The opinion of the court was delivered by: GEORGE DANIELS, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Gertrude LaForgia, is the former Commissioner of the
Department of Public Safety for the City of Mt. Vernon, New York.
Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants, Ernest Davis,
Mayor of the City of Mt. Vernon, New York ("the Mayor") and the
City of Mt. Vernon, New York, alleging that she was terminated
from her position in violation of her rights as guaranteed by the
First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants move for summary
judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Plaintiff opposes the motion. For the following
reasons defendants' motion is GRANTED.
On December 13, 1998, the Mayor of the City of Mount Vernon,
New York, Ernest Davis, appointed Plaintiff, Gertrude LaForgia,
as Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety. At the time
of her appointment, Plaintiff had recently retired from the New
York City Police Force where she had an illustrious thirty-two
year law enforcement career. As Police Commissioner, Plaintiff made significant achievements in lowering crime and
improving the effectiveness of the Mount Vernon Police
Department. Moreover, Plaintiff supervised 185 police officers
and twenty-to-thirty civilians. She reported directly to the
Mayor. According to Plaintiff, at no time prior to July of 2001
did the Mayor ever voice dissatisfaction with her performance as
Police Commissioner. On the contrary, she alleges that the Mayor
was quite pleased with her performance as he repeatedly expressed
to her that "she was the best Commissioner the City ever had."
Plaintiff claims that starting in July 2000, she repeatedly
expressed her concerns to the Mayor on various issues which arose
in the City, such as her concerns about certain budgetary matters
and alleged improper departmental activities. Plaintiff suffered
no adverse action as a result of these complaints, and these
complaints to the Mayor played no role in her termination of
In November of 2000, over Plaintiff's objections, the Mayor
appointed his personal chauffeur and bodyguard as First Deputy
Commissioner ("First Deputy) of the Department. Prior to this
appointment, the First Deputy served for twenty-eight years in
the police department including service as a detective. With the
exception of several undercover assignments in which he
supervised three-to-five police officers on or before 1992, the
First Deputy had no supervisory or management experience.
Plaintiff believed that the First Deputy's lack of experience in
a managerial role would have a demoralizing effect on the
Plaintiff also expressed her misgivings to the Mayor regarding
the Deputy Commissioner of Technology and Special Projects
("Technology Commissioner"). Plaintiff requested that the Mayor
terminate the Technology Commissioner because he was disruptive
to departmental operations. Plaintiff asserts that the Mayor refused, contending
that the Technology Commissioner was "valuable" to him.
Further, around June 2001, Plaintiff expressed her concern that
both the First Deputy and the Technology Commissioner were
causing chaos within the Department by deliberately, routinely,
and openly undermining her authority. She cites as examples the
creation of duplicative work within the Department because they
failed to communicate with her, bypassing her to give directions
directly to the police chiefs and captains without informing her,
and holding closed door meetings between the Mayor and these
Deputy Commissioners without her presence, thereby keeping her
uninformed about issues.
On June 29, 2001, a regular weekly meeting with the Mayor was
held. Plaintiff and both Deputy Commissioners were in attendance
at this meeting. At the meeting, Plaintiff told the Mayor that
the Technology Commissioner had made a gross miscalculation of
the cost of purchasing mobile digital terminals for patrol cars.
Plaintiff alleges that when she attempted to produce evidence of
the miscalculation, The Technology Commissioner verbally attacked
her, telling the Mayor that Plaintiff "didn't know what [she] was
talking about." Plaintiff responded that she "was not going to
listen to this," walked out of the meeting, and admits she may
have slammed the door.
Following this incident, Plaintiff went on a scheduled
vacation. Upon her return, she was notified that the Mayor wanted
to meet with her. In preparation for this meeting and because she
anticipated the Mayor might fire her, Plaintiff drafted a
statement to the Mayor recounting her achievements and listing
work that still needed to be done in connection with law
enforcement in the City. The purpose of the statement was to
remind the Mayor of her numerous successes as Police Commissioner. On July 3, 2001, at the meeting with the
Mayor, Plaintiff apologized for her conduct at the June 29th
meeting, and agreed with the Mayor that her behavior was
inappropriate. She further informed the Mayor that she could not
manage the department unless the two Deputy Commissioners were
removed from their positions. The Mayor informed her that if she
could not work with her Deputy Commissioners, he thought it was
"time [that they] parted company." At the end of this July 3rd
meeting, Plaintiff advised her secretary and the Police Chief
that the Mayor terminated her employment.
On July 6, 2001, the local newspaper, The Journal News,
quoted the Mayor stating that Plaintiff "handed him her
resignation without prior notice." Likewise, at an interview with
News 12 Westchester, the local cable station, the Mayor stated
that Plaintiff had resigned. Plaintiff states that she contacted
the Journal News reporter because she received telephone calls
regarding the Mayor's statements. Plaintiff denies that she told
the reporter that she resigned. However, on July 7, 2001, it was
reported that she left because of "controversy and chaos" in the
Department. Moreover, she was quoted as saying that the two
Deputy Commissioners were unqualified and were obstacles to the
smooth operation of the Department.
On July 14, 2001, News 12 Westchester interviewed the Mayor and
asked him about Plaintiff's statements in the paper. The Mayor
claimed that Plaintiff lacked the requisite administrative skills
to effectively supervise the two Deputy Commisioners. He further
commented that Plaintiff was responsible for the chaos in the
Department. He claimed at the interview that Plaintiff had
informed him that she was incapable of performing her duties and
responsibilities as Police Commissioner. The Mayor had appointed
the First Deputy as the interim Acting Commissioner after Plaintiff's termination, and
later at a subsequent interview stated that the First Deputy was
"probably more qualified on paper than [Plaintiff]."
After her termination, Plaintiff begun searching for employment
at the end of August 2001. She applied for three positions.
Additionally, she made some informal inquiries for positions with
private security firms. She declined to apply for certain jobs
because she believed she was overqualified.
Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, deposition,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with
affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to summary
judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Nebraska v.
Wyoming, 507 U.S. 584, 590, 113 S.Ct. 1689, 1684 (1993). The
burden of demonstrating that no factual dispute exists is on the
moving party. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the moving
party has met this burden, the nonmoving party "must set forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). In deciding a motion for summary judgment,
a court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 ...