The City of Kingman, Arizona has paid former city employee Melissa Summerson $50.000 to drop her federal lawsuit. The city made the offer Monday. Summerson accepted the offer and formally dropped her suit yesterday.
In an emailed statement Summerson’s lawyer, David C. Kresin, told the Kingman Miner, “Melissa feels vindicated by the court’s entry of a substantial judgment in her favor on her constitutional claims. Because Melissa was such a good employee with an outstanding record, she quickly found other employment in the human resources field and worked hard to limit the economic harm that she suffered as a result of the city’s illegal conduct. Despite her successful efforts to mitigate her damages, she strongly desired to obtain a judgment holding the city liable for its actions and succeeded in that effort.”
Summerson filed the suit on May 9, 2013.
The Back Story
Summerson went to work for the city as a police dispatcher in 1996. She transferred to another city job two years later. The Kingman City Manager and the supervisor who eventually fired her attended her wedding in December 1999. She became Kingman’s Human Resources Administrator in April 2002. Her husband William joined the Desert Road Riders Motorcycle Club in 2004. Both Summersons ride Harley-Davidsons.
The Summersons moved to Pennsylvania to care for a terminally ill relative in 2006 but returned to Kingman in 2011. She was offered the job of Dispatch Director in February 2012 but turned it down because she wanted to pursue a career in human resources. Her performance reviews were all outstanding.
In October 2012, after the state of Arizona launched a federally funded war on motorcyclists in Northwestern Arizona, federal and state officials identified the Desert Road Riders as an “outlaw motorcycle gang.” The Desert Low Riders is a one piece patch club that is widely regarded to be a family club. The outlaw designation was based on the Desert Low Riders membership in the Arizona Confederation of Clubs which includes numerous clubs, such as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, that wear a three piece patch.
Summerson was fired after a Kingman police officer named Donald A. Daughty wrote an internal report that stated that William Summerson was a member of the Desert Road Riders, that Melissa Summerson had been observed “selling DRRMC raffle tickets,” and that William Summerson had not ridden in a Kingman Police Department charity motorcycle ride which forbid participation by members of motorcycle clubs.
Doughty’s report also alleged that “outlaw motorcycle gang members” have “their wives, girlfriends, sisters, or other acquaintances obtain employment in positions where sensitive information may be found.” Doughty also warned that Melissa Summerson might “have access to background and criminal history information if her position involves the hiring of new employees.” Doughty also reported that Melissa Summerson appeared in photos on the Desert Road Riders website.
Three days after Christmas 2012, Melissa Summerson was fired because she was associated with the Desert Road Riders which was a “documented criminal Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMG)” and “a support club of the Hell’s (sic) Angels, which is a criminal street gang as defined by ARS 13-105.”