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Ralph Blakney v. the City of Philadelphia

September 22, 2011

RALPH BLAKNEY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant the City of Philadelphia ("Defendant" or "the City") on the Complaint of Plaintiff Ralph Blakney ("Plaintiff"). For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Ralph Blakney, an African-American resident of Philadelphia, joined the City of Philadelphia's Department of Recreation in 1988 as a director of one of the Department's six older adult centers. (Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n, Ex. A, Dep. of Ralph Blakney, 7:15-16, Apr. 19, 2011 ("Blakney Dep.").) Plaintiff's initial post was a civil service position, which required applicants to pass a civil service examination administered through the City's Personnel Department. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 7.) On November 13, 2000, Plaintiff was appointed to the position of Executive Director of the Mayor's Office of Community Services ("MOCS"). (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 8.) He was granted a leave of absence from his position as Center Director to serve as Executive Director, but continued to accumulate seniority during his tenure at MOCS.

(Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 10; Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J 7.) Plaintiff remained at MOCS from 2000-2008. (Blakney Dep. 8:5-8.) While at MOCS, Plaintiff oversaw the agency's 300 employees and $50 million budget. (Id. at 18:14-19.)

Plaintiff's position at MOCS ended in January of 2008. (Id. at 32:23.) At that time, the City had openings for a Center Director at the South Philadelphia Older Adult Care Center ("the South Philadelphia Center") and the Mann Older Adult Center ("the Mann Center"). (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 11.) Plaintiff requested that he be assigned to the South Philadelphia Center, the larger of the two centers. (Id.; Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 7.) Despite this request, Ms. Lynn Spiro, Older Adult Services Director, gave the position to Lynn Marshall, a white female. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 21; Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n, Ex. C, Dep. of Lynn Spiro, 16:3-18:23, June 3, 2011 ("Spiro Dep.").) While the position would have only been a lateral transfer for Plaintiff, it was a promotion for Ms. Marshall. (Spiro Dep. 19:15-20.) Ms. Spiro assigned Plaintiff to the Mann Center, citing the department's operational needs. (Def.'s Mem. Supp.

Mot. Summ. J. 7.) The Mann Center served a primarily Latino client base. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 20.) Plaintiff describes his time at the Mann Center as difficult, stating that he did not feel accepted by the community because they clearly desired a Latino director. (Blakney Dep. 63:9-65:6.) At some point during his tenure at the Mann Center, his car was vandalized. (Id. at 63:24.)

Soon after returning to the Recreation Department, Plaintiff asked Bill Carapucci, acting Recreation Commissioner, if there were any positions available as a deputy commissioner. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 30.) Mr. Carapucci directed Plaintiff's inquiry to Ms. Celia O'Leary, director of the Office of Human Resources*fn1 ("OHR"). (Id.) Ms. O'Leary's staff reviewed Plaintiff's resume and sent Plaintiff an e-mail listing vacant middle-to-upper management positions in which he might be interested. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 12.) Based on this list, Plaintiff applied for the position of Recreation Program Director on January 25, 2008. (Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n, Ex. B, Dep. of Celia O'Leary, 20:13-24, June 10, 2011 ("O'Leary Dep.").) The duties of a Program Director included "directing, through subordinate district managers, a major segment of the City's overall recreation program. Employees in this class develop, evaluate, modify, and implement a wide variety of athletic, sports, and cultural recreation programs." (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 15.) The position was two promotional steps above Plaintiff's position as Center Director. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 10.) Thus, Plaintiff was required to pass a promotional examination administered by OHR. (Id. at 8, 10.) The position of Program Director required "[t]hree years of supervisory recreation experience directing through subordinate supervisors, either the operation of all recreation facilities within an assigned district or the provision of comprehensive social service, nutrition and recreation programs in City-administered older adult centers." (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 15.) Mr. Chris Orji, an analyst from OHR, spoke with Plaintiff, reviewed his credentials, and deemed him eligible to sit for the exam based on his experience at MOCS. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 33-34.)

Plaintiff passed the exam for the position of Program Director in February of 2008. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 36; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 14.) He was the only African-American to do so. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 36.) After the exam was scored, OHR ranked applicants according to their score and placed them on a list of eligible candidates. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 9, Civ. Serv. Reg. 9.067; Ex. 10, Civ. Serv. Reg. 10.01.) Pursuant to City regulations, only the two highest-ranking individuals could be interviewed for the position. (Id., Ex. 29, Civ Serv. Reg. 11.03.) Plaintiff ranked third out of four applicants placed on the eligibility list. (Id., Ex. 17.) Lisa-Anne Kenny, a white Recreation District Manager, ranked fourth. (Id.; Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 36.)

On March 19, 2008, Kenny and nine other white District Managers sent Ms. O'Leary a letter conveying their concern that a Center Director was permitted to take the promotional exam for Program Director. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 18; Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 37.) The letter cited nineteen areas of concern, including the significant difference in supervisory responsibilities between the two positions, and a Center Director's lack of experience in running sports and recreation programs and maintaining recreation facilities. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 18.) Ms. Kenny also informed OHR that because Plaintiff did not serve in the intermediate position of Services Director, he had no experience overseeing large-scale recreation events such as the annual Elder Olympics. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 11.)

After receiving these various complaints, Glenn Harper, an executive assistant from the Personnel Department, reviewed Plaintiff's certification and concluded that Mr. Orji had erred in approving him to sit for the examination. (Id. at 12; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 20.) Generally, candidates are only removed from the eligibility list where their analyst made a mistake in certifying their initial application or where the candidate is later found to have falsified his credentials. (O'Leary Dep. 18:23-19:13.) If an analyst is believed to have erred in qualifying a candidate to take the exam, their evaluation is typically reviewed by a supervisor or team leader.

(Id. at 19:17-20:4.) The Director of OHR must then disqualify the candidate if he is found to lack the requisite qualifications. (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 11, Civ. Serv. Reg. 8.023-1.) Candidates removed from the list "may make a written request to the Director for the restoration of his or her name to such list." (Id., Ex. 10, Civ. Serv. Reg. 10.10.)

Upon reviewing Plaintiff's certification, Mr. Harper found that Mr. Orji erred in concluding that Plaintiff gained experience in supervising and implementing recreation or service programs for older adults during his tenure at MOCS. (Id., Ex. 20.) This assessment was subsequently approved on April 16, 2008 by Ms. Heather McCaffrey, Hiring Services Manager. (Id., Ex. 21.)*fn2 As a result, Plaintiff's name was removed from the eligibility list, disqualifying him from applying for the position. (Id.) Ultimately, the position was filled by Terri Kerwawich, a white female ranking first on the list. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 51; Def.'s Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 17.) Plaintiff chose not to appeal his removal based on an unsuccessful appeal from his removal from another eligibility list in 1999. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 49.) Instead, he filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). (Id.) Plaintiff now alleges that the City of Philadelphia, in conjunction with the Recreation Department, removed him from the list on the basis of his race. (Id. ¶ 52.)

Plaintiff remained Center Director for the Mann Center until December 3, 2008. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 15.) He was then assigned to the King Older Adult Center, where he remained until his resignation on January 4, 2011. (Id.) While working at the King Center, Plaintiff alleges he was harassed by his supervisor, Services Director Lynn Spiro. (Pl.'s Statement of Facts ΒΆ 59.) Plaintiff contends that Spiro undermined him by communicating ...


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