers that based on these two issues, he "found that [p]laintiff did not successfully complete his probationary period."[30]

Plaintiff testified that the termination letter he was given stated that he "didn't perform my work properly" but that Latoski told him he was being terminated because of the reports that he had "grabbed women inappropriately."[31] Plaintiff testified that the issue with his County vehicle "was never brought up, it was never mentioned, and they didn't run the report until about 4:00 that afternoon."[32] Plaintiff testified that his use of the County vehicle was first brought up during a second-level appeal "with the State of Nevada for my unemployment benefits."[33] Plaintiff also testified that about two weeks prior to his ...


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