FROM THE SEBASTIAN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FORT SMITH DISTRICT
[NO. 66FCV-13-1196-I] HONORABLE STEPHEN TABOR, JUDGE
Pinnacle Law Firm, PLLC, by: Matthew D. Campbell, for
& Woods, P.L.L.C., by: Douglas M. Carson, Wyman R. Wade,
Jr., and Colby T. Roe, for appellees.
W. GRUBER, Judge
Addisen Entmeier, brings this appeal from an order of the
Sebastian County Circuit Court granting appellees' motion
for summary judgment in this case, which was brought under
the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act (the Act). Appellees are the
City of Fort Smith; Kevin D. Lindsey (chief of the Fort Smith
Police Department); and Alan Haney, Brandon Bird, Chris
Harris, Dewey Young, Gerald Schaefer, and Chris Boyd, Sr.
(all officers of the Fort Smith Police Department). The court
found that Entmeier failed to meet proof with proof-relying
instead on "innuendo and supposition" to support
his whistle-blower claim-in the face of appellees'
evidence that Entmeier was fired for poor job performance and
not because he was a whistle-blower. On appeal, Entmeier
contends that the circuit court erred in failing to grant
additional time to complete discovery before ruling on the
motion for summary judgment and that the court misapplied the
burdens, standards, and analysis required to grant a motion
for summary judgment. We find no error, and we affirm the
circuit court's order.
began working for the Fort Smith Police Department (the
Department) in November 2010 as a civilian employee in a
"non-uniformed" position. He worked in the
Communications Unit, also known as Dispatch or 911, until
March 2011. At that point, one of his supervisors, Sergeant
Waymon Parker, told Entmeier that he was behind in his
training and had a limited time frame to improve or that he
could transfer to the Meter Enforcement Unit. Entmeier
testified that he had a "gut feeling" that
he was being offered a transfer because he had "made
someone mad." Entmeier transferred to the Meter
Enforcement Unit in April 2011, where he remained until July
events surrounding Entmeier's claimed status as a
whistle-blower occurred in 2011 during an investigation of
the Communications Unit conducted by Sergeant Dawn Sprayberry
with the Professional Standards Unit. The purpose of the
investigation was to examine the reasons for the unit's
high turnover and general personnel problems. At the time of
the investigation, Entmeier had already transferred into the
Meter Enforcement Unit, but he was interviewed on May 26,
2011, regarding his experience working in Dispatch. Entmeier
worked under Emily Haney while in Dispatch. Ms. Haney is
married to Captain Alan Haney, one of the appellees herein.
On March 6, 2012, Captain Haney improperly accessed Sergeant
Sprayberry's investigatory files without authorization,
which included Entmeier's interview statement.
2012, Entmeier applied to become an officer with the
Department. Entmeier had suffered a panic attack at work in
February 2012 while in the Meter Enforcement Unit, and he
failed to include this information on the medical form in his
application. During a polygraph examination, the discrepancy
was discovered, and a review board conducted an investigation
regarding whether his failure to disclose the attack
prevented him from being accepted into probationary-officer
training. Captain Haney was on the review board, which found
no wrongdoing and accepted Entmeier as a probationary
officer. Entmeier's year-long probationary training began
in July 2012.
the initial training, Entmeier began his "field
training" in November 2012, which continued until March
2013, when he was assigned to a troop and permitted to work
on his own. He was initially assigned to Troop 1, but before
he began, he voluntarily agreed to transfer into Troop 3 in
order to help another officer who wanted to switch for
personal reasons. Captain Haney was the commander of Troop 3.
From March through June, Entmeier's supervisory officers
in Troop 3, appellees herein, reported numerous problems with
his job performance. Entmeier was terminated on July 5, 2013,
less than two weeks before his probationary training period
was scheduled to end.
December 26, 2013, Entmeier filed a complaint under the
Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act, alleging that he had been fired
from Captain Haney's Troop 3 in retaliation for accusing
Ms. Haney of abuse of overtime in his interview during the
2011 investigation of the Communications Unit. No discovery
was conducted, and on June 3, 2015, appellees filed a motion
for summary judgment contending that Entmeier could not show
facts beyond mere speculation and conjecture to support the
claim that he had been fired because he had engaged in
whistle-blowing activity. They contended that, even if
Entemeier could prove that he was a whistle-blower, he had
been terminated for poor job performance, not for any alleged
whistle-blowing activity. Entmeier responded that the motion
was premature and prevented him from engaging in discovery.
He also argued that the motion was based on self-serving
affidavits that were false or intentionally misleading and
that the motion ignored genuine issues of material fact. The
circuit court granted appellees' motion, finding that
Entmeier had failed to sufficiently meet proof with proof and
that there were no genuine issues of material fact.
first point on appeal, Entmeier argues that the circuit court
erred in failing to grant him additional time to complete
discovery before ruling on appellees' motion. The circuit
court rejected Entmeier's argument, stating that the
motion for summary judgment had been filed almost eighteen
months after Entmeier had initiated the lawsuit and that no
discovery efforts had been conducted during that time. The
court recognized that Entmeier did not file discovery until a
month after the motion for summary judgment had been filed.
The court also noted that defense counsel had stated at the
hearing that appellees had assembled and made available to
Entmeier thousands of pages of discovery documents, which, as
of the date of the hearing in September 2015, had not been
reviewed by anyone on Entmeier's behalf. The court found
that the motion was not premature.
court has wide discretion in matters pertaining to discovery,
and we will not reverse its decision absent an abuse of that
discretion. Lancaster v. Red Robin Int'l, Inc.,
2011 Ark.App. 706, at 11, 386 S.W.3d 662, 670. In support of
his argument that the motion was premature, Entmeier cites
our supreme court's decision in First National Bank
v. Newport Hospital & Clinic, Inc., 281 Ark. 332,
663 S.W.2d 742 (1984). In that case, the court reversed the
trial court's summary judgment, holding that the motion
should not have been granted until discovery that was
"clearly pertinent" to the issues in the case had
been completed. Id. at 335, 663 S.W.2d at 743.
There, the defendants in a medical-malpractice case filed
motions for summary judgment after the plaintiff had
requested production of certain "pertinent" medical
records. Id. The supreme court specifically noted
that there had been "no suggestion of a lack of
diligence by the plaintiff in discovery efforts."
Id. Here, in contrast, no discovery was conducted
for eighteen months, and none was propounded until after
appellees' motion for summary judgment had been filed.