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Maurice J. Clark, Sr., et al. v. Colwyn Borough

February 12, 2013


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


This suit arises from alleged constitutional and state law violations committed by Colwyn Borough municipal officials and Colwyn Borough, itself. Each of the five plaintiffs in this action brings claims against the following defendants: Colwyn Borough, Deputy Police Chief Wendell Reed, former Colwyn Borough Police Officer Trevor Parham, and Colwyn Borough Council President Tonette Pray. Only certain of those claims are pertinent to the Court's present decision. In particular, plaintiff Maurice Clark, Sr. brings a § 1983 supervisory liability claim against Reed and Pray for Fourth Amendment deprivations allegedly committed by Parham. The other four plaintiffs, Kevin Banks, Sr., Bryant Sterling, Clinton Craddock, and Wesley Seitz, all of whom were members of the Colwyn Borough Police Department during the events at issue ("Officer Plaintiffs"), assert claims against Parham, Reed, and Pray under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law. The defendants have moved to dismiss the above-referenced claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The defendants have also moved to sever into a separate suit all claims brought by the Officer Plaintiffs.*fn1

The Court will grant Parham's motion to dismiss the Whistleblower claims brought against him by Sterling, Craddock, and Seitz, but will deny the defendants' motions to dismiss the other Whistleblower claims and Clark's supervisory liability claim. The Court will also deny without prejudice the defendants' motions to sever the claims of the Officer Plaintiffs.

I. Factual Allegations*fn2

The following is a brief recitation of only those facts relevant to the instant motions to dismiss.

A. Maurice Clark, Jr.

On two separate occasions in the summer of 2011, Trevor

Parham, then an officer with the Colwyn Borough Police Department, arrested and placed in jail 64-year-old Maurice Clark, Jr., a private citizen. Parham did so despite lacking a reason to arrest Clark in either instance. In each of the two reports Parham filled out following his arrests of Clark, he falsely stated that Clark had threatened to fight him and cited Clark for disorderly conduct. SAC ¶¶ 13-36.

Parham continued to monitor Clark during the ensuing months. Numerous times during the fall of 2011, Parham drove up and down the block on which Clark lived, sometimes slowing down as he passed Clark's residence and giving Clark "dirty looks." Additionally, shortly after roll call at the police station on November 8, 2011, Parham announced to his fellow officers that, if they saw Clark, they should "lock him up" and that Parham would take care of the paperwork. Other officers who were present understood Parham to mean that they should arrest Clark on sight, whether or not they had justification for doing so. Id. ¶¶ 37, 40, 49-50, 66-67.

Clark complained about Parham's conduct to Colwyn Borough officials, including Deputy Chief Reed and Council President Pray. Reed and Pray failed to discipline Parham for his conduct, though, and even went so far as to take adverse actions against other officers who attempted to report or stop Parham's improper behavior. Id. ¶¶ 41, 183.

B. Officer Plaintiffs

Officers Banks, Sterling, and Craddock were all present

when Parham gave his November 8 directive. Seitz, who was a lieutenant in the department, learned of Parham's instruction at some point after it was issued. Banks and Sterling both complained to Deputy Chief Reed about the impropriety of Parham instructing other officers to arrest Clark without cause. They, Craddock, and Seitz also reported other instances of Parham's misconduct to Reed or others in the department. Id. ¶¶ 49-50, 57, 59, 66-67, 71-74, 87, 104-05, 108, 148, 158.

By that point, the Colwyn Borough Police Department had broken into two factions. One was helmed by Parham, Reed, and Pray. Because the Officer Plaintiffs had complained about Parham, they were now viewed as members of the opposition. After each of the Officer Plaintiffs complained to Reed and others about Parham's misconduct, he was subjected to retaliation by the Parham/Reed/Pray faction and was eventually removed ...

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