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Quigley v. City of Syracuse

September 29, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, Chief U.S. District Judge



Presently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Plaintiff, Terrence J. Quigley, alleges that his civil rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments were violated when the individually named defendants terminated and/or opted not to renew a vendor contract between the defendant City of Syracuse and plaintiff's company, TJQ Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a AMCOR. Plaintiff's constitutional claims are premised upon 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985. Plaintiff also asserts state law claims for breach of contract and tortious interference with contract.


In short, plaintiff TJQ Enterprises, Inc. and the City of Syracuse entered into a contract for baggage delivery services at Syracuse's Hancock International Airport on October 16, 2001. Prior to that date, plaintiff had been operating a baggage delivery service at the airport via a license issued by the City of Syracuse. The new contract was designed to increase airport revenue by requiring vendors to pay to the City a percentage of revenues in lieu of a mere licensing fee. The contract as executed by the parties was slated to expire on August 31, 2002. Pursuant to the express terms of the contract, either party could terminate it upon thirty (30) days written notice. In August 2002, the parties agreed to continue the existing contract on a month-to-month basis. In November 2002, the defendant Mayor Matthew Driscoll, replaced defendant Charles Everett with defendant Anthony Mancuso as Commissioner of Aviation. Defendant Driscoll then appointed defendant Everett as Director of Operations for the defendant City. Beginning in February 2002 and continuing until November 2002, plaintiffs were late on or failed to make concession payments to the City of Syracuse as required by the contract.

On July 10, 2003, defendant Mancuso, as Commissioner of Aviation, advised plaintiffs that the City of Syracuse would be terminating the contract for baggage services with TJQ Enterprises, Inc. as of August 10, 2003. Plaintiffs continued to operate their baggage delivery service after August 10, 2003, by picking up bags off of airport property. On August 11, 2003, plaintiff Quigley was ticketed by the City of Syracuse police department for engaging in revenue-producing activity at the airport without a license or contract. On August 12, 2003, defendant Mancuso advised at least one airline service with whom plaintiffs did business that plaintiffs were operating an "illegal baggage delivery service" at the airport as of midnight on August 10, 2003, and that the airline was thereby in violation of airport regulations by continuing to do business with TJQ Enterprises, Inc.

On August 21, 2003, plaintiff Quigley requested that the City renew its contract with TJQ Enterprises, Inc. By letter dated October 20, 2003, defendant Mancuso denied plaintiff's request to renew the contract after stating he had considered the "current baggage delivery service needs" at the airport, plaintiffs' "failure to make timely payments of amounts due the Department of Aviation under [the] previous agreement for baggage delivery service," and plaintiffs' failure to cease operations at the airport as directed upon expiration of the prior contract. Upon non-renewal of plaintiffs' contract, LGT International, Inc., a corporation owned by Samir Tawil, was the exclusive authorized baggage delivery service at the airport. Plaintiffs' complaint asserts that Tawil had no prior experience in operating a baggage delivery service for airlines prior to being awarded the City of Syracuse airport contract.*fn1

Plaintiff Quigley, whose council states he is a registered Republican, contends that defendants conspired illegally to terminate his contract solely to reward Tawil, an alleged Democrat and political supporter of defendant Mayor Matthew Driscoll. Plaintiff Quigley claims he was targeted by defendants because he was a "frequent and outspoken" critic of defendants concerning the manner in which they administered operation of the airport. According to plaintiffs, defendants also interfered with their business contracts and relationships with various airlines which were willing to continue doing business with TJQ Enterprises, Inc., but for the contract cancellation.

In support of his constitutional and state law claims, plaintiff asserts that the defendant City officials did not follow proper or customary bidding procedures in awarding an exclusive contract to LGT International, Inc. Plaintiffs also allege that defendants and the City of Syracuse violated the City's policy of not doing business with any vendor in arrears on city property taxes by awarding the baggage delivery contract to Tawil as political payback in spite of Tawil owing nearly $100,000.00 in back city property taxes. In further support of his allegations that defendants gave the baggage delivery contract to Tawil as political patronage, plaintiff Quigley contends that defendants attempted to award the City's lucrative airport parking concession contract to Arthur "Skip" Henning, another political supporter of the Mayor, who had no prior operating experience, but were thwarted by publicity regarding the deal which appeared in the local newspaper.

Defendants deny plaintiffs' allegations regarding an alleged conspiracy to deprive him of a constitutionally protected property right and their alleged efforts to interfere with plaintiff Quigley's business contracts and relations. Further, defendants assert that even assuming the truth of plaintiffs' allegations, they had no property or liberty interest in the contract at issue since either party could terminate the contract upon thirty (30) days notice. Based thereupon, defendants argue plaintiffs ha ve failed to state any valid cause of action herein.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Substantive law determines which facts are material; that is, which facts might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 258 (1986). Irrelevant or unnecessary facts do not preclude summary judgment, even when they are in dispute. See id. The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing that there is no genuine issue of material fact to be decided. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). With respect to any issue on which the moving party does not bear the burden of proof, it may meet its burden on summary judgment by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. See id. at 325. Once the movant meets this initial burden, the nonmoving party must demonstrate that there is a genuine unresolved issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). Although all inferences must be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, mere speculation and conjecture is insufficient to preclude the granting of the motion. Western World Ins. Co. v. Stack Oil, 922 F.2d 118, 121 (2d Cir. 1990); see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (holding that nonmoving party must do more than merely show "some metaphysical doubt" as to material facts to escape summary judgment). It is with these considerations in mind that the Court addresses defendants' motion for summary judgment.

B. Plaintiffs' Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

1. Deprivation of a Property or Liberty Interest

Plaintiffs' first four causes of action are premised on violations of federal and constitutional rights actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 which provides a federal cause of action for "deprivations of any rights, privileges or immunities" secured by the Constitution and federal laws. To state a claim upon which relief may be granted under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege 1) that the challenged conduct was attributable to a person acting under color of state law; and 2) that such conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. See Eagleston v. Guido, 41 F.3d 865 (2d Cir. 1994). The contested issue here is whether plaintiffs' complaint alleges properly the deprivation of a right, privilege or immunity guaranteed by federal law or the Constitution.

In determining whether a litigant has a cognizable claim for a violation of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, courts must determine 1) whether the litigant was possessed of a liberty or property interest; and 2) what process, if any, was due prior to deprivation of that interest. See Ciambriello v. County of Nassau, 292 F.3d 307, 312 (2d Cir. 2002) (citing Green v. Bauvi, 46 F.3d 189, 194 (2d Cir. 1995)).

Based thereupon, the Court will determine in the first instance whether plaintiffs have a cognizable property or liberty interest upon which each of the first four causes of action is based.

Property interests are not created by the Constitution - they are defined by independent sources such as federal and state law. See Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577 (1972). "To have a property interest ... a person clearly must have more than an abstract need or desire for it. He must have more than a unilateral expectation of it. He must, instead, have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it ..." Id. When determining whether a plaintiff has a claim of entitlement, courts must focus on the applicable statute, contract or regulation that purports to establish the benefit. See Martz v. Inc. Vill. of Valley Stream, 22 F.3d 26, 30 (2d Cir. 1994).

In the present case, plaintiffs contend that in refusing to renew their airline baggage delivery contract with the City of Syracuse, defendants denied to them property interests without due process of law including: 1) their right to pursue their respective commercial interests and avocations; and 2) their right to enter and have access to the Hancock International Airport. There is no evidence that defendants ever denied plaintiff Quigley access to the airport in his individual or personal capacity. The issue is merely that defendants prohibited him from having access to airport property to conduct business in the absence of a valid contract with the City. ...

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