The plaintiffs were former managerial employees of the Oregon State Accident Insurance Fund Corporation, which was part of the Executive branch of government. ?The Fund was accused of several ethics violations. ?One of the plaintiffs was terminated, and the other was asked to resign. ?The Governor?s office later issued two press releases that suggested the plaintiffs had been removed for reasons related to the alleged ethics violations.
The? plaintiffs? filed? suit,? alleging? that? the Governor?s office had violated their 14th Amendment rights by issuing stigmatizing statements without providing them with a name- clearing hearing.?? The District Court denied the defendant?s motion for qualified immunity.? ?The Ninth Circuit reversed. ?The Court recognized that if? a? public? employer? publicizes? a? charge? that impairs the reputation of a terminated public employee, the employer must allow the former employee to refute the charge. ?The panel held that even though the press release did not name the plaintiffs personally, it suggested that terminated employees at the Fund had been dishonest, and therefore could be deemed stigmatizing.
The panel held, however, that one of the press releases was not connected with the plaintiffs? termination because it was issued 16 months after the fact.? ?The other press release was issued 19 days after the termination. ?The Court held that the law wasn?t clearly established that 19 days was sufficiently close in time to be deemed connected to the termination. ?The Court also held that it was not clearly established that the Governor had sufficient authority over the plaintiffs? employment to require him to provide them a name-clearing. Moreover, there was no evidence that the Governor knew, or should have known, that the Fund would not give plaintiffs a name clearing hearing.
Tibbetts v. Kulongoski, 567 F.3d 529 (9th? Cir. May 29, 2009) (M. Smith, Graber, Fisher).