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EDMUNDSON v. BOROUGH OF KENNETT SQUARE

March 31, 1995

HARRY T. EDMUNDSON
v.
BOROUGH OF KENNETT SQUARE, ROBERT F. GODDU, KENNETH ROBERTS, HERBERT L. WALTZ, and ALBERT J. MCCARTHY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. WILLIAM DITTER, JR.

 Ditter, J.

 March 31, 1995

 Plaintiff brings suit under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. He alleges that his discharge from governmental employment was wrongfully based on conduct protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. *fn1" The plaintiff and defendants have each moved for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, I will refuse plaintiff's motion and grant defendants' motion in part.

 I. STATEMENT OF FACTS

 Plaintiff, Harry T. Edmundson, was a police officer in the Borough of Kennett Square. In July 1989, a police lieutenant directed him to make changes in a report. Edmundson refused. In August of 1989, the chief of police ordered him to accompany an inebriated person to the hospital. Edmundson disobeyed the order.

 After these two incidents, the chief of police, Albert McCarthy, notified Edmundson that he soon would be dismissed. On September 12, 1989, the mayor of Kennett Square, the president of the borough council, and a member of the council confronted Edmundson with the charges against him, gave him an opportunity to respond, and ultimately offered him the choice of resigning or being dismissed. *fn2" Edmundson refused to resign.

 A. Statements Explicitly Relied Upon

 The reference to Edmundson's past history in the council's discharge letter requires elaboration. Edmundson had been disciplined in July of 1989 for violating Directive MCC-11 and Article 1 of the Kennett Square Police Department Manual. *fn3" The July 1989 discipline arose out of an incident in December of 1988. At that time, Edmundson was accused of breaking into the police chief's office. Based on this charge, he was suspended for one day. On March 1, 1989, and June 28, 1989, the Chester County Press published statements Edmundson made to his attorney concerning his suspension. These statements included:

 
I was accused of [breaking into the police chief's office] at 11:00 pm at night, given a letter that I was going to be suspended and suspended that same night. So we have Judge, Jury, and Execution all in one shot.
 
Out of all the amendments to the Constitution, I feel that he [the police chief] has at least bent most of them and just totally ignored the rest of them.

 As a result of these statements, the borough council found that Edmundson violated Directive MCC-11 and Article 1 of the police department manual and suspended him for an additional three days. *fn4" This latter suspension was part of Edmundson's past history to which the council referred in the October 3, 1989, discharge letter and, therefore, the statements to the Chester County Press were part of the background considerations leading to the decision to dismiss Edmundson. Edmundson argues that to the extent that his dismissal was based on these statements, his First Amendment rights were violated because his comments related to a matter of public concern, and in balance, his right to free speech outweighed the government's right to the efficient administration of the police department. Despite the attenuated link between Edmundson's statements and his dismissal, I will assume for the purposes of this opinion that the causal connection exists. *fn5"

 B. Statements Possibly Relied Upon

 In a somewhat different vein, Edmundson argues that his discharge was also improperly based in part on numerous other criticisms and complaints that he had voiced about the police administration. These complaints are different from those published in the Chester County Press because there is even less evidence linking them to the council's termination decision. *fn6" I will refer to this second type ...


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