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O'NEAL v. COUNTY OF NASSAU

January 16, 1997

RAY O'NEAL, Plaintiff, against COUNTY OF NASSAU, Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BOYLE

 BOYLE, United States Magistrate Judge.

 The plaintiff pro se, Ray O'Neal, brings this civil rights action against the County of Nassau ("County"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 28 U.S.C. § 1343, seeking damages resulting from conspiracy to interfere with his civil rights. *fn1" Plaintiff alleges that the County of Nassau and the Nassau County Department of Social Services ("NCDSS") caused him physical and mental abuse for which he seeks money damages in the amount of "$ 1 trillion" dollars.

 Mr. O'Neal alleges in his complaint: (1) that Nassau County officials implanted voodoo in his mind; (2) that County data entry supervisors, Lillian Kufs and Dorris Casseus slapped his hands down on a computer keyboard causing him to suffer cramps and chronic hand pain; (3) that in September 1992, Helen Jackson, another supervisor, stabbed him in the back with a ballpoint pen while he was sitting at his computer terminal; and (4) that in February 1994, "Tom Gulotta," an employee of Nassau County, denied Mr. O'Neal entry into NCDSS and then attacked the plaintiff's arm after a security guard told Mr. Gulotta that the plaintiff was an NCDSS employee.

 During the trial, the plaintiff testified that his identification of Mr. Gulotta, the County Executive of Nassau County, as the "employee" who struck him in February 1994, was a result of hallucinations he experienced when he drafted the pro se complaint in May 1994. The plaintiff stated at trial that Mr. Gulotta had not presented him from entering NCDSS and had not physically attacked him, but rather, that it was another employee of Nassau County, whom he was unable to identify.

 The parties consented to a trial before me, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). This opinion and order constitutes my findings of fact and conclusions of law under Rule 52(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

 THE EVIDENCE AT TRIAL

 The complaint alleges that County officials "implanted plaintiff's mind with voodoo" *fn2" and intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon him by physically attacking and verbally harassing him. Defendant's Exh. B ; (Tr. 22-23, 45).

 Mr. O'Neal testified that in January 1992, Supervisor Lillian Kufs physically assaulted him while he was working at his computer terminal (Tr. 16, 49). Plaintiff testified that Ms. Kufs' alleged misconduct was in retaliation for his complaining to Joan Campbell of the personnel department about her smoking cigarettes in the workplace (Tr. 49). Mr. O'Neal testified that prior to the attack, Supervisor Kufs expressed her disappointment that he had complained to the personnel department (Tr. 49). According to plaintiff, Ms. Kufs then "snuck up on me and simultaneously attacked both of my hands by banging on them, slapping them on the keyboard" (Tr. 49). The court does not credit plaintiff's testimony with respect to this assault.

 Mr. O'Neal testified that he complained to Joan Campbell and to Tom Leonard, the systems manager for NCDSS, about the first [ILLEGIBLE WORD]. Plaintiff stated that he did not suffer any physical injuries from the incident (Tr. 20, 49). Plaintiff testified that he visited Dr. Linden, a hand surgeon, for the cramping he had been experiencing in his hands after the incident (Tr. 51-54). According to the plaintiff, Dr. Linden advised him that the cramping was "probably from the implantation of the voodoo" by the county supervisors (Tr. 54) and recommended that he seek therapy (Tr. 51-54).

 Mr. O'Neal testified that NCDSS supervisors Helen Jackson, Doris Casseus, Lillian Kufs, and Tom Leonard, were among the more than twenty-five County officials who conspired to drive him insane by implanting voodoo in his head (Tr. 41-42, 59). No additional evidence regarding the alleged conspiracy was introduced at trial. The plaintiff testified that due to therapy and treatment, he could not "recall the implantment of voodoo" (Tr. 42-43). Mr. O'Neal testified that following the incident with Lilian Kufs in January 1992, *fn3" the NCDSS supervisors within his area repeatedly complained, without cause, about his work performance and behavior (Tr. 56, 20, 125-126, 132). The court does not credit this testimony.

 The decline in the plaintiff's work performance was documented in Mr. O'Neal's Personnel Progress Report, dated May 18, 1992. Defendant's Exh. K. Supervisor Lisa Renee Palacios stated in her evaluation that the plaintiff made "frequent errors" and that he needed to improve his attitude and to accept his role as someone subject to supervision. Id. Mr. O'Neal acknowledged that he was aware of his supervisors' concerns over his performance (Tr. 46-48). He stated that any decline in his work performance was caused by the mistreatment he received from his supervisors (56).

 The plaintiff stated that a supervisor attacked him for the second time in September 1992. He stated that Helen Jackson, a NCDSS employee of twenty-six years, who had served as a keyboard supervisor since 1988 (Tr. 174-75), stabbed him in the back with a ballpoint pen while he was sitting at his computer terminal (Tr. 57); Plaintiff's Exh. 7. Mr. O'Neal testified that he did not require any medical attention nor did he report any physical injuries following the alleged incident, but he claimed that he was traumatized by the incident (Tr. 57). The court does not credit Mr. O'Neal's testimony concerning the second attack.

 Ms. Jackson denied plaintiff's allegations (Tr. 178). She testified to numerous instances of inferior work performance and disruptive behavior exhibited by the plaintiff under her supervision. Describing plaintiff's work performance, Ms. Jackson testified that he "used to key [data] very fast, but he was not careful. . . . He made a lot of errors. His work was not neat." (Tr. 181). She added that Mr. O'Neal was difficult to supervise because he was uncooperative, was unkempt in his appearance, and had a nasty disposition (Tr. 178-81). The court credits Ms. Jackson's testimony.

 Ms. Jackson testified to several incidents of insubordination by plaintiff. She stated that on November 25, 1992, after confronting Mr. O'Neal about exposing his stomach to co-workers while leaning back in his chair (Tr. 184), the plaintiff responded that he was on his break and that his co-workers should look elsewhere (Tr. 184). She testified that in February 1993 she cited Mr. O'Neal for taking an authorized leave when he failed to return to work following the lunch hour (Tr. 182). She testified that she also received complaints about Mr. O'Neal's body odor (Tr. 179). The court credits this testimony of Ms. Jackson.

 The plaintiff alleges that another supervisor of data entry, Dorris Casseus, attacked him in May [ILLEGIBLE WORD] (Tr. 5). According to Mr. O'Neal, Ms. Casseus "slapped both of [his] hands down on [the] computer keyboard as he performed his job description" (Tr. 5). At the time of this incident, Supervisor Casseus was the plaintiff's immediate supervisor (Tr. 159). The plaintiff contends that he verbally complained about all three attacks to Tom Leonard, manager of the NCDSS systems department, and supervisors Joan Campbell and Kim Ferrer (Tr. 21, 108). According to Mr. O'Neal, these individuals "discriminated against [his] complaint of physical abuse by the supervisors" and denied him of he right to file an employee grievance under the current collective bargaining agreement between Nassau County and its civil service employees (Tr. 7); Plaintiff's Exh. 10. *fn4" The court does not credit the testimony of Mr. O'Neal concerning the third attack.

 Ms. Casseus denied physically striking or threatening to strike the plaintiff while he was under her supervision at NCDSS (Tr. 160). She testified that the plaintiff was an irresponsible employee who made frequent mistakes (Tr. 167, 170). Like her colleagues, Ms. Casseus also found Mr. O'Neal to be a disruptive influence as well as a difficult employee to supervise. She testified that "he is unapproachable because whenever you do approach him, he jumps up and yells and screams. He is really a violent type person. So many times I refused to even approach him with his errors, because the least thing you are going to get a confrontation" (Tr. 167). The court credits this testimony by Ms. Casseus.

 Ms. Casseus further testified that the plaintiff had been suspended for ten days for insubordination around the same time that plaintiff claims he was stabbed with a pen by Ms. Jackson (Tr. 55-56, 164-67). In September 1992, Mr. O'Neal was reassigned to the NCDSS department that performed the computer entry for the distribution of County funds (Tr. 165). Ms. Casseus stated that four or five different supervisors from the income maintenance unit brought to her attention the numerous data entry errors that had been made by Mr. O'Neal. When she confronted the plaintiff, he became agitated and shouted obscenities at her (Tr. 165). Ms. Casseus' supervisor, Joan Campbell, attempted to calm the plaintiff. She testified that the plaintiff then left the building (Tr. 166) and a few minutes later appeared outside the building banging on her office window. She testified that security was called and Mr. O'Neal ran away (Tr. 166). Ms. Casseus reported the incident, and the plaintiff was suspended (Tr. 166). *fn5" The court credits this testimony by Ms. Casseus.

 Mr. Thomas Leonard, manager of the NCDSS computer systems and computer personnel, testified on behalf of the defendant, Nassau County. Mr. Leonard denied any physical contact with the plaintiff during the two years that Mr. O'Neal was under his supervision (Tr. 128). Thomas Leonard testified that "beginning in early 1992, [plaintiff's] behavior as an employee began to deteriorate. He became a constant discipline problem. His productivity was poor. His discipline was continually brought to my attention. He progressively gave each of his supervisors a very difficult time" (Tr. 132-33). Through Mr. Leonard, the County offered into evidence documentation of the plaintiff's erratic behavior which led to disciplinary actions taken against Mr. O'Neal (Tr. 132-39). *fn6" In a memorandum dated July 27, 1993, Mr. Leonard recommended to the personnel department that disciplinary action be taken following a July 23, 1993 incident involving supervisor Helen Jackson and the plaintiff. (Tr. 13536); Defendant's Exh. C. According to the documents, on July 23, 1993, Helen Jackson approached the plaintiff to correct his inaccurate time record. After making the modification, the plaintiff attempted to falsify the corrected entry. Defendant's Exh. C. ...


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