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Carl R. Greene v. John F. Street

June 22, 2011

CARL R. GREENE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN F. STREET, CHAIRMAN JANNIE L. BLACKWELL, DEBRA L. BRADY, PATRICK J. EIDING, NELLIE W. REYNOLDS, AND PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buckwalter, S.J.

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court are: (1) Defendants John F. Street, Debra L. Brady, Patrick J. Eiding, Nellie W. Reynolds, and Philadelphia Housing Authority's Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint of Plaintiff Carl R. Greene ("Plaintiff") pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6); and (2) Defendant Jannie L. Blackwell's Motion to Dismiss Count II of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, Defendants Street, Brady, Eiding, Reynolds, and Philadelphia Housing Authority's Motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Defendant Blackwell's Motion is granted in its entirety.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff was hired on March 3, 1998 to serve as Defendant Philadelphia Housing Authority's ("PHA") Executive Director. (Sec. Am. Compl. ¶ 13.) Defendant PHA is governed by the PHA Board of Commissioners ("the Board"), and at the time Plaintiff commenced his lawsuit, the Board consisted of Defendants Street, Blackwell, Brady, Eiding, and Reynolds. (Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-12.) On March 29, 2007, Plaintiff signed a new employment agreement ("the Employment Agreement") with Defendant PHA, which provided a base salary of $275,000, annual incentive compensation of 15% of that salary, and cost of living adjustments. (Id. ¶¶ 15-17; id. Ex. A, Employment Agreement between PHA and Carl R. Greene ("Employment Agreement") ¶ 2(a)-(c).) Defendant PHA could terminate the Employment Agreement immediately for cause, or without cause by providing Plaintiff ninety days' notice in advance. (Employment Agreement ¶ 8(a), 8(c).)

In August of 2010, a series of newspaper articles reported that Plaintiff had defaulted on his mortgage, was subject to federal tax liens, and had been accused of sexual harassment by several former PHA employees. (Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24-26.) Subsequent to these reports, on August 26, 2010, the Board placed Plaintiff on administrative leave, and adopted a resolution authorizing an independent investigation of the sexual harassment allegations. (Id. ¶¶ 32-36; id. Ex. H.) Defendant Street, as Chairman of the Board, was responsible for overseeing the investigation, which was to be completed thirty days after the adoption of the resolution. (Id. ¶¶ 36-38.) On September 23, 2010, the Board voted 4-1 in favor of terminating Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 73.) Defendant Blackwell was the only Board member who voted against the termination resolution. (Id. ¶ 74.)

On October 6, 2010, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint against Defendants Street, Blackwell, Brady, Eiding, and Reynolds, alleging: (1) denial of procedural due process; (2) breach of contract; (3) defamation; and (4) false light invasion of privacy. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 84-111.) On January 20, 2011, the Court dismissed the Amended Complaint while granting Plaintiff leave to amend for a second time. See Greene v. Street, No. CIV.A.10-4529, 2011 WL 208382 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 20, 2011).

Plaintiff then filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint on February 11, 2011, which this Court granted on March 11, 2011. In Count I of the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff brings a claim for deprivation of liberty interest in reputation without due process of law against Defendants Street, Brady, Eiding, and Reynolds in their individual capacities. (Sec. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 88-99.) In Count II, Plaintiff sues Defendant PHA and all five individual Defendants in their official capacities for breach of the Employment Agreement. (Id. ¶¶ 100-108.)

On March 25, 2011, Defendants PHA, Street, Brady, Eiding, and Reynolds collectively filed a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, and a separate Motion to Dismiss was filed that same day by Defendant Blackwell. Plaintiff filed his Response in Opposition on April 15, 2011. Defendants PHA, Street, Brady, Eiding, and Reynolds filed a Reply Brief on April 27, 2011, which was joined by Defendant Blackwell on April 29, 2011.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court recognized that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. It emphasized that it would not require a "heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

In the subsequent case of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme Court enunciated two fundamental principles applicable to a court's review of a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. First, it noted that "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 1949. Thus, although "[Federal] Rule [of Civil Procedure] 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Id. at 1950. Second, the Supreme Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing in Twombly or Iqbal has altered some of the fundamental underpinnings of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review. Arner v. PGT Trucking, Inc., No. CIV.A.09-0565, 2010 WL 1052953, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 22, 2010); Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., No. CIV.A.08-0626, 2008 WL 2779079, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Jul. 15, 2008). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and need not contain detailed factual allegations. FED. R. CIV. P. 8; Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Further, the court must "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006).

Finally, the court must "determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Pinkerton v. Roche Holdings ...


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