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Gladwin v. Pozzi

January 21, 2010

BRIDGET GLADWIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROCCO POZZI & COUNTY OF WESTCHESTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John F. Keenan, United States District Judge

Opinion & Order

Plaintiff, Bridget Gladwin, brings this action against her former employer, the County of Westchester (the "County") and her former supervisor, Rocco Pozzi, the Westchester County Commissioner of Corrections ("Pozzi," and, together with the County, the "Defendants"), asserting claims of race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 and gender discrimination under § 1983 because her employment was terminated. Defendants move for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted in its entirety.

I. Factual Background

All facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated. Bridget Gladwin ("Gladwin" or "Plaintiff") is an African-American woman and was 63 years old at the time of her firing. Prior to her service for the County, Gladwin worked for the New York State Department of Corrections ("NYSDOC") for twenty-five years, seventeen of those years as a Superintendent. After retiring from NYSDOC, and before her employment with the County, Plaintiff worked as a consultant.

Rocco Pozzi has served as the Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Corrections ("WCDOC") since 1998. In this capacity, he acts as the appointing authority for the WCDOC and, as such, has final decision-making authority regarding the hiring and firing of personnel.

Pozzi hired Gladwin as the sole Deputy Commissioner of Corrections for the WCDOC in June 2001. She replaced an African-American male. At the time of her hiring, Gladwin was the only minority and the only woman on Pozzi's executive team. As Deputy Commissioner, Plaintiff's responsibilities included oversight of the Women's Division of the Jail, the Food and Medical contracts, the Administrative area, Program Services, and Pastoral Care. In addition, Plaintiff was given the responsibility of chairing the Department's Promotion Board.

A. Gladwin's Employment with the WCDOC

In 2002, Pozzi promoted Plaintiff to the position of First Deputy Commissioner and appointed two Second Deputy Commissioners: Clyde Isley ("Isley"), an African-American male, and Joseph Miranda ("Miranda"), a white male who was formerly the WCDOC's Chief of Operations. Though her title as First Deputy Commissioner made her more senior than the Second Deputies and in charge of the department in Pozzi's absence, Gladwin claims her authority constantly came under attack during her first two-and-a-half years at the WCDOC.

Plaintiff raised concerns regarding Isley's performance -- including his failure to take direction from her and problems between him and Miranda - to Pozzi, and even called for Isley's removal in 2003. (Gladwin Dep. at 47--48). When Plaintiff confronted Isley about her concerns, he told her that they had different styles and that she liked to micro-manage people. (Id. at 49--50). Gladwin admits that Pozzi supported Plaintiff in her dealings with Isley in 2003. (Id. at 48).

Plaintiff alleges that Miranda consistently ignored and disrespected her authority, preferring to speak directly with Pozzi. Plaintiff claims that on one occasion in 2003, after asking Miranda about an inquiry by the Vice President of the Westchester Medical Center ("WMC"), Miranda yelled "I'm in charge of security and I'm not discussing it and I don't have to answer to you" in the main lobby of the WCDOC headquarters. (Id. at 64--67). Gladwin also claims that Miranda became abusive towards her staff, including an incident in which he allegedly screamed at June Yozzo - the contract monitor for medical services who reported directly to Plaintiff - until she began to cry and needed to be sent home, (Id. at 59--63), though Yozzo had no specific recollection of the alleged incident. (Yozzo Dep. at 18--19). According to Isley, Miranda also treated him and his staff disrespectfully, erupting into frequent outbursts and using unprofessional language and profanity. (Isley Dep. at 23-- 27). Though Gladwin brought Miranda's behavior to Pozzi's attention, Pozzi never warned or disciplined Miranda in connection with his conduct. (Miranda Dep. at 30). Rather, Pozzi characterized Miranda as "excitable" and "passionate about issues." (Pozzi Dep. at 24).

Plaintiff grew concerned that Pozzi devalued her and treated her less favorably than Caucasian subordinates. On January 26, 2004, Plaintiff issued a Memorandum to Commissioner Pozzi entitled "My Position As First Deputy Commissioner." In this document, Gladwin stated that Pozzi was "a very decent person who I know never wants to intentionally hurt anyone." (Pl. Ex. 2 at 1). Nevertheless, the document questioned Pozzi's leadership and decision-making. It stated:

From the very beginning it has been a challenge not only with respect to the work or responsibilities, but with respect to penetrating "the good old boys club which exists" in the Department. Whether you like to acknowledge this or not there is a good old boys club that exists here even today. As the only female administrator I feel it on an almost daily basis. (Id.). Gladwin complained in the memorandum that "from the very beginning although I had a title I had little responsibility or authority. I truly felt like 'window dressing.'" (Id.). Among the specific concerns Gladwin raised, Plaintiff described a January 22, 2004 incident during which Pozzi expressly told Plaintiff and Isley that he wanted Isley to appear to take over supervision of the Administrative Support area so "they" would not know that Plaintiff was calling the shots. (Id. at 3). In this memorandum, Plaintiff alluded to resigning over these concerns, but Pozzi never requested her resignation, nor did Plaintiff offer it. (Pl. Ex. 2 at 5).

Pozzi met with Gladwin shortly after she issued her memorandum and also provided her with a written response dated February 6, 2004. (Pl. Ex. 3). This response detailed examples of Pozzi's support for Plaintiff, such as supporting Plaintiff's plan to move the cashier's function to WCDOC Headquarters under the supervision of the Director of Administrative Services and granting Plaintiff the authority to deal directly with the medical services contract monitor. (Id.).

On February 9, 2004, Pozzi issued Plaintiff a second memorandum addressing alleged verbal outbursts that Plaintiff engaged in at the WCDOC headquarters. Gladwin maintains that she never engaged in such outbursts. (Gladwin Dep. at 310--11). The subject of Pozzi's second memorandum concerned a February 3, 2004 incident during which Plaintiff was scheduled to attend a meeting regarding a complaint against Plaintiff by a WCDOC employee named Jose Sierra. (Gladwin Aff. at ¶ 11). According to Plaintiff, Sierra had been verbally abusive to her and others within the WCDOC. When she attempted to transfer him in connection with this conduct, Sierra - who allegedly had a mental impairment - claimed Plaintiff was engaging in disability discrimination. (Gladwin Dep. at 178--81). Pozzi cancelled the meeting and ultimately rejected Plaintiff's request to transfer Sierra. This allegedly sparked an angry tirade from Plaintiff. In his memorandum addressing the matter, Pozzi noted that Plaintiff's outbursts occurred whenever she became upset with a decision Pozzi had made, and he counseled her to air her complaints to him privately rather than in the hallways and common work areas. (Pl. Ex. 4). Plaintiff claims, however, that Sierra was subsequently transferred from the department after a white corrections officer complained that Sierra had been verbally abusive to him. (Pl. Ex. 9).

In the spring of 2005, Plaintiff and Isley met separately with Pozzi to address their concerns that Pozzi had two executive teams, one white and one black, and that Pozzi treated the former more favorably. Prior to this meeting, Isley had told Plaintiff that he believed Pozzi's administration was racist, (Isley Dep. at 106:12--21), but after speaking with Pozzi about his concerns, Isley believed that his situation improved. (Id. at 65:8--10).

B. Complaints Against Plaintiff

A number of employees submitted written complaints regarding Plaintiff's conduct in 2005. Plaintiff disputes the veracity of these complaints and contends that Pozzi solicited them to support her termination. Pozzi maintains that he merely informed employees who made verbal complaints that they could make a record by submitting their complaints in writing. (Id. at 65:15--66:12).

In 2005, Miranda submitted to Pozzi at least two memoranda complaining of Plaintiff's conduct. In the first, dated June 9, 2005, Miranda claimed that, in reference to a white female under consideration for promotion, Plaintiff told him that "[she] cannot be promoted because we need more minorities." (Pl. Ex. 6). Miranda also claimed he had "cautioned Deputy Gladwin before about remarks she has made at both hiring and promotion boards and she has chosen to disregard my advice." (Id.). In a second memorandum, dated December 22, 2005 and also provided in an email to Pozzi, Miranda stated that Isley told him that he was "cutting [Plaintiff] loose" and was "tired of trying to reason with her." (Id.). Miranda further claimed Plaintiff told Isley, "[C]ome the first of the year I am going to continue to be a big pain in the ass." (Id.).

In a November 29, 2005 memorandum, Stephen Serpagli - the WCDOC's contract monitor for food services and a white male - claimed that "approximately two weeks ago" he "overheard" Plaintiff stating "she never worked under these conditions where things are run so incompetent." (Pl. Ex. 10). Serpagli wrote a second memorandum to Pozzi on December 30, 2005, complaining that Plaintiff confronted him regarding a vendor relationship and told him that he and Plaintiff were going to "have a showdown." (Pl. Ex. 13).

On June 24, 2005, Joseph Spano ("Spano") - a white male who served as a Special Assistant to the Commissioner - made an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against Plaintiff because she referred to a police officer who gave her a speeding ticket as a "redneck cracker" in his presence. (Pl. Ex. 7). Plaintiff does not deny calling the officer a "cracker," but argues that the term refers to a "prejudiced white person." (Gladwin Aff. at ¶ 23).

C. Alleged Departmental and Staff Disputes Involving Plaintiff

Defendants allege that Plaintiff had a number of other disputes with the WCDOC staff and related entities, including Donnie Simon and Maria Morgan, the administrators from the Southern Westchester Boards of Cooperative Educational Services ("BOCES") program. Plaintiff conceded as much, but contends that, far from being a problem unique to her, the dispute with BOCES was shared by Rodney Quinn, the Director of Programs.

In 2002, Plaintiff was involved in a dispute with another employee, Sue Strutman, who was then the Medical Services monitor, involving Plaintiff's attempts to decrease Strutman's overtime. According to Plaintiff, Strutman ultimately left her position because "she didn't want to deal with [Plaintiff]." (Gladwin Dep. at 49:7--8). After ...


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