The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, District Judge.
Pro se*fn1 plaintiff Terrance O'Connell, former Warden of the
Northampton County Prison, brought this action claiming that
certain of the named defendants violated his civil rights
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and that all defendants defamed him
in violation of Pennsylvania state law.*fn2 The named defendants
include Northampton County, A.L. Brackbill Jr. — County
Executive, Frank Billota — County Administrator, Correction
Officer Jose Garcia, Correction Officer Donald Wenner
(collectively the "County defendants"), and Michael Buffer, a
reporter for The Express Times. Plaintiff's claims are based on
the events surrounding his resignation from employment as Warden
of the Northampton County Prison in March of 1997.
The following material facts are uncontested and all reasonable
inferences have been drawn in plaintiff's favor. Plaintiff was
hired as Warden of the Northampton County Prison in February of
1996. See Ex. A to Def. Buffer's Mot. for Summ. J. at 43
(Transcript of Plaintiff's Deposition) [hereinafter "Pl.'s
Dep."].*fn4 In March of 1997, plaintiff met with defendants
Brackbill and Billota to discuss allegations that had been made
by a female correction officer against plaintiff. See Pl.'s
Dep. at 45-49. Specifically, Brackbill and Billota informed
plaintiff that a correction officer had claimed that plaintiff
had sexually harassed her by making unsolicited phone calls to
her residence. Id. at 47-49. Plaintiff strenuously denied
sexually harassing the correction officer and claimed that he had
no recollection of ever phoning her residence. Id. at 49-52.
Despite plaintiff's denials, Brackbill and Billota asked
plaintiff to resign as Warden — an action plaintiff refused to
take. Id. at 61. Plaintiff then left the meeting. Id. At no
time during or after that meeting did defendants Brackbill or
Billota ever threaten plaintiff with discharge if he failed to
resign. Id. 70, 72, 88-90, 127.
A few days following the meeting, plaintiff submitted a letter
of resignation, which set the effective date of his resignation
as the last Friday in March. Id. at 43, 62, 72, 126. Almost
nine months after plaintiff resigned, various articles written by
defendant Buffer appeared in a local newspaper, The Express
Times, chronicling the happenings at the prison, including
references to plaintiff's resignation and several other allegedly
improper acts committed during plaintiff's prison
administration.*fn5 Id. at 71, 77-80, 94, 99-100.
Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party can "show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment,
the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to
the non-movant. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538
(1986). In addition, the court must accept the non-movant's
version of the facts as true and resolve conflicts in the
non-movant's favor. See Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N.
America, Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).
The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of genuine issues of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265
(1986). Once the movant has done so, however, the non-moving
party cannot rest on its pleadings. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).
Rather, the non-movant must then "make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of every element essential to his case,
based on the affidavits or by depositions and admissions on
file." Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 852 (3d Cir. 1992);
see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255,
106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Speculation, conclusory
allegations, and mere denials are insufficient to raise genuine
issues of material fact. To defeat "a properly supported summary
judgment motion, the party opposing it must present sufficient
evidence for a reasonable jury to find in its favor." Groman v.
Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995).
A. Plaintiff's Federal Claims.
To establish a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must
show that a person acting under color of state law deprived him
of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United
States.*fn6 See Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks, 436 U.S. 149,
155, 98 S.Ct. 1729, 56 L.Ed.2d 185 (1978); Groman v. Township of
Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995). The essence of
plaintiff's poorly articulated § 1983 claim appears to be that by
confronting plaintiff with the allegations of the female
correction officer and asking for his resignation without
offering to hold a hearing, the County defendants constructively
discharged him in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due
process property interest.*fn7 See Pl.'s Am. Compl. at ¶ 10;
see also Pl.'s Resp. to County Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. at 1-3.
In addition, plaintiff appears to be arguing that his due process
liberty interest was also violated by statements made to the
press and others by the County defendants concerning his
resignation and the accusations of the female correction officer
that plaintiff had sexually harassed her. See Pl.'s Dep. at
1. Plaintiff's due process property interest.