“The chilling effect of discipline and demotion to a police officer who makes a good faith report of what she believes in good faith to be wrongdoing and inappropriate influence in Government never serves the public interest.”
Here are excerpts of the preliminary injunction ruling by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Donetta Ambrose in the Commander Catherine McNeilly case.
• "Initially I make a finding that Plaintiff's speech at issue here was made by her as a citizen..."
• "Second, I find that Plaintiff's speech touched on a matter of public concern. Plaintiff's e-mail and the attached disciplinary action report were sent to inform city officials of her belief that the nominee for the position of Public Safety Director had improperly interfered with her attempt to discipline a police officer, who was the brother of the woman with whom Regan lived, and her concerns that Regan because of his improper interference was a poor candidate for the high-ranking position of Public Safety Director, which position would give him supervisory authority to control police officers and the entire Police Department, among other things. This was clearly a matter of public concern..."
• "...She knew, for one thing, that Regan had interfered with Commander Brackney's attempt to cite Duke's Tires, and that Regan had told Commander Brackney that Duke's Tires had friends in the Mayor's office, and that Commander Brackney would be walking a beat if she did not cooperate. She knew that Regan had interfered in the discipline of another police officer who, through the chain of command, received termination that was later overturned. She knew that Regan had interfered in the Police Department by ordering Chief Costa to promote Rende to detective even when Costa knew Rende did not have a record meriting promotion to detective; specifically, that Rende had an extensive disciplinary history and had, in fact, once been fired and then reinstated..."
• "... I find that Plaintiff had a good faith belief that Regan had improperly interfered in Police Department matters; and that because of his nomination to be Public Safety Director, Plaintiff's concerns were also a matter of public concern..."
• "... having found that Plaintiff's speech was that of a citizen on a matter of public concern, her demotion was unconstitutional unless the city had adequate justification for the demotion..."
• "As to the confidentiality matters, Plaintiff made every effort to keep the e-mail and attached DAR confidential. Indeed, she marked the e-mail confidential and disclosed the information only to those individuals who themselves had a duty to keep it confidential. It was someone to whom Plaintiff disclosed the information, not the Plaintiff herself, who revealed the information to the public..."
• "...the Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits of her First Amendment claim. She also has a claim under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law which prohibits public employers from retaliating against an employee who makes a good faith report of wrongdoing to appropriate authorities. For the reasons already stated, I find that the Plaintiff made a good faith report of wrongdoing."
• "I also find that Exhibit 24 clearly establishes a causal connection between her good faith report and her demotion. Therefore, the Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits per the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law claim."
• "The second consideration for a determination of whether or not to issue a preliminary injunction is whether or not Plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not issued. The law is clear. The loss of First Amendment freedoms even for the smallest amount of time constitutes irreparable harm."
• "...let me make something very clear. Contrary to how some may perceive this case, this case is not about corruption in the Police Department. It is about allegations of wrongdoing and improper and undue influence by officials within the Mayor's office in Police Department matters."
• "...The public interest is always served by disclosure of wrongdoing and undue and/or inappropriate influence by public officials in Police Department matters. The chilling effect of discipline and demotion to a police officer who makes a good faith report of what she believes in good faith to be wrongdoing and inappropriate influence in Government never serves the public interest."