When an official’s discretionary decisions are constrained by policies not of that official’s making, those policies, rather than the subordinate’s departures from them, are the act of the municipality.
Similarly, when a subordinate’s decision is subject to review by the municipality’s authorized policymakers, they have retained the authority to measure the official’s conduct for conformance with their policies. If the authorized policymakers approve a subordinate’s decision and the basis for it, their ratification would be chargeable to the municipality because their decision is final./13/
The jury then must determine whether those officials who have the power to make official policy caused the deprivation of rights by their decisions “or by acquiescence in a longstanding practice or custom which constitutes the ‘standard operating procedure’ of the local government entity. The only standard White Springs has is to break the law continually. Who cares about policy?
Often, however, the problem is with not the “policy” of the agency, but that agency employees are ignorant of the policy. In some narrow circumstances, the agency’s failure to train its employees to comply with agency policy can lead to liability if, as a result of employee ignorance or inadequate training, a plaintiff is deprived of federal rights.
In City of Canton v. Harris, the Supreme Court explained that inadequate training could give rise to liability if:
in light of the duties assigned to specific officers or employees the need for more or different training is so obvious, and the inadequacy so likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights, that the policy-makers can reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need./20/
The Court held that under these circumstances, “the failure to provide proper training may fairly be said to represent a policy for which the city is responsible.”/21/
Successful cases have been brought where a municipality failed to train in areas where there was an obvious need for training/24/ or where the pattern of constitutional violations was so pervasive that failure to train constituted deliberate indifference by the municipality./25/
As you may see the law is clear. Had Joe secured an attorney initially, instead of acting pro see, the Town would have lost due to the fact that the Town would have no immunity from the failure of proper training or representing a policy on the books.
What is interesting is that not only Mayor McKire, but Attorney Kennon stipulated that if Joe attended another council meeting, he would be arrested. The Town ascertained that the threat would become fruition more than once. Thus the Town took away Joe’s constitutional rights and other than attending one or two meetings together, our only source of securing information was through public records requests which were our right under the Sunshine Laws.
And what policies? Even though there was a policy on the books for the Mike Harris property and the condemnation of the properties he initially owned, the Town refused to follow the law but stipulated Joe was a problem for bringing forth a suit, which he lost by reason of a Motion to dismiss. Joe has been charged thousands of dollars because the Authorities protected special people in spite of following policy or the law.
Insofar as training the State of Florida has required each council person and employee take an Ethics which include the Sunshine Laws. Whether anything was learned from these courses is questionable since there is still a complaint of our securing public records, even though the current City Attorney does not wish comments that were made to be shown on the Minutes of the Meeting. That is because we found how badly the law was being followed and the comments made which were very discriminatory toward Joe when securing the past minutes of the meeting.
Even during Farley’s tenure as town manager, Walter McKenzie did not believe that public records had to be given to the person as soon as probable. He asked whether they could be done every three or four weeks.
The former mayor listened to the complaints of Pam and Shirley rather than doing her own investigation, and as a result fabricated the number of public record requests, because of her dislike, possibly for our blog since she even told the former manager it was her intent to silence us and the blog.
So as you can see, the Town does not feel they have to comply with their own policies, if you are someone they detest. Further, they do not sufficiently train their employees within the law and they are comfortable because then the Pattern never changes.
Karin for the blog