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Anthony M. Scro v. the Board of Education of the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District

March 26, 2012

ANTHONY M. SCRO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE JORDAN-ELBRIDGE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, DIANA FOOTE, CONNIE DRAKE AND PENNY L. FEENEY, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Anthony M. Scro commenced this action against defendants The Board of Education of the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District, Diana Foote, Connie Drake and Penny L. Feeney asserting claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New York State law. (See Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 5.) Pending is defendants' motion to dismiss. (See Dkt. No. 8.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is granted.

II. Background*fn1

Scro was the former Treasurer for the Jordan-Elbridge Central School District. (See Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) Following his termination by the Board of Education,*fn2 Scro continued to appear at open board meetings to voice his opinion of the School District's fiscal activities. (See id. ¶ 43.) Given that the meetings received extensive media coverage, Scro's "public corrections of [the board's] erroneous assumptions, mistakes and lack of knowledge on fiscal matters" embarrassed the School District. (Id.) In response to his statements, Foote, Drake and Feeney "made public defamatory statements about [Scro]," which damaged both his reputation and ability to obtain new employment. (Id. ¶¶43-45.)

Specifically, Scro was first defamed at the October 6, 2010 board meeting by Drake and Foote, who accused him of "poor job performance." (Id. ¶ 28.) Two weeks later, Scro challenged the School District's compliance with a state budgetary rule, and was once again chastised by members of the board. (See id. ¶ 29.) Finally, at the May 10, 2011 meeting, the board "orchestrated" a presentation on the purported loss of $500,000 from the capital project fund, and in so doing, "inferred" that Scro and/or William Hamilton, the Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance, "committed larceny or were incompetent." (Id. ¶¶ 31-32, 56.) Although the district later announced that the money was not missing, it never retracted its statements regarding Scro's competency or integrity. (See id. ¶¶ 33-34.)

In sum, Scro alleges the following four causes of action against defendants: (1) First Amendment retaliation; (2) retaliation under New York Educational Law § 3028-d; (3) defamation; and (4) interference with the right of association under the First Amendment. (See id. ¶¶ 40-58.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 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

Defendants argue that Scro's Free Speech and Free Association claims are unactionable, and as such, supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claims is inappropriate. (See generally Dkt. No. 8, Attach. 1.) Scro counters that he properly stated an "adverse employment action" claim, as well as a claim for interference with his First Amendment right to association. (See Dkt. No. 12 at 2-10.) He further avers that because his federal claims are viable, the court should not dismiss his state law causes of action. (See id. at 11-13.) The court addresses each of these arguments in turn.

A. Scro's First Cause of Action

As a threshold matter, the court is unable to discern the precise theory of liability Scro is pursuing in his first cause of action. Although entitled "First Amendment Retaliation," Scro discusses what appears to be a common law defamation claim. (Am. Compl. ΒΆΒΆ 40-46.) Furthermore, his response focuses on defendants' purported "adverse employment action," while citing cases which address the deprivation of Due Process rights under the "stigma plus" theory. (See ...


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