Last month, Former Civil Service commissioner William Monahan lost in his attempt to sue former Governor Mitt Romney for his removal from the Commission in Monahan v. Romney, 09-2458 (2010). The case does provide an interesting look at the selection process, for the Commission that so often holds peoples careers in their hands.
In deciding the case the court stated “In 2006, William P. Monahan filed suit against former Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney and several members of the Governor’s senior staff: Eric Fehrnstrom, Nicholas Tzitzon, Shawn Feddeman, and Spencer Zwick. Monahan’s complaint listed seven counts revolving around his central allegation that the defendants had unconstitutionally removed him from his office as Chairman of the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission in 2003, depriving him of protected property and liberty interests without due process of law.
After a four-day bench trial in April 2009, the district court found that Monahan had voluntarily resigned and ruled against him on all counts. Monahan has appealed, arguing that the district court’s findings of fact were wholly unsupported by the evidence and that the court therefore committed legal error in its conclusions of law. We hold that the district court’s conclusions are well supported in the evidence and that it committed no error. We affirm entry of judgment for the defendants.
As to the third phone call, which was between Monahan and Governor Romney, the district court credited Romney’s testimony, and rejected Monahan’s claim that he told Romney in this call that he would not resign. The court’s decision was in part based on the fact that Monahan’s testimony about the call differed in an important respect from the position statement that he had written shortly after the call. At trial, Monahan testified that he had told Romney on the phone: “[I]f I thought it was in his best interests or mine, I would resign, but I didn’t think that it was, and I wasn’t going to resign.” The position statement stated: “I informed the Governor that if I determined that it was in his best interest and in my best interest, that I would resign. At that point he gave me a private number in order to get in further contact with him.” The court found that the absence of the line “I wasn’t going to resign” in the position statement was telling, and credited Romney’s testimony against that of Monahan.
The district court found that Monahan’s resignation was not involuntary. In making this finding, the court cited the fact that Monahan had a choice between resignation and termination; that Monahan had a law degree and understood that he was under no obligation to resign and possessed the power to reject the defendants’ request; that to the extent any coercion was inherent in the request, it was reduced by the fact that the request was made by phone; and that although Monahan likely felt pressure to make a quick decision, he could have requested more time or demanded to speak to the Governor to argue against resignation. Under these circumstances, the court found, Monahan’s resignation was not involuntary. The district court’s reasons were well supported and well explained. On appeal, no question of law is raised.4
Because Monahan voluntarily resigned, his claim that the defendants deprived him of a property interest within the meaning of the Due Process Clause necessarily fails. See Stone v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., 855 F.2d 167, 173 (4th Cir.1988) (“If he resigned of his own free will even though prompted to do so by events set in motion by his employer, he relinquished his property interest voluntarily and thus cannot establish that the state ‘deprived’ him of it within the meaning of the due process clause.”). For the same reason, Monahan’s claim that the defendants deprived him of a constitutionally protected liberty interest also fails. See Lyons v. Sullivan, 602 F.2d 7, 11 (1st Cir.1979) (“While defamation in the course of termination of governmental employment does entitle an employee to procedural due process protection, ․ the facts alleged do not bring plaintiff within this rule since plaintiff’s employment was not terminated; plaintiff resigned.”) (citation omitted).
The district court’s judgment is affirmed.”
Attorney Ronald A. Sellon