United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
B. Brody, J.
Mukasa Afrika brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Defendants Khepera Charter School, Khepera Charter School
Board of Trustees, Darnell Sulaiman, Nigel Scott, Aegis Law,
LLC, Ausphite Holding Company, Richard White, Randolph Gumby,
Gaylia Brown, Aaron Anybwile Love, Barbara Guerrero,
Nathaniel Haynesworth, James Spruill, Melissa Watts, Ronald
McCoy, Sharon Whitney, Reginald Raghu, and Richard Isaac.
Afrika alleges that Defendants violated his procedural and
substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth
Amendment, and retaliated against him in violation of the
First Amendment. Additionally, Afrika brings state law claims
against Defendants for violation of the Pennsylvania
Whistleblower Law and intentional interference with
prospective contractual relations. I exercise federal question
jurisdiction over Afrika's § 1983 claims pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over
Afrika's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
Charter School, Khepera Charter School Board of Trustees,
Richard White, Randolph Gumby, Gaylia Brown, Aaron Anybwile
Love, Barbara Guerrero, Nathaniel Haynesworth, James Spruill,
Melissa Watts, Ronald McCoy, Sharon Whitney, Reginald Raghu,
and Richard Isaac (collectively, "Khepera
Defendants") move to dismiss Afrika's procedural due
process, substantive due process, and intentional
interference with prospective contractual relations claims
brought against all of them. Additionally, Khepera Defendants
move to dismiss the First Amendment retaliation claims
brought against White, Gumby, Brown, Love, Guerrero,
Haynesworth, Spruill, Watts, McCoy, Whitney, Raghu, and Isaac
(collectively, the "Trustees").For the reasons
discussed below, I will grant in part and deny in part the
partial motion to dismiss.
approximately ten years, Mukasa Afrika worked at Khepera
Charter School ("KCS"), a Philadelphia charter
school. In July 2014, KCS promoted Afrika to the
position of Chief Administrative Officer. Afrika was a
contract employee, who was contracted to work for a one-year
term that could be renewed annually by a board meeting and
2015, Afrika began contacting Lauren Iannuccilli at the
Charter School Office for the School District of Philadelphia
("Charter School Office"). Afrika reported to
Iannuccilli that numerous board meetings were being held out
of compliance with the Sunshine Act and expressed concern
that the Trustees were overreaching into the administration
of the school and mismanaging the school's finances.
Throughout the remainder of 2015, Afrika continued to report
to Iannuccilli about financial and administrative
improprieties occurring at KCS. For instance, on November 23,
2015, Afrika emailed Iannuccilli to report potential
financial fraud based on the school's failure to produce
the 2013-2014 audit. Afrika also sent this email to the
Charter School Office, the Pennsylvania Department of
Education, the Office of the District Attorney for the City
of Philadelphia and the Auditor General's Office.
2015 and 2016, Afrika communicated with the Trustees, the
attorney for KCS, and the Chief Financial Officer, regarding
his concerns about the mishandling of administrative and
financial matters. In discussions with the attorney for KCS,
Afrika also asserted his protection under the Pennsylvania
March 17, 2016, the Trustees sent a letter to Afrika in
response to the numerous concerns he had raised about the
mishandling and mismanagement of KCS. In the letter, the
Trustees told Afrika that they found his "continuous
reporting agitating." Am. Compl. ¶ 126. The
"Trustees further reprimanded [Afrika] for not only
reporting alleged financial deficiencies and calling for
transparency for Defendant KCS's finances, but also for
invoking his [w]histleblower protections." Id.
The letter concluded: "Desist, and adhere to the duties
and responsibilities as outlined in your contract, any other
course of conduct will be considered insubordination, and
dealt with accordingly going forward." Id.
Afrika received this letter from the Trustees, he continued
to voice his concerns to the them. Additionally, Afrika met
with Iannuccilli and representatives of the Charter School
Office regarding KCS's incorrect financial statements.
29, 2016, Afrika received a letter signed by Defendant
Richard Isaac, the President of the Khepera Charter School
Board of Trustees. The letter informed Afrika that the
Khepera Charter School Board of Trustees (the
"Board") had determined that it was not going to
renew his contract as Chief Administrative Officer for the
2016-2017 school year, even though the Board had never met to
discuss whether to renew Afrika's employment contract.
Rather, Isaac "unilaterally made the decision to
terminate [Afrika's] employment." Id.
2015, prior to Isaac making this decision, the Charter School
Office had notified the Board that Isaac should step down
because his term had expired. In response, the Board proposed
an amendment to the bylaws to extend Isaac's term of
service on the Board. Accordingly, "[a]t all times
material, Defendant Richard Isaac ... [wa]s the President of
the Board." Id. ¶ 10. However, when he
made the decision not to renew Afrika's contract, he
"act[ed] outside the scope of his authority, " and
in his "individual capacity." Id.
¶¶ 148, 191. "Isaac was not privileged or
justified, but rather, acted maliciously in retaliation for
[Afrika's] ongoing reporting to appropriate government
agencies." Id. ¶¶ 192.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court
must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe
the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the
complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief."
Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d
Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd.,
292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)).
survive dismissal, a complaint must allege facts sufficient
to "raise a right to relief above the speculative
level." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of
a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements,
do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009). In order to determine the sufficiency of a
complaint under Twombly and Iqbal, a court
must take the following three steps:
First, the court must take note of the elements a plaintiff
must plead to state a claim. Second, the court should
identify allegations that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.
Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a
court should assume their veracity and then determine whether
they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.
Connelly v. Steel Valley Sch. Dist.,
706 F.3d 209,
212 (3d Cir. 2013), as amended (May 10, 2013)
(quoting Burtch v. MilbergFactors, Inc., 662 F.3d