Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of BD Lawsuit

6/14/11 – Former Beaver Dam Department of Public Works Supervisor Dan Wackett has lost an appeal of his federal lawsuit filed against the city that claims he was unjustly passed over for a promotion. The Seventh US Circuit Court of Appeals Monday upheld a district court decision to dismiss the case. The matter dates back to 2003, when Wackett spoke against a Board of Public Works recommendation to purchase a front-end loader that was the highest of three bids. The board ignored Wackett’s recommendation to go with John Deere, and instead voted to buy a Caterpillar that cost $10,000 more. Wackett accused the board of accepting an all-expense paid, overnight trip to Chicago from Caterpillar, influencing the decision. The city council ultimately opted to go with the John Deere but Wackett contends he paid the price. He was passed over for a promotion to Public Works Director and filed the federal lawsuit in February of 2008, claiming the city retaliated against him for exercising his First Amendment rights. The appellate court cited a 2006 Supreme Court case that held (quote) “when public employees make statements pursuant to their official duties, the employees are not speaking as citizens for First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not insulate their communications from employer discipline.” The city also presented evidence that officials simply did not care for Wackett’s management style. The appellate court determined that the city’s treatment of Wackett was unrelated to his First Amendment rights.