Yeager v. City of McGregor ( 1992 )


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  •                                    United States Court of Appeals,
    
                                                 Fifth Circuit.
    
                                                No. 91–8574.
    
       Franklin YEAGER, Walter Brandt, Don C. Yeager and Mark Yeager, Plaintiffs–Appellants,
    
                                                       v.
    
                           CITY of McGREGOR, et al., Defendants–Appellees.
    
                                                 Jan. 5, 1993.
    
    Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.
    
    Before GOLDBERG, JONES, and DeMOSS, Circuit Judges.
    
           EDITH H. JONES, Circuit Judge:
    
           Appellants were voted out of membership in the McGregor, Texas Volunteer Fire Department
    
    (MVFD). Unwilling to let bygones be bygones, they sued the City of McGregor, MVFD and three
    
    individual defendants. From the district court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants, the
    
    former fire fighters have appealed. We affirm, principally because appellants did not raise a fact issue
    
    supporting their assertion that MVFD is a state actor or an agency of the City of McGregor. Where
    
    there is no state action, no section 1983 constitutional claim exists.
    
                                              BACKGROUND
    
           The MVFD has existed since the 1920's and has received subsidies from the City of
    
    McGregor. The City currently furnishes a building, two fire trucks and equipment to the volunteer
    
    program and pays each fireman a $300 yearly stipend plus a $10 contribution to a state pension
    
    program. Some City tax dollars are annually budgeted to MVFD, although its primary sources of
    
    revenue are donations and proceeds from the annual barbecue.
    
           In 1965, the City of McGregor approved the Constitution and Bylaws of the MVFD as a
    
    voluntary unincorporated association. The undisputed affidavit evidence reflects, however, that the
    
    City exercised no day-to-day management or control of MVFD and, in particular, had no role in its
    
    membership decisions. The summary judgment evidence showed that the City does not approve
    
    MVFD's choice of Fire Chief or its Chief Engineer.
            Appellants Franklin Yeager, Don Yeager, Mark Yeager and Walter Brandt were members of
    
    MVFD until December 1, 1988. In November of that year, Franklin Yeager, Don Yeager and Walter
    
    Brandt met with a newspaper reporter and alleged racial discrimination at the MVFD. They gave the
    
    reporter a copy of an ancient MVFD application form in which an applicant had to certify that he was
    
    "white male, 21 years of age and of good moral character." Appellants' allegations generated
    
    widespread media attention. On December 1, appellants complained of financial improprieties
    
    concerning MVFD funds at a McGregor City Council meeting. Appellee Tom Kirk, a member of the
    
    city council and influential local businessperson, allegedly stated after the meeting, "I want them out,"
    
    indicating that he wished plaintiffs to be expelled from MVFD. (Kirk and several witnesses deny that
    
    he made this statement.) Shortly after the city council meeting, the MVFD met in special session and
    
    voted overwhelmingly by secret ballot to remove the appellants from membership. At that time,
    
    former defendant John Blake was department Chief and former defendant Ronnie Spradley was
    
    President of the MVFD.
    
            Nearly two years later, appellants filed suit in the district court alleging that they were
    
    discharged because of their public statements concerning racial discrimination and MVFD financial
    
    irregularities. They alleged a conspiracy between Councilman Kirk and MVFD officials to deprive
    
    them of First Amendment rights. Named as defendants were the City of McGregor, the MVFD, Kirk,
    
    Blake and Spradley. After conducting substantial discovery, the appellants voluntarily dismissed the
    
    MVFD officials. The remaining defendants filed separate motions for summary judgment, which the
    
    court granted. This appeal followed.
    
                                         STANDARD OF REVIEW
    
            In reviewing a district court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment this court applies the
    
    same standard that governs the district court. Bache v. American Telephone & Telegraph, 
    840 F.2d 283
    , 287 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 
    488 U.S. 888
    , 
    109 S. Ct. 219
    , 
    102 L. Ed. 2d 210
     (1988); Brooks,
    
    Tarlton, Gilbert, Douglas and Kressler v. United States Fire Insurance Co., 
    832 F.2d 1358
    , 1364
    
    (5th Cir.1987). We should therefore not affirm a summary judgment ruling unless we are "convinced,
    
    after an independent review of the record that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and
    that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Brooks, 832 F.2d at 1364. When a fact
    
    question controls the disposition of a summary judgment motion this court must "review the evidence
    
    and any inference to be drawn therein in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Baton
    
    Rouge Building Construction v. Jacobs Constructors, 
    804 F.2d 879
    , 881 (5th Cir.1986) (per curiam).
    
    In contrast, we review questions of law de novo. Kirkland v. North Side Independent School Dist.,
    
    
    890 F.2d 794
    , 798 (5th Cir.1989). We may affirm a summary judgment on a ground not utilized by
    
    the district court if it was raised below and has proper support in the record. In re Jones, 
    966 F.2d 169
    , 172 (5th Cir.1992); Bernhardt v. Richardson–Merrell, Inc., 
    892 F.2d 440
    , 444 (5th Cir.1990);
    
    Sapp v. Renfroe, 
    511 F.2d 172
    , 175 n. 2 (5th Cir.1975).
    
                                       STATE ACTION DOCTRINE
    
           The threshold inquiry in this section 1983 action is whether there was any intentional
    
    involvement of a state actor. Wyatt v. Cole, ––– U.S. ––––, ––––, 
    112 S. Ct. 1827
    , 1830, 
    118 L. Ed. 2d 504
     (1992); Carey v. Piphus, 
    435 U.S. 247
    , 254–57, 
    98 S. Ct. 1042
    , 1047–49, 
    55 L. Ed. 2d 252
     (1978); Jett v. Dallas Ind. School District, 
    491 U.S. 701
    , 731, 
    109 S. Ct. 2702
    , 2720, 
    105 L. Ed. 2d 598
     (1989). Appellants have contended that MVFD and the City are state actors responsible
    
    for their expulsion from MVFD, while councilman Kirk "conspired" with MVFD officials. For
    
    reasons to be stated, we disagree with these contentions.
    
    A. McGregor Volunteer Fire Department
    
            The district court "assumed without deciding" that the volunteer fire department was a state
    
    actor and proceeded to the merits of the First Amendment claims. If not corrected, this assumption
    
    might be costly to the thousands of volunteer fire departments around the country that may be
    
    needlessly exposed to section 1983 lawsuits. While the district court's reluctance to wade into an area
    
    as rife with conceptualism as the state action doctrine is understandable, that alternative is less
    
    appropriate for an appellate court. On examining the question, we demur from establishing a broad
    
    rule concerning volunteer fire departments in general; but conclude that under present Supreme
    
    Court authority, cases from this circuit and Texas law, MVFD was not a state actor.
    
           The ultimate issue in a § 1983 case is whet her the alleged infringement of federal rights
    stemmed from conduct fairly attributable to the state. Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 
    457 U.S. 922
    ,
    
    938, 
    102 S. Ct. 2744
    , 2754, 
    73 L. Ed. 2d 482
     (1982). While this goal is, as Judge Goldberg has
    
    observed, "relatively well-marked," Frazier v. Board of Trustees of Northwest Mississippi, 
    765 F.2d 1278
    , 1283 (5th Cir.1985), the state action inquiry is inherently difficult. Judge Goldberg also wrote,
    
    "Imbued with an identity all its own, every state action inquiry partakes only slightly of the factual
    
    stuff of other cases." Frazier, 765 F.2d at 1284.
    
            The Supreme Court has adopted a variety of guidelines for determining whether an individual
    
    or entity acted on behalf of the state for purposes of affixing section 1983 liability. Among the most
    
    prominent talismans of state actor status are the exclusive government function concept, the state's
    
    encouragement or coercion of private activities, the symbiotic relationship and the entanglements
    
    formula. 2 R. Rotunda, J. Nowak and J. Young, Treatise on Constitutional Law: Substance and
    
    Procedure § 16.2–16.4 (1986) (Supp.1991). Among these guidelines, appellants have relied solely
    
    on the "exclusive government function" standard, asserting that "a city in Texas has the responsibility
    
    for protecting its inhabitants' property against destruction by fire." Before analyzing the appellants'
    
    authorities, it is necessary to recur to the Supreme Court's explanation of the exclusive public function
    
    concept—and its limitations.
    
            The Supreme Court rejects the notion that any entity that performs a "public function" is a
    
    state actor. The question is not "whether a private group is serving a "public function,' [but instead]
    
    whether the funct ion performed has been "traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the state,' "
    
    Rendell–Baker v. Kohn, 
    457 U.S. 830
    , 841, 
    102 S. Ct. 2764
    , 2772–73, 
    73 L. Ed. 2d 418
     (1982)
    
    (quoting Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co., 
    419 U.S. 345
    , 352, 
    95 S. Ct. 449
    , 454, 
    42 L. Ed. 2d 477
    
    (1974)). Thus, the Court held that Massachusetts' legislative decision to educate special needs high
    
    school students at public expense "in no way makes the services the exclusive province of the State."
    
    Id. The private school that contracted with the state to perform this function was not transformed
    
    into a state actor. With similar reasoning, the Court foreclosed a claim that nursing homes were state
    
    actors because they operated with state subsidies under requirements that the Medicaid program
    
    imposed on the state. Blum v. Yaretsky, 
    457 U.S. 991
    , 1012, 
    102 S. Ct. 2777
    , 2789, 
    73 L. Ed. 2d 534
    (1982). The Court has also held that neither an extensively regulated electric utility nor a
    
    warehouseman that enforced its lien by invoking a U.C.C. self-help sale provision was engaged in an
    
    exclusive public function amounting to state action. Jackson, 419 U.S. at 352, 95 S.Ct. at 454;
    
    Flagg Brothers, Inc. v. Brooks, 
    436 U.S. 149
    , 160, 
    98 S. Ct. 1729
    , 1735, 
    56 L. Ed. 2d 185
     (1978).
    
           In dicta, the Court once mentioned fire protection among a list of traditionally exclusive
    
    public functions including education, police protection and tax collection. Flagg Brothers, 436 U.S.
    
    at 163–64, 98 S.Ct. at 1737. The Court then added:
    
           We express no view as to the extent, if any, to which a city or state might be free to delegate
           to private parties the performance of such functions and thereby avoid the strictures of the
           Fourteenth Amendment ... [R]esolution [of such factual situations] should abide the necessity
           of deciding them.
    
    Id. This self-qualifying reference does not decide the present case. First, the Court itself later
    
    determined in Rendell–Baker that a state educational function could be assigned to a private party
    
    under certain conditions without rendering the private school subject to § 1983. Second, to the
    
    extent that the reference in Flagg Brothers suggests that it would be impermissible to delegate an
    
    exclusive public function for the purpose of avoiding § 1983 liability, that underlying premise is
    
    absent from this case.1 Finally, as Flagg Brothers states, the state action question remains fact
    
    specific even where the exclusivity of the public function is at issue. Lower courts must therefore
    
    consider the history, tradition and local law surrounding volunteer fire departments before concluding
    
    whether they are state actors.
    
           Under a fact-specific review, the MVFD does not appear to perform a "power traditionally
    
    exclusively reserved to the state." Jackson, 419 U.S. at 352, 95 S.Ct. at 454. Texas law states that
    
    a home rule municipality, the form in which the City of McGregor is organized, "may provide for a
    
    fire department." Texas Local Government Code § 342.011 (Supp.1991) (emphasis added). This
    
    language hardly sets up fire fighting as an exclusive public function, and no Texas cases hold
    
    otherwise.
    
    
       1
       The Court has similarly qualified Evans. v. Newton, 
    382 U.S. 296
    , 
    86 S. Ct. 486
    , 
    15 L. Ed. 2d 373
     (1966), as establishing a narrow, fact-specific application of the public function concept. See
    Flagg Brothers, 436 U.S. at 160 n. 8, 
    98 S. Ct. 1735
    , n. 8.
            Appellants rely on two cases to support the contention that fire fighting is an exclusive public
    
    function in Texas, but neither case stands for that proposition. In one of them, the state court found
    
    that members of the Mission Volunteer Fire Department served in a governmental capacity under a
    
    now-repealed state law, Tex.Rev.Civ.Ann. art. 9205, to the extent that the worked under the
    
    supervision of paid employees of the local fire department. Genzer v. City of Mission, 
    666 S.W.2d 116
    , 120 (Tex.Civ.App.—Corpus Christi 1983, writ ref'd n.r.e.). The question in Genzer was not
    
    whether the Mission Volunteer Fire Department was acting in any kind of public function on its own,
    
    but was confined to considering whether its members participated in performing a public function for
    
    purposes of the Texas Tort Claims Act, when they served at a fireworks display under the direct
    
    supervision of the City's full-time employees. Id. There was no discussion of an "exclusive" public
    
    function. In the other cited case, the court decided simply not to limit a city's police power to re-zone
    
    in order to enhance fire protection. City of McAllen v. Morris, 
    217 S.W.2d 875
     (Tex.Civ.App.—San
    
    Antonio, 1948, err. ref'd). Morris does state in dicta that "a city is one of the most ancient and
    
    familiar forms of municipal organization and it has vested in it the responsibility for protecting its
    
    inhabitants against violence and their property against destruction by fire." 217 S.W.2d at 877. The
    
    case befo re us deals not with an "ancient and familiar form of municipal organization" but with a
    
    home rule municipality governed by specific Texas law.
    
            This court also takes judicial notice of the fact that there are a variety of private sector fire
    
    fighting alternatives;2 and fire fighting is not generally an exclusive government function.3 What is
    
       2
        See e.g., John A. Conway, Firemen for Hire, Forbes, December 22, 1980 at 8 (noting "a
    dozen private companies have taken over the job of fire protection in cities and towns around the
    country."); Dick Davies, A City Considers Private Fire Service, The New York Times, January
    30, 1983 at p. 15, col. 1 (nothing that for 30 years, cities in the south and southwest have used
    private fire companies); Rural Metro, Business Wire, September 3, 1987 (available on Lexis)
    (discussing Rural Metro Corp., a private national emergency fire fighting service which operates
    the equivalent of 25 fire departments throughout the United States.); Carolyn Lockhead, Taking
    Cities Private, Saturday Evening Post, May 1988 at p. 30 (noting that "many Rural Metro clients
    maintain full or part ownership of their fire stations and equipment."); Lori Frearson, Company
    Proves Privitization Works to Contain Fires, Expenses, Arizona Business Gazette, Dec. 7, 1987
    at p.23.
       3
        In Colonial America all firefighting was done by private volunteers. Ron Coleman,
    Opportunities in Fire Protection Services 5 (1990). In Europe the trend continues to the present
    day. Lucy Holdges, Inefficient Fire Service Should be Competitive, The Daily Telegraph
    more, only half the population of the United States is served by exclusive government fire protection.4
    
    According to Martin Tolchin of the New York Times,
    
                 "Private Fire Departments, which thrived when the nation was young, are serving a growing
                 number of communities ... about 75 communities in 15 states ... have hired private companies
                 to provide protection against fires ... [one company] ... protects, 20% of Arizona's population
                 and has private fire departments in New Mexico, Texas, Florida and Tennessee."5
    
                 The one federal circuit court decision that held a volunteer fire department to be a state actor
    
    pre-dates Blum and Rendell–Baker and at one point suggests that it is ruling on the "symbiotic
    
    relat ionship test" as well as the exclusive public function concept of state action. Janusaitis v.
    
    Middlebury Volunteer Fire Department, 
    607 F.2d 17
    , 23 (2d Cir.1979).6 Omitting the problems of
    
    archaism and ambiguity, however, Janusaitis is predicated on a state law different from that of Texas:
    
                 The Connecticut statute authorizing agreements with volunteer fire departments implicitly
                 recognizes that fire fighting is essentially the exclusive function of government.
    
    607 F.2d at 24. Mo reover, in Connecticut, volunteer fire fighters are considered employees of a
    
    municipality for workers compensation purposes, and a municipality is required to indemnify them
    
    for specific liabilities. 607 F.2d at 21. These distinctions are sufficient to render Janusaitis less than
    
    compelling precedent for the instant case.
    
                 As we reject appellants' reliance on the exclusive public function concept of state action, it
    
    is important to point out that MVFD would not have been deemed a state actor under any of the
    
    
    (Britain) September 18, 1989 at p.4 (nothing that West Germany uses volunteer fire brigades and
    that in Denmark "almost half the country is served by commercial fire protection firms.")
          4
        Donald DeVine, New Look of Local Government, The Washington Times, February 22, 1992
    at B. 1 (noting "more than half the population is served by private or volunteer protection"). This
    is not a new trend, but a long term phenomenon. Robert Masters, Going to Blazes (1967) (noting
    that in 1967 volunteer firefighters responded to two-thirds of fires and that there were eight times
    more volunteers than paid firemen); Ernest Ernest, The Volunteer Fire Company Book 2 (1979)
    (noting that only 250,000 of the 2,000,000 firefighters in the United States were government
    employees).
          5
              Martin Tolchin, Localities Shift to Private Firefighters, New York Times, July 28, 1985 at
    22.
          6
        Lower courts have been split in their reading of Janusaitis because of this ambiguity.
    Krohnmuller v. West End Fire Company, 
    123 F.R.D. 170
    , 174 (Ed.Pa.1988) (symbiotic relation);
    Jensen v. Farrell Lines, Inc. 
    625 F.2d 379
    , 386 (2d Cir.1980) (same); Lombard v. Eunice
    Kennedy Shriver Center for Mental Retardation, 
    556 F. Supp. 677
    , 680 (D.Mass.1983) (exclusive
    government function); Wiseman v. Sherry, 
    514 F. Supp. 728
    , 732 n. 8 (M.D.Pa.1981) (same).
    Supreme Court's other formulae. These formulae all depend on the degree to which the state and the
    
    regulated entity exist in a "symbiotic relationship"7 or under circumstances where the conduct of the
    
    private actor can be fairly imputed as that of the state. Jackson, 419 U.S. at 351, 95 S.Ct. at 453;
    
    San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. U.S. Olympic Committee, 
    483 U.S. 522
    , 556, 
    107 S. Ct. 2971
    ,
    
    2991, 
    97 L. Ed. 2d 427
     (1987).
    
              The Fifth Circuit has been asked to interpret this group of tests in a variety of circumstances,
    
    most pertinent of which are those involving government-funded hospitals. In the hospital cases, it
    
    has been found that even when a hospital accepts substantial governmental financial support, uses
    
    facilities constructed with government guaranteed funds, and is heavily regulated and reviewed, such
    
    a relationship is "not sufficient to subject the act of that business to the restraints of the First and
    
    Fourteenth Amendments". McCroy v. Rapides Regional Medical Center, 
    635 F. Supp. 975
    , 980
    
    (W.D.La.1986) aff'd 
    801 F.2d 396
     (5th Cir.1986).8              Further, the court has held that "the
    
    government's acquiescence or approval [of a private entity's actions is] insufficient to create
    
    government action." Smith v. North Louisiana Medical Review Ass'n, 
    735 F.2d 168
    , 173 (5th
    
    Cir.1984). Even when state law granted civil immunity to a peer review committee, the court has
    
    declined to find state action. Goss v. Memorial Hospital System, 
    789 F.2d 353
     (5th Cir.1986).
    
              The only case in which this court has found state action in a hospital setting is A.M. Jatoi v.
    
    Hurst–Euless–Bedford Hospital Authority, 
    807 F.2d 1214
     (5th Cir.1987). Three factors were
    
    considered to distinguish Jatoi from the previo us hospital cases. First, a government authority
    
    initially operated the hospital. Jatoi, 807 F.2d at 1221. Further, the "Authority derived a direct
    
    financial benefit from the private lessee. The Hospital Authority's repayment of bonds it issued and
    
       7
           Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority, 
    365 U.S. 715
    , 
    81 S. Ct. 856
    , 
    6 L. Ed. 2d 45
     (1961).
       8
        See also Greco v. Orange Memorial Hospital Corp., 
    513 F.2d 873
     (5th Cir.1975), cert.
    denied 
    423 U.S. 1000
    , 
    96 S. Ct. 433
    , 
    46 L. Ed. 2d 376
     (1975) (hospital that was largely funded
    with public bonds and whose building and lands was owned by the county was not a state actor);
    Madry v. Sorel, 
    558 F.2d 303
     (5th Cir.1977) cert. denied, 
    434 U.S. 1086
    , 
    98 S. Ct. 1280
    , 
    55 L. Ed. 2d 791
     (1978) (hospital that received financial support and whose bylaws allow public
    officials to serve as ex officio members was not a state actor); Wong v. Stripling, 
    881 F.2d 200
    (5th Cir.1989) (no state action where private hospital was within the purview of state legislation
    that authorized doctor's revocation and made available option review of procedural fairness in
    court system).
    the mortgages it entered into were dependent on successful operation of the hospital." Id. The court
    
    also found, significantly, that the governmental authority "retained the ability to prevent or control
    
    racial discrimination by its private manager." Id.9
    
           This case before us more closely resembles the hospital cases in which no state action was
    
    found than it does Jatoi. The City's operating expense subsidy and payment of token sums to fire
    
    fighters are insufficient to develop the close nexus between the City and MVFD that would convert
    
    the voluntary association's decision into state action. Unlike Jatoi, the City did not profit from the
    
    existence of MVFD, never operated its own fire department, and retained no ability to control
    
    MVFD. The City was not involved in MVFD's membership policies and did not "coerce or
    
    encourage" expulsion of appellants. Cf. Blum, 457 U.S. at 1004, 102 S.Ct. at 2786. Appellants have
    
    never suggested how the City's initial exercise of a right of approval over MVFD's constitution and
    
    bylaws (which did not permit the City to approve their amendments) results in continuing control of
    
    MVFD by the City. See Rendell–Baker, 457 U.S. at 842, 102 S.Ct. at 2772. We are confident that
    
    the connections between the City and MVFD are not so close as to establish the volunteer fire
    
    department's status as a state actor.
    
    B. City of McGregor
    
            Appellants assert two grounds for imposing liability on the City of McGregor for their
    
    expulsion from MVFD. First, they argue, because the City must provide fire protection for its
    
    residents, MVFD has fulfilled this exclusive prerogative of the City, and the City is liable for the
    
    constitutional torts of the MVFD. The previous discussion disposes of this contention. Second,
    
    appellants contend that under the principles of Frazier and Monell, the City can be held liable because
    
    
       9
        Absent these factors, even if a private actor receives a state financial benefit, state action will
    not be found. Fulton v. Hecht, 
    545 F.2d 540
     (5th Cir.1977) cert. denied 
    430 U.S. 984
    , 
    97 S. Ct. 1682
    , 
    52 L. Ed. 2d 379
     (finding no state action even though the state of Florida regulated and
    shared in the business revenues of Greyhound racing against Greyhound owners). Outside of the
    hospital setting, extensive regulation and review will not turn private action into state action.
    McLellan v. Mississippi Power & Light Co., 
    526 F.2d 870
     vacated in part on other grounds, 
    545 F.2d 919
     (1977) (5th Cir.1976). Finally, absent other facts, it has been determined that if an
    organization is organized and incorporated under state law and receives federal and state monies,
    such as a private university, state action does not exist. Blouin v. Loyola University, 
    506 F.2d 20
    (5th Cir.1975).
    of its exercise of policymaking authority over the MVFD.
    
               In Frazier, supra, one of this court's cases considering a government-funded hospital's status
    
    as a state actor, it was held that a city can be found responsible for the termination decisions made
    
    by a private association only if it exercises coercive powers or provides such significant
    
    encouragement either overt or covert that choice must in law be deemed to be that of the city.
    
    Frazier, 765 F.2d at 1284 (citations omitted). By contrast, the district court here found "the plaintiffs
    
    have provided absolutely no summary judgment proof that the defendant city has coerced or
    
    encouraged the MVFD's actions." The deposition excerpts and affidavits contained in the record fully
    
    support this finding. Appellees have cited nothing in the record which contradicts the district court's
    
    finding.
    
               Appellants also seek to avail themselves of the Monell, principle that the City may be liable
    
    under § 1983 for an act consistent with official policy or custom or an act consistent with a custom
    
    or policy of an official to whom final and complete policy-making authority has been delegated.
    
    Monell v. Dept. of Social Services, 
    436 U.S. 658
    , 
    98 S. Ct. 2018
    , 
    56 L. Ed. 2d 611
     (1978); City of
    
    St. Louis v. Praprotnik, 
    485 U.S. 112
    , 123, 
    108 S. Ct. 915
    , 924, 
    99 L. Ed. 2d 107
     (1988). Appellants
    
    urge that the final policy-making authority over the membership in the MVFD was delegated by the
    
    City to the MVFD. This doctrine is applicable, however, only if there is a delegation of government
    
    powers. Because the MVFD was a private association, the mayor, the city council, and the city
    
    manager of the City of McGregor did not hold, in the first instance, authority to regulate membership
    
    in the MVFD and therefore could not delegate that authority. Equally significant, the mayor and the
    
    city manager each executed an affidavit saying that neither they nor the city council had any
    
    connection with or exercised any influence over the vote to expel appellants from membership in the
    
    MVFD. The only link between the termination and a city official—however tenuous—was the
    
    alleged statement of Councilman Kirk. Appellants have not shown that Kirk is an authority holding
    
    discretion to hire and fire employees or that he individually holds full policy-making authority in the
    
    area of personnel matters. Neubauer v. City of McAllen, 
    766 F.2d 1567
    , 1574 (5th Cir.1985).
    
               Since the City neither had policy-making authority over the MVFD nor exercised significant
    overt or covert encouragement in the termination of appellants, we uphold the court's granting of
    
    summary judgment for the City of McGregor.
    
                                          COUNCILMAN KIRK
    
           Appellants finally contend that Councilman Kirk used his position to influence the city council
    
    and certain businessmen to remove them from the MVFD. They do not allege that Kirk was a state
    
    actor in this regard but have instead relied on the presumed state actor status of John Blake and
    
    Ronnie Spradley, former officials of the MVFD, with whom Kirk allegedly conspired. Because we
    
    have determined that MVFD was not a state actor, its officers were not state actors either, and the
    
    allegations against Kirk must fall.
    
                                               SUMMARY
    
           A private association of volunteer fire fighters chose to remove four individuals from its
    
    membership after an internecine struggle. Neither the City of McGregor nor Councilman Kirk was
    
    officially involved in this decision. Because it does not appear that Texas law renders fire fighting
    
    an exclusive public function and because none of the other hallmarks of state action are present, the
    
    district court properly granted summary judgment to appellees on appellants' § 1983 claims.
    
           AFFIRMED.