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Robert Mazzoni v. andrew J. Jarbola

June 11, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Lackawanna County Detectives Association ("LCDA"). Because Plaintiff Robert Mazzoni properly states claims for constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and a violation of the duty of fair representation, the motion will be denied.

I. Background

The facts as alleged in the complaint are as follows: Starting on about April 8, 1992, Plaintiff Robert Mazzoni was employed as a Detective by Defendants Lackawanna County and the Lackawanna County District Attorney's Office. The terms and conditions of his employment were governed by a collective bargaining agreement between the County, the District Attorney's Office, and the employee's union, the LCDA. Throughout his employment, Mr. Mazzoni was a good, professional, and competent employee.

In February of 2010, Mr. Mazzoni spoke with Defendant Andrew Jarbola, the District Attorney of Lackawanna County and the decision maker with regard to employment for the District Attorney's Office. Mr. Mazzoni advised Mr. Jarbola that he was considering running for the position of Lackawanna County Sheriff. Mr. Jarbola responded by telling Mr. Mazoni that he should not run and that he would not win the election. Mr. Jarbola supported the incumbent for the sheriff position, who was his political ally.

On about April 12, 2010, Mr. Jarbola terminated Mr. Mazzoni's employment. Mr. Mazzoni did not receive written notice of the allegations against him and did not receive a hearing. Mr. Jarbola sent a letter confirming Mr. Mazzoni's termination on May 28, 2010. The letter offered reasons for the termination, but those reasons were pretextual. Mr. Jarbola actually terminated Mr. Mazzoni because Mr. Mazzoni expressed a desire to run for the sheriff position, and Mr. Jarbola did not want him to run.

On about June 4, 2010, Mr. Mazzoni and Thomas Davis, the LCDA president, submitted a grievance to Mr. Jarbola. The grievance alleged that there was no just cause for Mr. Mazzoni's termination, in violation of his collective bargaining agreement.Mr. Jarbola denied the grievance on June 8, 2010, claiming there was just cause for the termination.

Mr. Davis advised Mr. Mazzoni that the LCDA would continue with the grievance procedure by filing for arbitration. But on September 13, 2010, Mr. Jarbola contacted Christopher Kolcharno, an LCDA member, and asked him to set up a special meeting of the LCDA. Mr. Jarbola wanted to convince the union to not proceed with arbitration on Mr. Mazzoni's grievance.

On about September 13, 2010, the LCDA held a meeting where a member proposed that the union vote to not proceed with Mr. Mazzoni's grievance. Mr. Jarbola had advised the union members that if there was an arbitration of Mr. Mazzoni's grievance, information might be produced that would implicate various LCDA members and subject them to criminal liability. Mr. Davis determined that the LCDA would defer voting on the issue until it consulted with an attorney.

On about September 28, 2010, as a result of Mr. Jarbola's influence, the LCDA voted to not proceed to arbitration with Mr. Mazzoni's grievance. Because of his termination, Mr. Mazzoni has suffered financial loss as well as embarrassment, humiliation, harm to his reputation, and emotional distress.

Mr. Mazzoni filed suit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania on December 2, 2011. His complaint contains four causes of action. Count I is a claim against the County and the District Attorney's Office for a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count II brings the same § 1983 claim against Mr. Jarbola. Count III brings the same § 1983 claim against the LCDA. Count IV is a claim against the LCDA for a breach of the duty of fair representation. Mr. Mazzoni seeks monetary damages and equitable remedies.

The LCDA filed the instant motion to dismiss on February 7, 2012. The LCDA moves to dismiss Counts III and IV of Mr. Mazzoni's complaint. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require "detailed factual allegations," but "[a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or a 'formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. ...

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