United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
DAVID W. BATHKE, Plaintiff,
CITY OF OCEAN SHORES, CRYSTAL DINGLER, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants City of Ocean
Shores (“City”) and Crystal Dingler's
“Defendants”) motion for partial summary judgment
and motion to compel arbitration. Dkt. 13. The Court has
considered the pleadings filed in support of and in
opposition to the motion and the remainder of the file and
hereby grants in part and denies in part the motion for the
reasons stated herein.
April 23, 2019, Plaintiff David Bathke (“Bathke”)
filed a complaint against Defendants asserting numerous
claims. Dkt. 1. On May 17, 2019, Bathke filed an amended
complaint asserting claims for violations of his due process
rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and breach of contract.
28, 2019, Defendants filed the instant motion requesting
summary judgment on the § 1983 claims and arbitration on
the breach of contract claim. Dkt. 13. On July 19, 2019,
Bathke responded. Dkt. 18. On July 26, 2019, Defendants
replied and included a motion to strike. Dkt. 19.
has over 35 years of experience in firefighting and managing
fire departments and has served as the fire chief of three
different city fire departments. Dkt. 18-2, ¶ 2. In
April of 2017, Bathke interviewed for the fire chief position
with the City. Id. ¶ 4. After the interview,
the City's mayor, Dingler, offered Bathke the position of
fire chief starting in June and a temporary position as
consultant until June. Id. ¶ 10. As part of the
hiring process, Bathke and the City entered into an agreement
stating that he could not be terminated except for
“cause” and included an attorney's fees
provision as follows:
The City and Employees shall each be responsible for their
own attorney's fees in any Court action or arbitration
proceeding involving this Agreement. The City shall pay any
and all costs of arbitration relating to this Agreement. The
Employees or the City, pursuant to the then-existing rules of
the American Arbitration Association, may demand arbitration
concerning any alleged breach of this Agreement, provided the
aggrieved party/ies do so within ninety (90) days of any
Dkt. 14-1 at 5. In November 2017, Bathke completed his
probationary period, and the City converted his position to a
November 2018, Dingler met with the City's Human Resource
Specialist Dani Smith (“Smith”) regarding
concerns about Bathke and the fire department. Smith informed
Dingler that the union firefighters were considering a vote
of “no confidence” against Bathke. Dkt. 14,
¶ 22. Dingler then spoke with one of the senior
firefighters who confirmed that Bathke had lost the
confidence of the department. Id. ¶ 23. Dingler
contends that she then spoke with Bathke regarding the
impending vote of “no confidence.” Id.
Bathke declares that this meeting did not happen. Dkt. 18-2,
December 13, 2018, Dingler attended a meeting with Smith and
senior firefighters. Dingler declares that Fire Lieutenant
Corey Kul informed her “that 100% of the union members
had issued a vote of ‘no confidence'
concerning” Bathke. Dkt. 14, ¶ 24. Two senior
then proceeded to describe the significant areas of concern
regarding Chief Bathke's management of the department,
including his disregard for and alienation of staff; his
arrogant and narcissistic manner; the fact that his conduct
was causing some members to seek employment with other
agencies; his poor relations with Grays Harbor Emergency
Management (GHEMS); and other areas of significant concern.
Id. On December 14, 2018, Dingler placed Bathke on
administrative leave to conduct an investigation into the
allegations against him. Id. ¶ 25. Bathke
declares that the suspension “came as a complete
surprise.” Dkt. 18-2, ¶ 19.
Dingler and Smith conducted an initial investigation, Dingler
decided to retain the services of an outside investigator,
Robin Nielsen. Dkt. 14, ¶ 27. “Based on Ms.
Nielsen's initial verbal report of what she was learning
from speaking with the various witnesses, [Dingler] decided
to have [Nielsen] suspend her investigation.”
Id. ¶ 28. Dingler essentially concluded that it
would be better for the City to “explore the