Plaintiff Nikki Bogart, a Democrat and former candidate for County Recorder, filed suit alleging that her First Amendment rights were violated when the new Republican County Board Chairman terminated her employment a month after taking office. Defendant Chairman and the County filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that, even if Plaintiff was fired for political reasons, political loyalty was a valid qualification for Plaintiff’s position as Financial Resource Director for the County Board Office. U.S. Central District Judge Colin Bruce agreed and granted Defendants’ motion.
Using the official and unofficial job descriptions for the Financial Resource Director position, the Court found that the position fell under the Elrod-Branti exception to First Amendment protections against political patronage. The Court found that Plaintiff’s position was the type of policymaking and confidential position in which political judgment is an appropriate requirement. The Court found it significant that Plaintiff had control over the preparation and review of the County budget, including the creation of 23 of the County’s 109 budgets; developed long- and short-term financial plans; conducted ongoing budget analysis and coordination of bid-specifications and purchasing policies; and was involved with the County’s insurance programs and grant applications. The Court found that these duties demonstrated the wide policymaking responsibilities in financial and budgetary matters. Such duties made the position of Financial Resource Director one of great political importance to the County and Chairman, as budgets and financial planning is a primary function of county government.
The Court also granted summary judgment in the Chairman’s favor on qualified immunity grounds, finding that Plaintiff did not identify any closely analogous case to demonstrate that her termination violated a clearly established right. Michael Condon and Yordana Wysocki represented the Defendants.