Question: Tracey Bantz and Crystal Kiesau served as deputy sheriffs for

Tracey Bantz and Crystal Kiesau served as deputy sheriffs for the Buchanan County, Iowa, Sheriff's Department. In connection with her employment, Kiesau was involved with a K-9 training program for dogs. The website for the K-9 program included a photograph of a uniformed Kiesau standing with a police dog in front of a Sheriff's Department car. Bantz obtained the photograph from his home computer and digitally altered it so that Kiesau appeared to be exposing her breasts. During the next several months, Bantz showed and electronically mailed the altered photograph to numerous other persons. When she learned what Bantz had done, Kiesau sued him for defamation and invasion of privacy. A jury eventually returned a verdict in favor of Kiesau and against Bantz for compensatory and punitive damages totaling approximately $160,000. In addition, Kiesau's lawsuit named Buchanan County and its sheriff, Leonard Davis, as defendants. Kiesau contended that Davis and the county should face liability for negligent supervision of Bantz and for negligent retention of him as an employee. Davis and the county moved for summary judgment and sought dismissal of the claims made against them. Evidence produced by Kiesau in opposition of the summary judgment motion revealed that Davis had received numerous complaints about Bantz's attitude and work habits.
These complaints were lodged during a four-year period preceding Bantz's alteration and distribution of the photograph of Kiesau. For instance, a sergeant complained about Bantz's refusal to respond to a dispatch call and sent Davis a memo saying that "I am getting tired of people complaining that nothing ever happens to Deputy Bantz when a complaint is written up." As part of a recommendation that Davis terminate Bantz as a canine handler, a Lieutenant Furness mentioned Bantz's supposed lack of honesty, integrity and sound judgment, his inability to work without supervision, and his failures to cooperate with other members of the Sheriff's Department. Furness, who described Bantz as "a lawsuit waiting to happen even without a dog," later provided Davis a written complaint asserting that Bantz was the cause of turmoil and low morale in the department. In addition, the lieutenant informed Davis that Bantz was "arrogant in his knowledge that he can do anything and nothing will happen to him." Furness also expressed the supposed view of fellow deputies that Bantz's actions would eventually lead to a lawsuit. The evidence also included a statement by a Captain Hepke, who noted that the number of complaints lodged against Bantz were the most he had seen filed against a single deputy in his 22 years of law enforcement experience. Davis apparently took no action in response to these complaints about Bantz. The trial court granted summary judgment to Davis and the county and dismissed Kiesau's negligence claims against those defendants. Kiesau appealed. Should Davis and the county have been granted summary judgment on Kiesau's negligent supervision and negligent retention claims?

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  • CreatedJuly 16, 2014
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