Federal court drops civil case against commissioners

KANSAS CITY — A civil case initiated by Sharon Weber, Osage County treasurer, against the Board of County Commissioners of Osage County has been dropped, according to a judgment issued by the United States District Court of Kansas March 6.

Pat Walsh, Osage County counselor, discussed the status of the case during the March 13 commission meeting.

“The lawsuit was originally in Osage County District Court,” said Walsh. “It got removed to Federal court because it involved alleged constitutional issues. (Vaugh) Burkholder, on behalf of the county, filed a motion to dismiss, saying the lawsuit did not state a claim.”

The court granted Burkholder’s motion to dismiss, and further ordered that the plaintiff recover nothing, the action be dismissed, and the defendant, Osage County, Kansas, Board of Commissioners, recover costs from the plaintiff, Sharon Weber.

“The county had no costs, because our insurance covered it,” said Ken Kuykendall, commissioner.

“Correct. Mr. Burkholder, even though he represented the county’s interest, he was paid under your insurance policy,” Walsh said.

The document stated specifically that the plaintiff has not alleged a viable liberty interest claim.

“Plaintiff claims that the defendant Board violated plaintiff’s liberty interest in her good name, reputation, honor and integrity by openly proclaiming that plaintiff was incompetent and by reducing her salary in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Plaintiff, however, has not alleged facts which would plausibly demonstrate a violation of the Constitution.”

The dismissal said the court had previously held that the government infringed upon a constitutionally protected liberty interest when it makes a statement impugning the good name, reputation, honor, or integrity of an employee; the statement is false; the statement is made during the course of termination and forecloses other employment opportunities; or the statement is disclosed publicly.

“Here, plaintiff has not alleged facts plausibly showing the first element or the third element,” the dismissal stated.

The dismissal further stated, “The court is not rendering an opinion as to whether plaintiff was treated fairly or unfairly. The issue before the court is whether the facts alleged in plaintiff’s complaint, taken as true, state a plausible claim that plaintiff was denied a liberty interest without procedural due process or was denied her substantive due process rights. For the reasons given in this order, the court finds that plaintiff has failed to state those constitutional claims.”

The dismissal also individually addressed Weber’s claim that the actions “shock the conscience,” a statement made in the original case.

“To show that an action is conscience shocking, plaintiff must prove that ‘a government actor abused his or her authority or employed it as an instrument of oppression in a manner that shocks the conscience,’” the report stated. “The court does not believe plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to plausibly demonstrate that defendant’s action was shocking to the conscience.”

View the complete 13-page report here.

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