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ERSEK v. TOWNSHIP OF SPRINGFIELD

May 5, 1993

WILLIAM ERSEK
v.
TOWNSHIP OF SPRINGFIELD, DELAWARE COUNTY, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BY THE COURT; J. WILLIAM DITTER, JR.

 Plaintiff, William Ersek, filed a 12-count complaint against the Township of Springfield, nine of the township's current and former commissioners, its manager and chief of police, one Springfield police detective, and one Springfield police officer. Mr. Ersek alleges civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and appends several state claims. Defendants have moved to dismiss three of the 12 counts and have requested a more definite statement of three others. For the reasons stated below, I have decided to dismiss the entire complaint -- with leave to amend except for one count -- both for failure to state a claim on the counts defendants contest as well as for failure to state clearly and specifically what each defendant did and why those actions entitle Mr. Ersek to relief.

 I. Alleged Facts

 In considering this motion to dismiss, I must accept the plaintiff's allegations as true. Therefore, the following summary of facts is drawn from the complaint and in no way constitutes any findings of fact.

 William Ersek worked as a golf pro at the Delaware County Springfield Country Club for 28 years. On August 8, 1990, according to the complaint, the commissioners of Springfield Township directed the township manager and chief of police to pursue certain charges against Ersek. (Complaint P 34.) Those parties accordingly instructed Detective John W. Ryan and Officer James F. Devaney to obtain warrants to search the country club pro shop and Ersek's home. (Id. P 35.) Detective Ryan executed an affidavit of probable cause stating that Ersek was engaged in an "ongoing criminal conspiracy," involving "theft and failure to make required disposition of funds." (Id. P 29.) During those searches, Ryan and Devaney confiscated most of his personal financial records, (id. P 28), none of which has yet been returned.

 Ersek further contends that on August 8, 1990, each township commissioner, the township manager, the chief of police, and Detective Ryan all knew that the theft and conspiracy allegations against Ersek were unfounded. (Id. PP 31, 34.)

 At the end of December, 1991, Ersek resigned. He claims in his complaint that he was forced to do so because he was tendered a one-year contract with a proposed reduction in salary of approximately 50 percent which made it practically and financially impossible for him to continue in his duties and earn an adequate income. (Id. P 43.) He also alleges that he and Springfield Township had entered into his prior, four-year contract in 1987. At that time, the township, through its Board of Commissioners, "stated to plaintiff that it was the township's intention to have plaintiff finish his career as the golf professional at the Springfield Country Club." *fn1"

 As a result of this alleged campaign of abuse, Ersek claims he has lost all chances of comparable future employment in the golfing community, suffered damage to his reputation, and suffered crippling emotional and physical harm. *fn2" (Id. P 47.)

 II. The Partial Motion to Dismiss

 The defendants move to dismiss three counts of Ersek's complaint: count II, which alleges that defendants' arbitrary and unreasonable termination of Ersek's employment violated his right to substantive due process; count IV, which alleges that defendants' refusal to hold a post-deprivation hearing violated his right to procedural due process; and count IX, which alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress.

 Defendants also move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e) for more definite statements of the allegations contained in counts V, VI, and VII, concerning conspiracy, defamation, and invasion of privacy.

 A. Substantive Due Process

 Count II charges defendants with violating Ersek's right to substantive due process by "arbitrarily and unreasonably terminating plaintiff's employment as the golf professional at the Springfield Country Club." (Complaint P 61.) I will dismiss this count because Ersek's own presentation of the facts contradicts his conclusory assertion that his employment was terminated, and it belies his allegation that the township's proposal of a one-year contract was a deliberate and arbitrary abuse of governmental power.

 A good portion of the parties' briefs is devoted to the question of whether Ersek needed to establish a constitutionally protected interest in his job before he could claim that the township's acts affecting it violated Ersek's right to substantive due process. In the context of procedural due process, it is clear that a plaintiff must show that the interest being denied or infringed upon is constitutionally significant. In other words, the plaintiff must show the interest was a liberty or property interest entitled to constitutionally adequate procedures. See Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577 (1972); Midnight Sessions v. City of Phila., 945 F.2d 667, 679 (3d Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 118 L. Ed. 2d 388, 112 S. Ct. 1668 (1992). But in the context of substantive due process, it is arguably sufficient to show only that the government acted arbitrarily -- no matter what type of interest was affected. Ersek contends as much citing Bello v. Walker, 840 F.2d 1124 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 868 (1988). In Bello, a building permit case, the Third Circuit held that an individual's right to substantive due process can be ...


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