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PINCKNEY v. BOARD OF EDUC. OF THE WESTBURY UNION F

April 1, 1996

ROBERT D. PINCKNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE WESTBURY UNION FREE SCHOOL DISTRICT, and JOSEPH N. PASCARELLA, ARTHUR OUTRAM, HENRY RAZZANO, and ALFONSO SPOSITO, individually and as Trustees of the Board of Education of the Westbury Union Free School District, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPATT

 SPATT, District Judge:

 This lawsuit arises out of the claims of the plaintiff, Robert Pinckney ("Pinckney" or the "plaintiff"), the Superintendent of Schools of the Westbury Union Free School District, against the defendants, the Board of Education of the Westbury Union Free School District (the "School Board"), and four School Board trustees, Joseph N. Pascarella ("Pascarella"), Arthur Outram ("Outram"), Henry Razzano ("Razzano") and Alfonso Sposito ("Sposito" collectively the "Board Trustees"). The plaintiff contends that his constitutional due process rights were violated as a result of his being suspended without pay pending a determination regarding disciplinary charges brought against him for incompetence, insubordination, misconduct and neglect of duties. The plaintiff filed this motion for a preliminary injunction by order to show cause pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 65 seeking to reinstate his salary and benefits until a decision on the merits of the pending disciplinary charges is reached.

 I. Background

 The plaintiff, is a resident of Suffolk County, New York. The School Board is a municipal corporation established pursuant to New York Education Law. Pascarella, Outram, Razzano and Sposito are duly elected trustees of the School Board. Pinckney was hired by the School Board as the Superintendent of Schools of the Westbury Union Free School District on August 1, 1993.

 In July 1994 the plaintiff and the School Board entered into an employment agreement for the period from July 1, 1994 to June 30, 1996. On October 18, 1995, Pinckney and the School Board extended the Contract through June 30, 1997. This extension provided that the terms of the original contract would be "continued without change" (the original contract and the extension are collectively referred to as "the Contract").

 Included in the Contract are terms governing discharge for cause. Specifically, the Contract provides that:

 
During the . . . term of this contract, the Board may discharge Dr. Pinckney upon any of the following grounds:
 
1. Insubordination
 
2. Incompetency
 
3. Misconduct
 
4. Neglect in the performance of his duties as Superintendent of the Westbury Schools.
 
Said discharge shall be effected upon written charges to be served upon Dr. Pinckney, and only after a hearing upon notice before a Hearing Officer appointed by the Commissioner of Education. Said Hearing Officer shall serve to hear the charges and determine the findings of facts before him, and make a recommendation to the Board for the imposition of a penalty or discharge.
 
Said Hearing Officer shall refer his findings of fact and recommendation to the Board. The Board may impose such penalty or discharge Dr. Pinckney from employment as it shall deem fit under the circumstances.

 The Contract does not contain any provisions regarding suspension without pay pending a hearing on any written charges brought against the plaintiff.

 On January 17, 1996, the School Board met in an executive session. According to the plaintiff, during this meeting, and without notice to him, Outram distributed a resolution preferring disciplinary charges against Pinckney, suspending him without pay pending a hearing. After a short discussion of the matter, the Board reconvened in public session where the resolution was adopted without discussion by a vote of four to three. The plaintiff alleges that he was not given an opportunity to respond to the charges or speak on his own behalf prior to the adoption of the resolution. The resolution further offered the plaintiff the sum of $ 50,000 in addition to his accumulated leave time if he would agree to file a letter of resignation with the Board no later than 5:00 p.m. on January 18, 1996. Pinckney refused the offer.

 On January 19, 1996, the plaintiff was served with written notice of the charges pending against him. By Notice dated January 26, 1996, Pinckney appealed the Board's action to the New York State Commissioner of Education and sought a stay of his suspension without pay pending resolution of the disciplinary charges. On February 12, 1996, the Commissioner issued a decision denying the stay. The plaintiff then moved for reconsideration. In both the appeal and application for reconsideration Pinckney contends that his suspension without pay violated his due process rights. The Commissioner has apparently not yet rendered a decision regarding the application for reconsideration of the stay or the appeal itself.

 On March 5, 1995, the plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court based on a section 1983 cause of action seeking compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief reinstating his salary and benefits. The plaintiff also moved, by order to show cause, for a preliminary injunction asking "to reinstate the salary and fringe benefits" of the plaintiff "pending a hearing on disciplinary charges preferred by the defendant Board." In support of his motion for a preliminary injunction the defendant claims that he has been deprived of his contractual and constitutional due process rights in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Further, he contends that the School Board's action has caused him irreparable harm in that it renders him unable to support his family and because he is prohibited from seeking alternative employment.

 The defendants respond with two defenses. First, they assert that this Court should abstain from hearing this case under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 27 L. Ed. 2d 669, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971), based on the ongoing parallel state administrative proceeding. Second, even if the Court declines to abstain, the defendants contend that an injunction should not issue because the plaintiff has not suffered any irreparable harm and that the plaintiff's underlying constitutional claims are without merit.

 II. Discussion

 A. Younger ...


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