The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEONARD D. WEXLER
Plaintiff, Bonita H. Regan ("plaintiff" or "Regan"), a former Deputy Tax Receiver for the Town of Islip, brings the above-referenced action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Town of Islip (the "Town" or "Islip"); the Islip Tax Receiver, Edwin Boogertman ("Boogertman"); and Virginia Allen, who replaced Regan as Deputy Tax Receiver (collectively "defendants").
Plaintiff alleges that her termination from employment was wrongful because it was due solely to her political affiliation with the Conservative Party. Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief including punitive damages. Currently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted.
On or about January 1, 1982, Boogertman appointed plaintiff to the position of Islip Deputy Tax Receiver. She thereafter filed her oath of office with the Islip Town Clerk. Plaintiff describes her duties at the time of her appointment as the "handling of personnel in the [Tax Receiver's Office] as well as general administration of the aforesaid office." Complaint at 5.
According to plaintiff, in the general elections of 1983 and 1987, Boogertman, with the support of both plaintiff and the Conservative Party, was elected to full four year terms as the Town's Tax Receiver. After each election, Boogertman informed plaintiff that she would continue in her position for the duration of his term. Plaintiff claims that she was not instructed to renew her oath after either election.
On or about November 14, 1989, Boogertman informed Regan that her employment would be terminated if she did not submit a letter of resignation. Plaintiff told Boogertman that she did not intend to resign. Plaintiff asserts that Boogertman told her that he would have to fire her, but that it had "nothing to do with the performance of her duties . . . " Complaint at 3. Plaintiff offers, in support of this contention, a letter signed by Boogertman, dated November 14, 1989, which states that Boogertman considered plaintiff to have been "a great asset," and a "very capable person" with respect to her duties. Plaintiff last served as Deputy Tax Receiver on November 17, 1989.
Plaintiff alleges that her termination was retaliatory and in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff states that she was informed by members of the Islip Republican Committee that her termination resulted from her enrollment in the Suffolk County and Islip Conservative Committees. Plaintiff asserts that she was further informed that defendants "were furious" because, in the general election of 1989, the Islip Conservative Party had failed to endorse and support the reelection of several Islip Republican elected officials, including the incumbent Islip Supervisor, Frank Jones and, instead, endorsed Democrats who were opposing the Republican candidates.
Defendants assert that plaintiff was employed by the Town in a policy-making position and, therefore, her political affiliation was an appropriate requirement for that position as a matter of law. They move for summary judgment on the basis that her termination from employment, even if a result of her political affiliation, is not actionable under governing law.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
A motion for summary judgment may be granted only when there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987). The burden is on the moving party to clearly establish the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact and "a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party." Donahue, 834 F.2d at 57 (citations omitted).
B. Political Patronage Dismissals of Public Employees
Analysis of the political retaliation question begins with Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 49 L. Ed. 2d 547, 96 S. Ct. 2673 (1976). The Elrod plaintiffs were Republican non-civil service employees in the Cook County, Illinois sheriff's office who were dismissed or threatened with dismissal following the election of a Democratic sheriff. A plurality of the Supreme Court held that, as a general rule, the practice of ...