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Thankachan v. Peekskill Housing Authority

June 4, 2008

GHEEVARGHESE A. THANKACHAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PEEKSKILL HOUSING AUTHORITY, JOHN TESTA,: MAYOR, CITY OF PEEKSKILL, LEESTHER BROWN, ERIC HINES, SANDRA BOND AND LORRAINE ROBINSON, SUED IN THEIR OFFICIAL AND INDIVIDUAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Conner, Sr. D.J.

ECF CASE

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Gheevarghese A. Thankachan brings this suit against defendants Peekskill Housing Authority (the "Authority"); John Testa ("Testa") in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Peekskill and Leesther Brown ("Brown"), Eric Hines ("Hines"), Sandra Bond ("Bond") and Lorraine Robinson ("Robinson") ("Board defendants") in their official and individual capacities, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983. Plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they terminated his employment with the Authority. Defendant Testa moved to dismiss the claim against him pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6).

For the following reasons, defendant's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges the following in his Complaint.

The Authority is a municipal corporation organized pursuant to the laws of the State of New York.*fn1 (Complt. ¶ 2.) Defendant Testa was, at all relevant times, the Mayor of the City of Peekskill with the power to appoint and remove members of the Authority.*fn2 (Complt. ¶ 3.) Defendant Brown is the acting chair of the Authority and defendants Hines, Bond and Robinson are members of the Authority. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.)

Plaintiff was the Executive Director of the Authority from April 2003 until he was terminated in September 2007. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 16.) Plaintiff began working for the Authority in1983, and served as staff attorney from 1998 until April 2003. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff alleges that he performed his duties and responsibilities well; he was recognized with an award for "exemplary service to our residents" in October 2006 and the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") scored plaintiff's management operation 29 out of a maximum score of 30 for 2006. (Id. ¶¶ 11-13.)

Plaintiff was born in India, is of dark complexion and his first language is Malayalam. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff alleges that on several occasions in 2006 and 2007, defendant Brown made remarks deprecating his national origin. (Id. ¶ 26.) He also alleges that, in the spring of 2007, he rebuked defendant Brown for what he felt was a racist statement by Brown that plaintiff was allowing too many Hispanics to enter the housing authority projects. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) Plaintiff states that in the late spring or early summer of 2007 he was suspended for the alleged purpose of investigating his performance. (Id. ¶ 22.) The Authority hired a law firm to determine if grounds existed to terminate plaintiff and plaintiff believes that the firm found no such grounds. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24.)

Plaintiff alleges that in 2007 he revealed to HUD several examples of misconduct on the part of members of the Authority; he revealed that a contract for the installation of surveillance cameras was granted without proper bidding to a company associated with the Mayor and that Brown had made discriminatory remarks concerning Hispanic tenants. (Id. ¶ 25.)

Plaintiff alleges that on or about September 13, 2007, defendants Brown, Hines, Bond and Robinson voted in a closed executive session to terminate his employment, and in informing him of the decision they provided him with no reason for the termination. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18.) Thereafter, defendant Brown announced what plaintiff alleges are false reasons for the action; specifically, Brown advised the media that plaintiff had failed to evict a sex offender and had allowed convicted drug felons to remain in Authority buildings. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) After learning of these purported reasons for his termination, plaintiff, through counsel, requested a name-clearing hearing but was not provided one. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.)

Plaintiff alleges that defendant Testa came to believe that plaintiff was associating with members of the Democratic party and expressed hostility toward plaintiff on this basis. (Id. ¶ 29.) He alleges that Testa appointed Authority members "expressly bent on ending plaintiff's tenure for political reasons." (Id.) He further alleges that defendant Brown harbored discriminatory animus toward him on the basis of his national origin and was hostile toward him both for his political affiliation and because he refused to engage in discriminatory practices against tenants of Authority housing. (Id.) Plaintiff also claims he was deprived of property and liberty interests without due process when defendants failed to provide him with a pre-termination hearing and a name-clearing hearing. (Id. ¶¶ 41-42.)

DISCUSSION

I. Legal ...


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