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Laurel Herdman v. Elizabeth Hogan

September 29, 2011

LAUREL HERDMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELIZABETH HOGAN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Laurel Herdman commenced this action against defendant Elizabeth Hogan pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of her First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 13.) Pending is Hogan's motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) and Herdman's cross-motion to amend. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 9.) For the reasons that follow, Hogan's motion to dismiss is granted, and Herdman's cross-motion to amend is denied as moot.

II. Background

A. Factual History*fn1

On November 15 2007, plaintiff Laurel Herdman began working as a Confidential/Investigative Auditor in the Campaign Finance Unit ("CFU") of the Office of Enforcement Counsel for the New York State Board of Elections ("OFC"). (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7-8, Dkt. No. 13.) Herdman was appointed to this position by defendant Elizabeth Hogan, her direct supervisor throughout her tenure in the CFU. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.)

Herdman worked on various tasks during her employment in the CFU, including revising the Campaign Finance Disclosure Handbook of Instructions, and reorganizing the shared computer storage drive. (See id.

¶¶ 9-14.) Her work was regularly commended, and on April 20, 2008 Herdman was promoted by Hogan "to the position of Campaign Finance Training Specialist." (Id. ¶¶ 11, 16.) Shortly thereafter, Hogan assigned Herdman the task of ascertaining the cost to the Office of General Services to print and mail select documents in 2008. (Id. ¶ 18.) Herdman conducted the requisite research from May 6-8, 2008. (Id. ¶ 19). In addition to reviewing the costs for 2008, she "went beyond the assignment" and compiled the same costs for the years 2006 and 2007. (Id.)

As a result of her research, Herdman uncovered a discrepancy in the printing costs that she described as "very serious" and possibly "illegal." (Id. ¶ 20.) Herdman notified Hogan of her findings via email on May 8, 2008, and later met with her to discuss the findings in person. (Id.) That same day, Herdman also sent Hogan a comparison chart that not only included the 2008 costs (the year Hogan specifically requested), but also 2006 and 2007 costs. (Id. ¶ 21.) Throughout May 2008, Herdman was involved in multiple meetings to discuss her findings; many of which included Hogan's supervisors. (See id. ¶¶ 23-27.) Although her work led to the discovery of what was later explained as an $8,000 accounting error, Herdman avers "the atmosphere surrounding [her] at work changed" after she filed her report on May 8, 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 27-28.) Specifically, Hogan "reduced the amount of talking she did with [Herdman] to a minimum"; when the two did speak, Hogan was "dismissive." (Id. ¶ 28.)

On July 11, 2008, Hogan fired Herdman. (Id. ¶ 31.) At her termination meeting, Hogan told Herdman that "although she was a 'star,'" she was not a "fit" and was "too enthusiastic." (Id.) Herdman alleges that this explanation was a "pretext," and in actuality, Hogan fired her in retaliation for reporting the $8,000 discrepancy. (Id. ¶ 32.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its decision in Ellis v. Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP, 701 F. Supp. 2d 215, 218 (N.D.N.Y. 2010).

IV. Discussion

A. Cross-motion to ...


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