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Moneke Thomas v. Philadelphia Housing Authority and Carl Greene (Individually and

August 30, 2011

MONEKE THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY AND CARL GREENE (INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY), DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Moneke Thomas, a former employee of the Philadelphia Housing Authority ("PHA"), brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort law against the PHA and its former executive director Carl Greene, in his official and individual capacity. Before the Court is Defendant Greene's Motion to Dismiss Thomas's claims against him pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) [doc. no. 11]. *fn1 For the following reasons, Greene's motion is granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Moneke Thomas worked as a Senior Management Specialist for the PHA in March 2007. *fn2 Defendant Carl Greene was the executive director of that agency from March 1998 until September 2010. In February 2008, Plaintiff filed a discrimination charge with the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ("EEOC") and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC") alleging that Greene retaliated against her and sexually harassed her. *fn3

The matter settled in June 2008. *fn4 At some point thereafter, Plaintiff left the PHA's service.*fn5

Plaintiff then experienced the following acts, which she asserts were "done by PHA, former PHA employees, and Carl Greene:"*fn6 in June 2008, Plaintiff became aware that unnamed PHA employees were following her and were present at restaurants and other facilities she frequented; in August 2008, she saw Michael Williams, a former PHA inspector, *fn7 following her in a black Nissan Maxima; at an October 2008 function she saw a former PHA employee whom Thomas had fired while at PHA, and was later told by Greene that this employee planned to "beat up Plaintiff;" in November 2008, she again saw Williams following her in his vehicle; in August 2009, two months after Thomas had moved to a gated community for safety purposes, Thomas was attempting to enter her gated community in her vehicle when she was forced to stop because Williams's car was stopped in the middle of the street while Williams spoke to a local police officer; in September 2009, someone dumped a pile of dirt and leaves in front of her garage; in October 2009, someone tipped over the flower pots in front of her home; and in December 2009, Williams pulled up beside her in his car, called her name and gave her a threatening look. *fn8

Thomas alleges that Greene, PHA employees and the PHA violated her First Amendment rights because they undertook these actions to intimidate her so that she would not reveal information about Greene's unidentified "fraudulent actions;" to retaliate against her for filing her EEOC/PHRC charge; and to discourage others from speaking out about Greene and the PHA's misconduct. *fn9 In particular, Thomas alleges that Greene "instigated and condoned" these retaliatory actions. *fn10

In addition, Thomas alleges interference with her contractual relations. In April 2009, when Thomas was working for a local attorney, the attorney received a call from a PHA manager who asked to visit the office to discuss an issue. Thomas, fearing for her safety, left that position. *fn11 In May 2009, Plaintiff found her mail had been tampered with, including a letter from the Department of Labor and Industry. *fn12 That same month, Thomas had interviewed for a position in New Jersey, but was told by the prospective employer that she would not be hired "because she was causing a big problem." *fn13 Thomas alleges, based on these facts, that "Defendants took purposeful action" to interfere with her relations with prospective employers. *fn14

Thomas filed her Complaint in this Court on January 13, 2011. *fn15 Count I, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges that the PHA and Greene, in his individual and official capacity, violated Thomas's First Amendment rights. Count II alleges that the PHA negligently hired and retained Greene. Count III alleges that the PHA and Greene, in his individual and official capacity, intentionally interfered with her contractual employment relations. And Count IV alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress against both the PHA and Greene, in his individual and official capacity. *fn16

The PHA moved to dismiss Counts II and III against it, and to dismiss claims for punitive damages as against PHA. *fn17 Plaintiff subsequently withdrew those claims as against the PHA only; *fn18 thus, only the Section 1983 and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims remain against PHA (Counts I and IV).

Greene then moved to dismiss the claims against him (Counts I, III and IV). Greene argues Count I must be dismissed because: (1) Thomas's claim is time-barred; (2) she has not alleged she engaged in protected speech; (3) Thomas cannot bring a First Amendment claim for post-employment retaliation; (4) Thomas has not pleaded facts suggesting a connection between the speech and the retaliatory acts, nor facts connecting Greene to those acts; and (5) Greene is qualifiedly immune. Greene argues Counts III and IV must be dismissed because Thomas fails to allege facts sufficient to state those tort claims, and because intentional tort claims against him as a Commonwealth party are barred by sovereign immunity.

II. S TANDARD OF R REVIEW

In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court must accept a plaintiff's factual allegations as true and construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. *fn19 But courts are not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, *fn20 or "accept as true unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences." *fn21 The Complaint must set forth "direct or inferential allegations [for] all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." *fn22 And it must allege "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its ...

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