(CN) – A Memphis permit official is not immune from claims that she violated the free-speech rights of a rickshaw operator by blocking him from getting permits after he bypassed her office and complained to other officials, the 6th Circuit ruled.
David Holzemer operated Downtown Buggy, a fleet of 11 three-wheeled, motorized rickshaws.
Holzemer claimed that Monique Campbell, who worked in the Memphis Police Department’s permit office, wrongfully denied his company the same privileges as similar vehicles in the city.
Specifically, he said Campbell barred Downtown Buggy from dropping off and picking up customers at the entrance of Pyramid Arena. He also claimed that Campbell would not speak to him about obtaining new permits in retaliation for him speaking to public officials about his problems.
This contentious relationship continued until Campbell and the police raided Downtown Buggy and impounded their rickshaws for allegedly altering vehicle identification numbers.
Campbell allegedly said, “I told you that you were going to do this to yourself … As of this moment, you are officially shut down.”
Holzemer was cleared of the charges, but at the impound lot, he found that his rickshaws were unusable. He later sold them for scrap.
Holzemer said Campbell refused to issue him new permits because he didn’t have any vehicles. She later refused to speak to him when he came to the permit office, he claimed.
The district court denied Campbell qualified immunity on the First Amendment retaliation claim, and the Cincinnati-based appeals court affirmed.
“We find that the plaintiffs produced evidence that, if true, creates and inference that Campbell’s hostility and obfuscatory actions toward the plaintiffs arose from Holzemer’s decision to bypass the Permit Office and Campbell by going to … other city officials,” Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote.