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Brevot v. New York City Dep't of Education

March 6, 2007

MARCIA BREVOT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gerard E. Lynch, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Marcia Brevot, a former employee of the New York City Department of Education (the "Department"), seeks injunctive relief and damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for defendants' alleged violation of her due process rights as provided by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. She also asks this Court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over her claim under Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, N.Y. C.P.L.R. §§ 7801-7806, that defendants have behaved in an arbitrary and capricious manner.*fn1

Defendants -- the Department, two employees of the Department (including the Chancellor), and two employees of the New York City Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District -- move for summary judgment on both of plaintiff's claims, arguing, inter alia, that plaintiff's due process claim is time-barred and that her Article 78 claim may be maintained only in state court. Plaintiff cross-moves for partial summary judgment granting injunctive relief under her due process claim. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion will be granted in its entirety, and plaintiff's motion will be denied.

BACKGROUND

The essential facts are mostly undisputed. Dr. Marcia Brevot retired from the New York City School System in 1995 after 27 years of employment, during which time she held various positions ranging from guidance counselor to principal. (Pl. Decl. ¶ 2.) After her retirement, plaintiff was asked by the Department to serve as Acting Principal of the Eastern District Academy and as Director of the Grand Street Campus. (Compl. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff was given a one-year contract for this position in July 1996. (Pl. Dep. 46.) Upon expiration of the contract term in June 1997, her contract was not renewed. (Id.)

In June 1998, Edward Stancik, the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District ("SCI")*fn2 issued a report ("the Stancik Report" or "the Report") -- titled "How to Succeed Without Really Trying: The Alternative to Education at Eastern District Senior Academy" -- accusing plaintiff of "extreme[ly] incompeten[t]" performance at the Eastern District Academy. (Pl. Exh. C; Compl. ¶ 1.) The Report accused plaintiff of "relax[ing] the curriculum and restructur[ing] the system of awarding credits in a manner that made it easier for students" to graduate. (Pl. Exh. D at 2.) SCI also issued a press release summarizing the charges of the Report. (Pl. Exh. B.)*fn3 The Report was provided to the State Education Department and remains publicly available on the SCI website. (Def. Exh. H at 34; Answer ¶ 17.)

On July 6, 1998, as a result of the Stancik Report, plaintiff was informed by letter that she had been placed on the Department's Ineligible/Inquiry List ("the Ineligible List"), which disqualifies individuals from future employment with the Department. (Pl. Decl. Exh. A; Pl. Dep. 81.) The July 6 letter also advised plaintiff that she could schedule an "informal conference" to discuss the matter. (Pl. Decl. Exh. A.) However, the conference never took place,*fn4 and an employee of the Office of Appeals and Review for the Department advised plaintiff that she "[could] no longer work for the Board of Education" as a result of her placement on the Ineligible List. (Pl. Dep. 71; Heaney Dep. 13.)

In September 2003, after a period of employment in Florida, plaintiff was hired by New Visions for Public Schools as a consultant to the New Century High School Initiative project in Region 9. (Pl. Decl. Exh. C.) Plaintiff was recommended for the position by Michael LaForgia, Region 9 Local Instructional Superintendent. (LaForgia Dep. 61-62.) New Visions is a nonprofit organization that, in part, acts as a conduit for grants from the Carnegie, Gates, and Soros Foundations to the Department. (Pl. Exh. E.) Plaintiff was hired as an independent contractor "[t]o work closely with [Region 9] under their general direction, [and] to organize teams to create new schools in Region 9." (Pl. Decl. Exh. C; Wechsler Dep. 29.) Plaintiff's contract with New Visions was for a one year period beginning September 10, 2003, and ending August 30, 2004. (Pl. Decl. Exh. C.)

In December 2003, SCI received information from a confidential source, alleging that plaintiff,"who was the subject of an SCI investigation in 1997 . . . and was placed on the Ineligible List as a result, is now employed" by New Visions.*fn5 (Def. Exh. L.) SCI investigator Marie E. Zolfo was assigned to investigate the matter. (Def. Exh. M.) Zolfo interviewed a number of people during the course of her investigation, including an employee of the Hillsboro County School District in Florida, where plaintiff had worked as a guidance counselor from July 2001 until July 2003.*fn6 (Pl. Exh. L.) Zolfo concluded that plaintiff was on the Ineligible List and was employed by New Visions, despite her awareness that she was ineligible for employment with the Department. (Def. Exh. O.)

By letter of April 22, 2004, SCI Deputy Commissioner Regina Loughran advised the Chancellor of the Department, Joel I. Klein, that "[a]n investigation conducted by this office has substantiated that Marcia Brevot" was employed by New Visions "even though she is on the Department of Education . . . ineligible list as a result of misconduct." (Def. Exh. P.) The April 22 letter summarized the allegations of the Stancik Report and related information about plaintiff's employment by the Hillsboro School District in Florida. (Id. 1-2) The April 22 letter was also copied to DOE legal personnel, the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Investigation, and the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Education.*fn7 (Id.) As a result of its investigation, SCI recommended "that the continuation of Marcia Brevot['s] . . . contract . . . be reviewed in light of the information provided" in the April 22 letter. (Id.)

The April 22 letter was forwarded to Peter Heaney, Superintendent of Region 9, who "react[ed] to it immediately, because a report from SCI is rather serious." (Heaney Dep. 68.) As a result of the letter and its summary of the Stancik Report, Heaney determined that plaintiff should no longer serve in Region 9. (Id. 61-67.) On June 3, 2004, Heaney emailed LaForgia, advising him to "notify [plaintiff] and New Visions that [the Department] wish[es] to discontinue the use of her services effective today." (Pl. Exh. O.) Heaney also called Robert Hughes, President of New Visions, and requested that plaintiff's consultancy be discontinued. (Heaney Dep. 62.) On June 14, 2004, before the completion of her contract, plaintiff was terminated from her position with New Visions. (Pl. Exh. E.)

On October 8, 2004, plaintiff filed the complaint that initiated this action. On April 19, 2006, following completion of discovery, defendants moved for summary judgment; plaintiff cross-moved for partial summary judgment on her injunctive relief claim on May 22, 2006. Both motions were fully submitted as of June 19, 2006.

DISCUSSION

I. Summary Judgment ...


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