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ANKROM v. PENNSYLVANIA

December 28, 1984

William G. ANKROM, Plaintiff,
v.
The COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROSENBERG

 This action was brought by the plaintiff, William G. Ankrom, against the defendants, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Richard L. Thornburg, Governor, and the Department of Community Affairs of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Shirley M. Dennis, Secretary, for damages and reinstatement to employment. It is based upon Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e et seq.

 The plaintiff had been employed in the Department of Community Affairs of the Commonwealth as a technical level employee. His duties were such as required him to travel to the various cities for the purpose of checking and ascertaining the needs of the community in regard to the program for which the defendant was responsible. He was employed on November 4, 1974. He asserts that he was dismissed by reason of the fact that his superior officer was a black man and that he was prejudiced against him, a white man, personally, and further, because it had been the policy of the Commonwealth to further the occupational positions of the black people as against the white.

 The plaintiff charges that Theodore Paige, the immediate black superior, did not like him and was prejudiced against him and that he had in every way attempted to find fault with the plaintiff, and that eventually he caused his dismissal. The plaintiff also charges that the motive for Paige's communications with the plaintiff's wife was to get him out of Harrisburg; and that when the plaintiff was dismissed, the Commonwealth retained three black employees to fill his position.

 He further charges that the Affirmative Action Committee was overdone, and that the affirmative action was in aid of the blacks and against the whites. He stated that Paige was harassing his wife by calling her by phone in Pittsburggh where she resided, in trying to get the plaintiff to move back to Pittsburgh.

 The plaintiff presented a great deal of statistical evidence, none of which was persuasive in view of all the evidence and authority as a whole which were presented. Counsel for the plaintiff also exerted a great deal of effort in enumerating each of the many exhibits and presenting his own conclusions, in an effort to show accumulated prejudice by the Commonwealth and by Paige. The difficulty with the plaintiff's attempt at persuasion is that I cannot find the same conclusions to each of the exhibits as they were presented by the plaintiff, nor can I disregard the fact that the main object of the action was not supported by the evidence itself, and on the whole, that the plaintiff a white man was discriminated by one black man and the State government officials, topped by the Governor.

 After a trial to the court, and from the evidence in the case, I find that the plaintiff was in a department in which both black and white people intermixed in the performance of their functions. The immediate superior of the plaintiff was Theodore Paige, a black man. His two superiors were Michael Fried, Director and Albert Hydeman, Executive Deputy Secretary, white officials. They had ultimate powers to the point of dismissals.

 The drinking problem of Ankrom became so bad that he was recommended to obtain Alcoholic Annonymous (AA) treatment by his superiors. Paige was instrumental in his being accepted for such treatment in the Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Beaver County in November, 1976. However, the plaintiff was not cured, and by his own admissions in evidence he continued to drink intoxicating liquor, after returning from the AA treatment. On one occasion he and a drinking companion had consumed a fifth of vodka over a short period of time. The obviousness of his drinking was noticeable and he was encouraged constantly to conquer the habit by Community Affairs employees, Dennis Farley and Karl Smith, but without avail.

 On October 8, 1976, Ankrom failed to report for an assignment at the Greater Erie Community Action Agency in Erie, Pennsylvania, without informing his supervisors until well after the time for the appointment. At this time Paige ordered the plaintiff to take a day of leave without pay, and based on the facts in evidence, this treatment of Ankrom was not unduly harsh or prejudicial.

 Despite the allegations of prejudice by Paige, the evidence reflects that Paige attempted to assign the plaintiff to conduct audits in Western Pennsylvania where Ankrom could see his wife and family more often, and with the intention of thereby decreasing the plaintiff's disposition to drink alcohol.

 After reviewing all of the testimony from the numerous employees of the Department of Community Affairs, I find it highly significant that no other employee perceived Paige acting in a prejudicial manner toward Ankrom or any other white individual. Paige was a credible witness, and I believe he was sincerely attempting to help Ankrom overcome his drinking problem, and the effect that drinking was having on his job performance.

 On another occasion, when he was instructed to go to Allentown for the purpose of performing his duties, he failed to do so. There is evidence that he had been drinking at the YMCA in his room with one other individual. This was ascertained by Paige and Adonis J. Flute, a white male employee of the Bureau, who went to the YMCA to see the plaintiff. When they went to his room, he was not there. They did see an empty liquor bottle in the wastebasket. They found him in the restroom and talked to him about his not being in Allentown. He made the excuse that he could not go because he did not have a State automobile. He seemed at that time to be affected by alcohol. They told him to clean himself up and come into the office. When he came into the office, he was given an opportunity to explain his failure to make the Allentown meeting and was suspended. Thereupon, the plaintiff returned to his office and immediately began tearing up certain papers for the Migrant Workers' program. After questioning Diane Dubovsky and Eldred Lowman, staff members of the Migrant Workers' program, Fried learned that the work papers had been torn up and after consulting with Hydeman, the plaintiff was dismissed for insubordination particularly in destroying what they concluded were important records.

 The Supreme Court has set forth the procedure to be followed in this class of cases in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802, 93 S. Ct. ...


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