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Madeline Apollo v. Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority

June 20, 2012


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


June ___, 2012

Presently before the Court are Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 12); Plaintiff's Response in Opposition thereto (Doc. 14); and Defendants' Reply to Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 15, Ex. A). For the reasons set forth herein, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part.


The relevant facts, construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, are as follows. Plaintiff, Madeline Apollo ("Apollo"), began working for Defendant, the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority ("PCCA"), in 1991, and became its Chief Financial Officer ("CFO") in 1998. (Am. Compl. ¶ 14). In 2004, Plaintiff entered into an employment agreement with the PCCA. Some of the most pertinent terms included:

2. TERM. Unless earlier terminated in accordance with the provisions of Section 6 hereof, this Agreement will continue for an initial period beginning as of the Effective Date of October 04, 2004 and ending 5 year(s) from the Effective Date (the "Initial Term") . . .

6. TERMINATION. a. The Authority reserves the right to terminate this Agreement for cause at anytime. . . . b. This Agreement may also be terminated without cause by either party giving ninety (90) days written notice of termination to the other party. In the event of a termination by the [Authority] without cause, the Authority shall pay Apollo severance in the amount of her Base Salary (including continued cost of living adjustments) for a period of 2 years commencing on the date of termination. Such severance compensation shall be payable in a lump sum within thirty (30) days of such termination. In addition, upon a termination without cause by the Authority, the Authority will provide Apollo with the benefits described in Section 4 hereof for a period of 2 years from the date of termination or until Apollo obtains employment providing for similar benefits, whichever first occurs. . .

(Pl.'s Ex. 4). Plaintiff's duties as CFO included providing truthful and accurate financial reports for the PCCA to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the City of Philadelphia, and the PCCA's outside auditors, Mitchell & Titus, including "statuorily mandated reporting of information concerning the financial plan for the Convention Center's nearly billion dollar expansion project." (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18-19). As CFO, Plaintiff also oversaw the Human Resources ("HR") and Information Technology ("IT") departments. (Am. Compl. ¶ 16).

In 2008, with the support of State Representative Dwight Evans, and Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Carl Singley, Defendant Ahmeenah Young ("Young") was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer ("CEO") and President of the PCCA. Plaintiff alleges that she was retaliated against by Defendant Young and other co-conspirators, including Reed Smith, defense counsel in the present case, for objecting to and exposing misconduct and abuse of public funds within the PCCA. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 62-63).

Plaintiff offers a detailed account of this alleged misconduct in her seventy-five page Amended Complaint. For example, Plaintiff observed Young grant a housekeeping contract for the PCCA to "Team Clean," a company owned by Young's friend, while disregarding the ordinary request for proposal ("RFP") process and Plaintiff's concerns regarding whether Team Clean was financially able to complete the job, and without obtaining the Commonwealth's approval. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 72-102).

Additionally, as the head of the HR department, Plaintiff was advised of inappropriate comments that Stephanie Boyd ("Boyd"), a Convention Center Vice President, made to a subordinate African American employee. (Am. Compl. ¶ 103). Boyd apparently asked "how black are you? . . . Don't you know that black women are running the Convention Center and you would go further if you were more black." (Am. Compl. ¶ 104). That comment was eventually reported to George Brunner ("Brunner"), the Chief Technology Officer, who reported it to Plaintiff. (Am. Compl. ¶ 105). Boyd actually admitted to making the comment. (Am. Compl. ¶ 109). When Plaintiff reported the comment to Defendant Young, and advised her that there had been several other complaints against Boyd, Defendant Young refused to permit Boyd to be disciplined for her misconduct, and refused to report the complaints to the Board. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 111, 123-24). Young then stripped Plaintiff's HR responsibilities. (Am. Compl. ¶ 112). Young also directed Plaintiff to terminate Brunner after a problem occurred with the PCCA computer system, but Plaintiff refused, believing that the termination was retaliation for Brunner reporting Boyd's comment. (Am. Compl. ¶ 113-14; Pl.'s Ex. 3). When Young terminated Brunner herself, as Brunner's supervisor, Plaintiff had to provide an affidavit of facts in connection with the termination, which did not support Young's version of the facts. (Am. Compl. ¶ 115). As a result, Young became increasingly hostile toward Plaintiff. (Id.)

In relation to this incident, an article which references Plaintiff was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local media on September 27, 2010. The report stated:

Convention Center officials . . . [have] been grappling far more quietly with personnel conflicts involving high-ranking managers. Two months ago, the center fired its chief technology officer, George Brunner, accusing him in court documents of improperly accessing employee e-mails. Brunner . . . also allegedly helped erect unauthorized security cameras near management offices. But just before he was let go, Brunner, who is white, had filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging retaliation. The allegation, according to sources, involved a racially tinged remark made by one of the center's vice presidents. Brunner reported it to his supervisor. It turns out that that supervisor -- chief financial officer Madeline Apollo -- is running into her own problems as well. A Convention Center employee of 19 years, Apollo reportedly has had a falling-out with Convention Center president Ahmeenah Young that has some wondering whether Apollo is soon to make an exit. The nature of that dispute concerns a reorganization in which Young shifted certain responsibilities from Apollo to herself. What exactly, is going on at the Convention Center? Brunner, Apollo, and Young declined to comment. But apparently there's a lot more in play than just preparing for the March debut of the building's nearly $800 million expansion. (Def.'s Ex. 1).

Plaintiff also learned that she was not receiving copies of Reed Smith's legal bills for the PCCA which were being directed to the private law offices of Chairman Riley, preventing Plaintiff from providing full financial disclosures about the PCCA. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 127-28). Plaintiff also objected to Defendant Young stealing large quantities of food from the Convention Center for private parties and Young's use of the PCCA's credit card to pay for political fundraisers. (Am. Compl. ¶ 144). And in the summer of 2010, Plaintiff objected to Defendant Young's insistence, in the midst of a recession, that Plaintiff find at least a million dollars in public funds for an extravagant party to celebrate the expansion of the PCCA. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 150-51). Defendant Young also demanded that Plaintiff approve a 25% pay increase for some of Young's friends. (Am. Compl. ¶ 153). Young also interfered with Mitchell and Titus's independent audit of the PCCA, making Plaintiff question whether she could execute the management representation letter required in connection with the audit. (Am. Compl. ¶ 165).

On May 24, 2010, Plaintiff was asked to attend a meeting with the PCCA's Board of Directors to address these instances of misconduct. (Pl.'s Resp. Mot. Dismiss, Ex. 1). During this meeting Plaintiff provided a "Board Response" -- a document identifying the "major issues" with PCCA's management accompanied by documentation including e-mails and other notes supporting Plaintiff's claims. (Id.)

Then on September 30, 2011, Plaintiff met with representatives of the Commonwealth and the City regarding the Convention Center's finances, and was questioned about the PCCA's payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. (Am. Compl. ΒΆ 166). Plaintiff was prevented from fully responding to these questions, however, because that same day, Defendants, Riley, and Singley terminated Plaintiff. (Id.) Defendants terminated Plaintiff "for cause" after she refused to sign the audit management representation letter, alleging that "she spoke to the press; was insubordinate for responding to requests by Convention Center Board members for information regarding Stephanie Boyd's misconduct; spoke to Al Mezzaroba, the former CEO of the Convention Center; . . . and that she had requested to see Ms. ...

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