The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. CURTIS JOYNER
This is an action filed by Plaintiff, Joseph G. Mraz, for alleged violations by his former employer, Lehigh County, and David K. Bausch and John J. Kachmar, Jr., employees of Lehigh County. Plaintiff alleges violations of the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions, the Federal Civil Rights Act, the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Act, and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Presently before this Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider whether the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, show there is no genuine issue of material fact, and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The court must determine whether the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).
In making this determination, all of the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and all reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Once the moving party has met the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the non-moving party must establish the existence of each element of its case. J.F. Feeser, Inc. v. Serv-A-Portion, Inc., 909 F.2d 1524, 1531 (3d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 921, 113 L. Ed. 2d 246, 111 S. Ct. 1313 (1991) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)).
Pleadings have closed in this action. Defendants now move for summary judgment alleging that there exist no genuine issues of material fact regarding Plaintiff's claims.
Taking the facts alleged by Plaintiff as true, Plaintiff was hired in January of 1990 by Lehigh County to work as a Director/Administrator of Cedarbrook Nursing Home, a county home. Plaintiff was appointed by defendant David K. Bausch, who at that time was Lehigh County Executive.
During the course of his employment, Plaintiff became aware of a mechanism used at the Gracedale Nursing Home in Northampton County that he believed would save Lehigh County a half-million dollars per year. The measure involved taking away the free meals provided to the nursing home employees in exchange for increased salaries. Plaintiff wanted to implement this cost-savings measure at Cedarbrook.
In his efforts, Plaintiff contacted several financial consultants and asked them to forward information relative to this cost-savings measure to defendants Bausch and Jeffrey Skinner, Chair of the Lehigh County Commissioners. Skinner requested further information from Plaintiff regarding financial matters of the nursing home. According to protocol, Plaintiff submitted his reply to defendant John J. Kachmar, Jr., who was at that time Lehigh County Administrator, in order to get approval to release the financial information. Kachmar did not approve a release and later informed Plaintiff that information regarding the Gracedale measure should not be given to the Commissioners. When Commissioner Skinner requested the information again, Plaintiff notified Kachmar of the second request. Kachmar indicated that he would decide whether or not to respond to Skinner's inquiries and that Plaintiff should not reply.
According to Plaintiff, defendants Bausch and Kachmar did not want to inform the Board of Commissioners about the half million dollar cost-savings measure for the purpose of politically embarrassing the Commissioners. Defendants Bausch and Kachmar allegedly had a political agenda to provide special treatment to Edward Newett, chief financial officer of Cedarbrook, under contract, and Diversified Health Services for whom Newett worked. Accordingly, Plaintiff was terminated on or about October 29, 1992 because he brought the cost-saving measure into issue and thereby gave the Board reason to believe Newett and Diversified Health Services were not properly performing their jobs.
Defendants made public statements regarding Plaintiff's termination, claiming that he was terminated because of a clash of management styles. Defendant Bausch told Plaintiff that he was discharged because he leaked information to the Board of Commissioners. Plaintiff contends that he was terminated just prior to the Lehigh County Board of Commissioners' open budget hearings because Defendants did not want Plaintiff to suggest his proposal at the hearings. Plaintiff further contends that he was discharged because of his age, fifty-five, and replaced by a much younger worker who would not oppose Defendants.
A. Wrongful Termination Claim
Defendants argue that Plaintiff's conduct was not protected because he was never instructed not to speak, that the cost-saving measure is not a matter of public concern, and that ...