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William Hasper v. the County of Suffolk

July 12, 2012

WILLIAM HASPER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE COUNTY OF SUFFOLK, RICHARD DORMER, ROGER SHANNON, ROBERT MOORE AND THADDEUS NIEVES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Seybert District Judge:

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiff William Hasper ("Plaintiff") sued Suffolk County (the "County") and four County employees--Richard Dormer, Roger Shannon, Robert Moore, and Thaddeus Nieves (the "Individual Defendants" and, with the County, "Defendants")--in a case arising out of Hasper's employment with the Suffolk County Police Department (the "SCPD"). Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint.

(Docket Entry 13.) For the following reasons, the motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

BACKGROUND

The following discussion is drawn from the allegations in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. The allegations are assumed to be true for the purpose of this motion.

Plaintiff is an SCPD lieutenant, and the Individual Defendants are high-ranking police officials. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6-11). A brief discussion of Plaintiff's career is useful to put this case into context. Plaintiff began working for the SCPD in 1993. He was promoted to sergeant in 2000 and to lieutenant in 2005. He was later designated as the commanding officer of the SCPD's court liaison bureau in Central Islip, New York. This post afforded Plaintiff various benefits, including opportunities for overtime, steady daytime work, a take-home unmarked vehicle, and a clothing allowance. Over the years, Plaintiff has received several commendations in recognition of his work for the SCPD. (Id. ¶¶ 12-14, 16-19.)

In addition to his police work, Plaintiff was involved in Suffolk County politics. In 2003 and 2004, Plaintiff volunteered as a driver for Steve Levy's Suffolk County Executive campaign. Plaintiff's volunteer work was unrelated to his official duties as a police officer and occurred during Plaintiff's off-duty hours. (Id. ¶ 15.)

In 2007, Plaintiff complained to SCPD Inspector Aristedes Mojica about a police officer under Plaintiff's command. According to Plaintiff, the officer, Laurie Salerno, had made several inappropriate comments. The allegedly offending remarks are recounted in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint: "pretty soon [Lt. Kim McGreevey will] be blowin' her new boss"; "Captain John Blosser, now there's a man that couldn't lay there and enjoy a good blow job"; references to several male police officers as "Club Viagra"; a statement that a particular officer has "hairy gray balls"; and criticism of Plaintiff's selection of an officer to work in his command on the basis that "the girls need some fucking eye candy." (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff's personnel complaint received no immediate response, and Mojica and Defendant Moore eventually told Plaintiff that Salerno would not be disciplined. (Id. ¶¶ 20-22.)

Plaintiff alleges that, in the years that followed, he was the victim of multiple instances of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In April 2008, Salerno filed a discrimination and sexual harassment complaint against Plaintiff. Plaintiff submitted a written response to the accusations that named certain high-ranking officials. An SCPD Deputy Inspector threatened Plaintiff and demanded that he remove the officials' names from his response, but Plaintiff refused. He was cleared of the sexual harassment charges in September 2008. (Id. ¶¶ 23-28.)

In December 2009, a former SCPD clerk named Elizabeth Cosgrove filed a discrimination and sexual harassment complaint against Plaintiff. Soon thereafter, in February 2010, Defendant Dormer ordered the SCPD Internal Affairs Bureau ("IAB") to conduct surveillance on Plaintiff. The IAB claimed to have trailed Plaintiff to various illegal massage parlors, but Plaintiff was actually visiting legal massage parlors to receive treatment for a line-of-duty injury. The SCPD cleared Plaintiff of Cosgrove's allegations in August 2010. (Id. ¶¶ 29-32, 39.)

In June 2010, Plaintiff provided information to the Suffolk County District Attorney's (the "Suffolk DA") office concerning the Suffolk DA's investigation of County Executive Levy. Plaintiff truthfully answered an assistant district attorney's questions about Plaintiff's experience as Levy's campaign driver. The next day, Defendant Dormer ordered Plaintiff to report for a psychological evaluation, a highly unusual step. With help from his union, Plaintiff fought the order, and it was eventually rescinded. (Id. ¶¶ 37-38.)

In September 2010, Plaintiff was served with seven departmental misconduct charges. Plaintiff does not specify what types of misconduct these charges allege, but he notes that the charges were still pending on the date of his Amended Complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 40-42).

Beginning in March 2011, Plaintiff was reassigned several times and subjected to other employment actions that he claims are inconsistent with the SCPD's treatment of officers who "had not complained of discrimination and/or participated in discrimination allegations." (Id. ¶ 33). Plaintiff was first reassigned to the Office of the Chief Department. He was later reassigned to the 4th Precinct and then, a day later, to the 3rd Precinct as an Administrative Officer. Plaintiff's new positions lacked the opportunity for overtime that he enjoyed in the court liaison bureau. (Id. ¶¶ 32-35.)

On June 29, 2011, Salerno and Cosgrove filed a federal lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York (the "Cosgrove Action")*fn1 that accused Plaintiff and the County of sexual harassment. Inasmuch as the allegations related to his employment, Plaintiff contacted the SCPD's legal bureau for representation, in accordance with SCPD policy. The County answered the Cosgrove Action in September 2011, but it neither answered on Plaintiff's behalf nor advised Plaintiff how to defend the lawsuit. The County allowed Plaintiff's time to respond to lapse, and it informed ...

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