January 9, 2005
A former police officer fired by Chandler in 2003 for his involvement in an adult Web site is awaiting a judge’s decision on whether his lawsuit against the city will go to trial.
Ron Dible says in court documents that the only issue for a jury to decide is how much Chandler owes him for violating his right to free speech by investigating his off-duty involvement in the porn site.
The site featured his wife, Megan Dible, a former dispatcher for the department.
Chandler contends Ron Dible’s involvement in the site wasn’t protected speech because as a public employee his rights would be protected only if he spoke "as a citizen upon matters of public concern," defense attorney Katherine Baker said.
And even if Ron Dible’s speech were protected, Chandler was harmed by it, bringing disrepute to the city and police department and reducing respect for its officers, Baker said.
The Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has joined the case as a "friend of the court" and taken sides with Ron Dible, saying that even though he was a public employee, his involvement in the porn site was protected speech.
"We got involved because everything he did was completely off-duty," said civil liberties union lawyer Angela Polizzi. "It was off the workplace and did not mention the police department in any way."
Judge James Teilborg, of U.S. District Court for Arizona, wrote that "this is a case of public interest" in which he could use the Arizona chapter’s help.
Teilborg heard arguments Tuesday and will decide which issues can be heard at trial or whether there are issues for a jury to decide.
Thrown into the mix is a Dec. 6 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a case in which a San Diego police officer was fired for selling videos on eBay that showed him stripping out of a police uniform and performing a sex act. The officer also sold police paraphernalia and official San Diego Police Department uniforms.
The high court sided with San Diego, saying that the officer’s speech wasn’t protected because it was "detrimental to the mission and functions of the employer."
Teilborg wanted to hear from both sides how the case would affect Ron Dible’s.
In court documents his attorney argues that Ron Dible took significant steps to hide his identity and keep his employment separate, unlike the San Diego officer.