(CN) – A federal appeals court in Denver upheld a ruling against a former road foreman in Oklahoma who claimed his demotion by a newly elected county commissioner violated the First Amendment.
The 10th Circuit voted 2-1 to dismiss claims filed by Bill Poindexter, who became a road foreman in 1999 for then-Sequoyah County Commissioner Cleon Harrell. Harrell retired and was replaced in 2006 by Mike Huff.
Poindexter claimed that Huff demoted him and replaced him with one of Huff’s political supporters. Poindexter said the decision was political, because he had briefly run against Huff for the commission seat, and later worked for his opponents in the primary and general elections.
Poindexter sued Huff and the Board of County Commissioners for allegedly violating his rights to free speech and political association.
The majority affirmed a ruling for the defendants on several grounds, including that the road foreman job “is one for which political loyalty may appropriately be required.”
Judge McConnell also ruled for the officials on the free-speech claim, finding “no evidence that Poindexter’s expression of loyalty to Harrell in July 2005 offended Huff or was to his political disadvantage at the time.”
In dissent, Judge Ebel said the position may not require political loyalty. Jurors should decide whether Poindexter was fired because of his protected association, and whether Huff is entitled to immunity, Ebel said.