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Cope v. Gateway Area Development District

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

September 25, 2014

DAVID COPE, Plaintiff,
v.
GATEWAY AREA DEVELOPMENT DISTRICT, GAIL WRIGHT, individually and her official capacity as Executive Director of the Gateway Area Development District, Inc., and DEBORAH ANDERSON Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

HENRY R. WILHOIT, Jr., District Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon the following dispositive motions:

(1) Defendants Gateway Area Development District and Gail Wright's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs First Amended Complaint [Docket No. 20] and
(2) Defendant Deborah Anderson's Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 22].

The motions have been fully briefed [Docket No. 23, 2430]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed a state a clam upon which relief can be granted against these Defendants and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

I. BACKGROUND

A. RELEVANT ALLEGATIONS IN COMPLAINT AND FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT

Plaintiff began working as a case worker for Gateway Area Development District in 1989. [Docket No. 19, ¶ 12]. In July 1996, Gateway Area Development District and Gail Wright, informed Plaintiff that they were terminating his position, Plaintiff was told that he could continue doing the same job as a contract worker, but that he would not receive the benefits associated with employment, such as health insurance, expense reimbursement and retirement benefits. Plaintiff was also told by Defendant Wright that he would likely be reinstated as an "employee" after Gateway Area Development District repaid a debt owed to the state. [Docket No. 19, ¶ 14].

From July 1996 until June 30, 2011, Plaintiff continued to provide case management services for Gateway Area Development District under service agreements. During this period, Plaintiff did not receive any of the benefits Gateway Area Development District provided to its employees [Docket No. 19, ¶ 15].

In 2009, Plaintiff contacted the Internal Revenue Service to provide information regarding his employment with Gateway Area Development District and to request a determination regarding whether or not he was being properly classified as a contract worker. [Docket No, 19, ¶ 16].

In separate letters dated October 20, 2010, Plaintiff and Gateway Area Development District were informed by the IRS that Plaintiff was an "employee" for federal tax purposes and that Gateway Area Development District was liable for employment taxes. [Docket No. 19, ¶ 17].

On July 1, 2011 and upon the termination of Plaintiff's 2010/2011 service agreement, Gail Wright informed Plaintiff that Gateway Area Development District was not going to renew his service agreement and offered him a part-time case manager position, paying $12/hour for up to 20 hours per week and without benefits such as health insurance and retirement benefits. [Docket No. 19, ¶ 18]. Consequently, Plaintiff accepted a part-time position, at a significant cut in pay [Docket No. 19, ¶ 19],

On September 30, 2011 and because Plaintiffs hour and pay were significantly reduced, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit in Rowan County Circuit Court, Case No. 11-CI-90349, asserting claims for violations of the Kentucky Whistleblower Act (KRS 61.101, et seq.) and KRS 337.010, et seq. [Docket No. 19, ¶ 21].

In August of 2013, a jury trial was held in Rowan Circuit in Case No. 11-CI-90349, resulting in a judgment for Plaintiff [Docket No. 19, ¶ 22].

In September 2013, the Kentucky Department of Aging and Independent Living conducted an intensive audit of Gateway Area Development District, including an audit of each and every one of the case files that were being managed by Plaintiff [Docket No. 19, ¶ 23].

Following that audit, by letter dated October 4, 2013, the Commissioner of the Department of Aging and Independent Living, Deborah Anderson, informed Gail Wright that it would no longer approve any funds to support Plaintiffs employment. [Docket No. 19, ¶ 24].

Following the letter from Deborah Anderson, Gail Wright terminated Plaintiffs employment. [Docket No. 19, ¶ 25],

B. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit against Gateway Area Development District ("GADD"), Gail Wright in her official capacity as the Executive Director of GADD as well as individually and Deborah Anderson, in her official capacity as the Commissioner of Cabinet for Health and Family Services Department of Aging and Independent Living, alleging violations of Whistleblower Statute, KRS 61.101 et. seq., (Count I), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II). He amended his Complaint to add a common law claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy (Count III).

The claims against Deborah Anderson in her official capacity as the Commissioner of Cabinet for Health and Family Services Department of Aging and Independent Living were dismissed ...


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