Judge dismisses lawsuit against sheriff, county

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

The dismissal of a second civil suit filed against Yates County, Sheriff Ronald Spike and Sr. Inv. Michael Christensen by Deputy Kenneth Kamholtz does not appear to have put an end to conflict between the parties.

Federal Judge David Larimer, in U.S. District Court, dismissed the second civil lawsuit filed earlier this year.

Kamholtz filed the lawsuit in February after an earlier lawsuit was dismissed by another federal judge, and the Second Circuit Court in New York upheld that decision on appeal.

In the 2008 suit, Kamholtz claimed that his civil rights were violated in connection with his demotion from an investigator’s position to road deputy within the department. He had claimed that his First Amendment rights in particular had been violated.

That case was dismissed by Judge Michael A. Telesca, who said, among other things, that Kamholtz had not engaged in protected speech, meaning he could not establish a First Amendment claim.

Earlier this year, when he filed this second lawsuit, Kamholtz said he was subjected to adverse actions as a result of the first lawsuit.

Around the same time he filed the second lawsuit, Kamholtz announced his plan to seek election to the Yates County Sheriff’s post in the November election. He faces Spike in the Republican Primary on Sept. 13.

His allegations claimed that Yates County and Spike, as sheriff, failed to train and discipline. He additionally sought punitive damages against Christensen as an individual.

“It is regretful that Kamholtz continues to file lawsuits, as it was apparent that the majority of allegations in the current civil rights complaint were by and large a rehash of the same contentions that were previously dismissed in 2008, and which that dismissal was upheld by the US Court of Appeals in 2009,” commented Spike.

Christensen commented via email writing, “Same fairy tale, same result, dismissed, three times,  before it even gets into to court. Clearly false and baseless allegations. Again, no winners. He apparently has no consideration for the discomfort and stress that this frivolous action brings upon not only my family, but his as well. But the taxpayers, they are the financial losers, clearly he also has no consideration for them either.”

Kamholtz also commented via email, writing, “The Larimer decision provides a compelling and persuasive argument in favor of anti-bullying legislation.  When I next meet with Congress to discuss the reality and legality of workplace violence, this decision will shed light on the totality of the previous seven years of recorded history, which leaves no room to question that workplace violence is real, it’s harmful and it’s legal.”

Kamholtz was seeking money and punitive damages from Yates County.

In his decision, Larimer writes, “Speech that is ‘constitutionally protected’ under the First Amendment is that which takes place when one speaks as a citizen about a matter of public concern, i.e. a matter of political, social or other concern to the community at large, as opposed to a personal matter...Thus when a public employee makes a statement pursuant to his official duties, or one that relates soley to individual grievances rather than to issues of concern to the public generally, a First Amendment retaliation claim does not arise.”

“A public employee plaintiff cannot simply comb through everything that he has done or said publicly over the years, seize upon some arguably protected activity that preceded some allegedly adverse action, and set forth a claim based on the unsupported conclusion that the one led to the other,” wrote Larimer.