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Pasour v. Philadelphia Housing Authority

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 7, 2013

FREDERICK K. PASOUR, Plaintiff,
v.
PHILADELPHIA HOUSING AUTHORITY Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

RONALD L. BUCKWALTER, S.J.

Currently pending before the court is the Motion of Defendant Philadelphia Housing Authority to Dismiss Plaintiff Frederick K. Pasour’s Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This lawsuit centers around the Pennsylvania Housing Authority (“PHA”)’s suspension and termination of Plaintiff Frederick Pasour. The facts, as taken from the Amended Complaint, are as follows. Mr. Pasour was hired by PHA, starting on June 3, 2003, as Counsel. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15.) At the time of his hire, Carl Greene was the Executive Director of PHA. (Id. ¶ 2.) In this position, Mr. Pasour’s duties included supervision of labor and employment matters being handled by outside counsel appointed through PHA’s legal department, supervision of the PHA’s EEO office, and supervision of the worker’s compensation program. (Id. ¶ 17.) He was also responsible for providing advice to his supervisors regarding labor and employment matters, and these supervisors were then responsible, in turn, to provide the advice to Mr. Greene, PHA’s Executive Staff, and the Board of Commissioners. (Id.) In 2005, Mr. Pasour’s title was changed to Director of Labor and Employment, though his duties remained the same. (Id.) Mr. Pasour’s supervisor, Cybil Bryant, left PHA in April 2007, at which point Plaintiff then took on direct responsibility for the enforcement of PHA’s sexual harassment policy. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 20.) In February 2008, Mr. Pasour was promoted to Acting General Counsel for Labor and Employment and served as the General Manager of Human Resources. (Id. ¶ 21). His title was formally changed to General Counsel for Labor and Employment in December 2008. (Id. ¶ 22.) His duties primarily remained the same, and he continued to be responsible for supervising and managing the Labor and Employment cases at PHA, supervising the EEO office and the worker’s compensation program, and advising management on personnel issues. (Id. ¶ 23.) Mr. Pasour reported directly to Carolyn Carter, who was the Assistant Executive Director of Operations at PHA, and he also reported to Diane Rosenthal, the Assistant Executive Director of Finance and Administration at PHA. (Id.) Mr. Pasour was never subjected to any disciplinary actions during his entire tenure of employment with PHA. (Id. ¶ 26.)

In August of 2010, a series of allegations regarding Carl Greene were broadly reported in the newspapers, television broadcasts, and radio broadcasts. (Id. ¶ 27.) These allegations included reports that a number of former PHA employees made sexual harassment claims against Mr. Greene, and that three of the claims dating back to 2004 were settled by PHA’s insurer. (Id. ¶ 28.) Following these reports, John Street, then Chairman of the PHA, accused Mr. Pasour at a public meeting on August 26, 2010, of engaging in an unlawful conspiracy to conceal the sexual harassment charges and settlement from the Board. (Id. ¶ 30.) Mr. Street then allegedly leaked an anonymous investigative report written at his direction and authored in relevant part by him, which accused Mr. Pasour of engaging in a conspiracy to cover up Mr. Greene’s sexual harassment accusations. (Id. ¶ 32.) This report appeared in the print and news media on or about September 23, 2010. (Id. ¶ 34.)

Following the dissemination of the investigative report, Mr. Pasour was then replaced in his responsibilities as the head of human resources by Executive Director Michael Kelly. (Id. ¶ 35.) On February 4, 2011, he was informed by Mr. Kelly that he was being suspended from employment with pay, and he would not be allowed on the premises. (Id. ¶ 36.) The suspension was reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer on February 6, 2011. (Id. ¶ 38.) On March 16, 2011, Mr. Pasour was advised by the Acting Director of Human Resources that PHA decided he should be separated from his employment. (Id. ¶ 39.) Mr. Pasour was not given an opportunity to have a publicly-held due process hearing to clear his name, despite making several requests both in writing and orally.

On May 18, 2011, Mr. Pasour was sent another letter confirming PHA’s initial recommendation that he be separated from his employment. (Id. ¶ 43.) This letter also misrepresented that PHA was going to afford Plaintiff a due process hearing on May 20, 2011. (Id. ¶ 44.) However, the May 20, 2011 hearing turned out to be a private meeting with Audrey Lim, the Acting Director of Human Resources, and PHA’s counsel.

Mr. Pasour brought this action in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on March 28, 2013. The action was subsequently removed to this Court on April 26, 2013. An Amended Complaint was then filed on May 20, 2013. On May 29, 2013, PHA filed the instant Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. Mr. Pasour filed a Response in Opposition on July 1, and PHA filed a Reply brief on July 10. The Court will now consider the merits of this Motion.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P.12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court recognized that “a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the ‘grounds’ of his ‘entitle[ment] to relief’ requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. Following these basic dictates, the Supreme Court, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), subsequently defined a two-pronged approach to a court’s review of a motion to dismiss. “First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. at 678. Thus, although “Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era . . . it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions.” Id. at 678–79. Second, the Supreme Court emphasized that “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 679. “Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will, as the Court of Appeals observed, be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. A complaint does not show an entitlement to relief when the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct. Id.; see also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232–34 (3d Cir. 2008) (holding that: (1) factual allegations of complaint must provide notice to defendant; (2) complaint must allege facts suggestive of the proscribed conduct; and (3) the complaint’s “‘factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level’”) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555)).

Notwithstanding these new dictates, the basic tenets of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review have remained static. Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., No. Civ.A.08-626, 2008 WL 2779079, at *2 (W.D. Pa. July 15, 2008). The general rules of pleading still require only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and need not contain detailed factual allegations. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233. Further, the court must “accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, the court must “determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Pinkerton v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendant raises various arguments as to why Plaintiff’s claims for deprivation of liberty interest in reputation should be dismissed. The Court addresses each claim separately.

A. Whether Plaintiff’s §1983 Claim for Deprivation of Liberty Interest in Reputation Meets the Stigma ...


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