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Novak v. Borough of Dickson City

April 19, 2006

ANGELA NOVAK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOROUGH OF DICKSON CITY, ROBERT WILTSHIRE, ANTHONY GALLIS, WILLIAM BOTT, AND PETER NOVAJOSKY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 24). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion in part and deny it in part. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

BACKGROUND

Angela Novack was hired by the Borough of Dickson City ("Dickson City") as a part-time police officerin 2003. (Doc. 25, ¶ 43; Doc. 27, ¶ 43.) Plaintiff, as a part-time police officer, was not hired through the civil service process. (Doc. 25, ¶ 44; Doc. 27, ¶ 44.) Defendants submitted evidence that Plaintiff was instead appointed by the Dickson City Borough Council ("Council"). (Doc. 25, ¶ 15, Ex. C at 8-9; Ex. G.)

With regard to Plaintiff's appointment, Defendants submitted evidence that on January 10, 2003, Chief of Police, William Stadnitski sent a letter to then Council President Fred Joseph recommending Plaintiff for appointment for one year. (Doc. 25, Ex. D.) The letter states in relevant part:

I respectfully request the following officers be appointed Part Time Police for the year 2003 for the Borough of Dickson City.

Angela Novack 953 Lincoln St., Dickson City, Pa. (Doc. 25, Ex. D) (emphasis added). Defendants further submitted evidence that on January 13, 2003, the Council voted to approve Chief Stadnitski's recommendation. (Doc. 25-10, Ex. H.)

In January 2004, a new majority on the Council was elected. (Doc. 33-2, Ex. C, at 77-78.) Plaintiff submitted evidence that this majority included Defendants Wiltshire, Gallis, Novojasky, and Bott ("new majority"). (Doc. 33-2, Ex. C, at 78.)

Defendants submitted evidence that on January 12, 2004, following the Council elections, Chief Stadmitski sent a letter to the new Council President, Robert Wiltshire, recommending that Plaintiff be re-appointed as a part-time police officer. (Doc. 25, Ex. E.) On January 13, 2004, the Council voted against Chief Stadmitski's recommendation. (Doc. 25-12, Ex. J.) Furthermore, on January 5, 2004, the Council failed to include Plaintiff's name in the list of individuals hired as part-time police officers, and the Council also did not include Plaintiff in the list of officers hired at the meeting on January 29, 2004. (Doc. 25-12, Ex. I, Ex. L; Doc. 27, ¶ 8.)

Plaintiff contends that the Council's failure to rehire her was due to her political support of the previous majority on the Council ("outgoing majority") and her open opposition to the new majority. In support of her contentions, Plaintiff submitted evidence that signs supporting the outgoing majority were displayed in front of the house in which she resides, and that Plaintiff had witnessed Defendant Gallis driving by her house on numerous occasions. (Doc. 33-4, at 77.) Plaintiff also submitted evidence that she distributed fliers supporting the outgoing majority. (Doc. 33-4, at 36.)

In addition, Plaintiff submitted evidence that prior to the election, on February 18, 2003, Plaintiff's mother, Sophia Novack, submitted a letter to the editor of the Scranton Times regarding the political activities in Dickson City. (Doc. 31, Ex. F.) Plaintiff further submitted evidence that Defendants Wiltshire, Bott, and Gallis responded to Sophia Novack's letter and mentioned Plaintiff in their response. The letter states in relevant part:

. . .Apparently Sophia Novack would like for her husband to keep his job as borough manager. He is a school director and Sophia Novack has a job at the school district. Her daughter was just hired as a policewoman in Dickson City borough. Seems like the family has a lot of local government jobs. Is Sophia Novack trying to save her husband's political appointment job? So much for "Never bite the hand that feeds you". (Doc. 32-2, Ex. G.) Furthermore, Plaintiff submitted evidence that after the election supporters of the new majority drove past the front of Plaintiff's home honking their horns.(Doc. 33-4, at 71.)

On March 1, 2005, Plaintiff filed a Complaint. (Doc. 1.) On April 4, 2005, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Count III of Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. 7.) The Court granted Defendants' motion on May 12, 2005. (Doc. 12.) Then, on January 30, 2006, Defendants filed the present motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 24.) This motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. See id. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id.

Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE AND PROCEDURE: CIVIL 2D § 2727 (2d ed. 1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, simply point out to the Court that "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing of an essential element of her case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

All doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact must be resolved against the moving party, and the entire record must be examined in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). Once the moving party has satisfied its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to either present affirmative evidence supporting its version of the material facts or to refute the moving party's contention that the facts entitle it to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-257.

The Court need not accept mere conclusory allegations, whether they are made in the complaint or a sworn statement. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to ...


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