The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID HURD, District Judge
MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER
Plaintiff Mark Cushman ("plaintiff") brought suit against defendants
Village of llion, New York ("village"), the village board of trustees
("board"), and John Gilmartin ("Gilmartin"), individually and/or in his
capacity as village Mayor (collectively, "defendants"), alleging two
groups of federal claims*fn1: (1) deprivation of a property interest
without due process of law by failing to afford plaintiff notice and
opportunity to be heard prior to his termination, in violation of his
Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights; and (2) termination on
the basis of and in retaliation for the exercise of his constitutional
right to political party affiliation, in violation of his Fourteenth
Amendment equal protection and substantive due process rights.*fn2
Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12, and/or for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Plaintiff
opposed. Oral argument was heard on October 10, 2003, in Utica, New York.
Decision was reserved.
The facts relevant to plaintiff's federal claims are as follows.
By board resolution dated September 15, 1976, the position of Village
Administrator was created to coordinate the village's governmental
departments and agencies, and to make recommendations to the board on
certain issues. At a January 12, 2000, board meeting, a motion was
unanimously passed appointing plaintiff Village Administrator. On
February 9, 2000, plaintiff signed the required oath of office, and it
was filed. Though several officials allegedly witnessed his taking the
oath, neither the village Clerk nor any other village official signed the
document attesting thereto.
The village held elections every two years. After the June 2000
elections, defendants claim that plaintiff was reappointed Village
Administrator. It does not appear as
though plaintiff specifically contests this alleged fact. Plaintiff
did not file a new oath of office upon his reappointment, but faithfully
discharged his duties until June 5, 2002.
On June 4, 2002, after contentious campaigning, Gilmartin, a Democrat,
won the mayoral election. That night, he and newly elected board members
were sworn into their offices. At a board meeting the next day, June 5,
2002, plaintiff was terminated as Village Administrator after first being
offered a chance to resign voluntarily. The minutes of the meeting note
that "due to the current makeup of the board the services of an
administrator are not needed." (Docket No. 9, Ex. C.) Defendants claim
that this was because Gilmartin, who as Mayor was on the board, planned
to be a full-time mayor, and the position of Village Administrator had
been created at a time when the then-mayor assumed only part-time
duties, making it difficult for him to complete all the tasks eventually
delegated to the administrator. Plaintiff claims that his termination was
due solely to his political affiliation as a Republican.
Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint and/or for summary
judgment pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12 and 56.
A. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12 and 56 Standards
In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court "must accept the
allegations contained in the complaint as true, and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the non-movant; it should not dismiss the complaint
`unless it appears beyond a reasonable doubt that the plaintiff[s] can
prove no set of facts in support of [their] claim which would entitle
[them] to relief.'" Sheppard v. Beerman, 18 F.3d 147, 150 (2d Cir. 1994)
(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)); see also Kaluczky.
v. City of White Plains, 57 F.3d 202, 206 (2d
Cir. 1995). However, conclusory allegations that merely state the general
legal conclusions necessary to prevail on the merits and are unsupported
by factual averments will not be accepted as true. See, e.g., Clapp v.
Greene, 743 F. Supp. 273, 276 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); Albert v. Carovano,
851 F.2d 561, 572 (2d Cir. 1988).
Summary judgment must be granted when the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, admissions and affidavits show that there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is
entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Richardson v. New York
State Dep't of Correctional Servs., 180 F.3d 426, 436 (2d Cir. 1999).
Facts, inferences therefrom, and ambiguities must be viewed in a light
most favorable to the nonmovant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Richardson, 180 F.3d at 436; Project
Release v. Prevost, 722 F.2d 960, 968 (2d Cir. 1983). Once the moving
party has met the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact, the nonmoving party "must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56;
Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. at 250; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587. At
that point the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there
is some metaphysical doubt as to the ...