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Weinstein v. City of New York

United States District Court, S.D. New York

April 8, 2014

MARTIN WEINSTEIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF NEW YORK, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

LORNA G. SCHOFIELD, District Judge.

Plaintiff Martin Weinstein, pro se, commenced the present action on September 9, 2013, arising out of his termination as an at-will employee of the New York City Department of Education ("DOE"). The Defendants are the DOE, the City of New York and Dennis Walcott, former Chancellor of the DOE. The Complaint alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution, the New York Constitution and various federal and New York state statutes. Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants' motion is granted because the federal claims are barred by the relevant statutes of limitations, and the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

The following facts are taken from the Complaint and assumed to be true for purposes of this motion.

From August 2007 to June 30, 2010, Plaintiff served as Superintendent for District 19 in Kings County, New York. In late October 2009, Plaintiff's Supervising Senior Superintendent, acting on behalf of the Office of the Chancellor, requested that he resign his position as Superintendent on grounds that he had exchanged inappropriate emails with the then-Chancellor. Plaintiff complied, submitting a revocable letter of resignation, although he remained employed by the DOE.[1]

Plaintiff contends that, despite asking him to resign his position as Superintendent, DOE officials encouraged him to apply for similarly compensated positions within the DOE. Acting on that advice, Plaintiff applied for a Network Leader position offering the same salary as his prior position as Superintendent. While he was engaged in the application process for the Network Leader position, Plaintiff reported to the Special Commissioner of Investigation that a member of the Citywide and Community Education Council ("CEC"), formerly known as the School Board, allegedly had "pressured" DOE employees to purchase a book she had published. Plaintiff also requested that members of his staff inform him if they had further information about the CEC member's efforts to sell her book to DOE employees within Plaintiff's district. A member of Plaintiff's staff, and friend of the CEC member ("Staff Member"), subsequently informed him that she was in possession of such information, but refused to provide it.

On January 8, 2010, Plaintiff allegedly received a death threat from an unknown person. In late January 2010, Plaintiff learned that the death threat was made by the CEC member whose activities he had reported, and that she had resigned from her position. Plaintiff was also told that the CEC member would likely have to pay a fine to the Conflicts of Interest Bureau. Plaintiff does not specify the source of this information in his Complaint.

According to the Complaint, Defendants took a number of retaliatory actions against Plaintiff as a result of the events involving the CEC member. In late January 2010, Plaintiff was asked to withdraw his application for a Network Leader position because DOE officials had advised that "there was [a] problem with the Plaintiff" and he "should not be working in a management capacity." Plaintiff was told that he should instead pursue a position as principal. Plaintiff nevertheless persisted in applying for managerial positions. Each of his applications for managerial positions, however, was rejected.

Meanwhile, the attendance of the Staff Member became "problematic, " requiring Plaintiff to admonish her by email. In late April 2010, Gina Martinez of the DOE's Office of Equal Opportunity informed Plaintiff that the Staff Member had reported that Plaintiff had sexually harassed her. On May 11, 2010, Plaintiff, accompanied by a "witness, " met with Ms. Martinez and denied the allegations. Ms. Martinez did not permit the witness to speak on Plaintiff's behalf. On June 16, 2010, Plaintiff received an email from Ms. Martinez informing him that the Office of Equal Opportunity had substantiated the sexual harassment allegations and that he would be appropriately disciplined. On June 25, 2010, Plaintiff was asked to report to the Chancellor's office, where he was given the choice of being terminated or signing an irrevocable letter of resignation from the DOE. Plaintiff chose the latter option.

Plaintiff submits that he has since been prevented from obtaining employment within the DOE and that Defendants have spread defamatory statements concerning the sexual harassment allegations. He seeks relief in the form of compensatory and punitive damages.

II. Prior Litigation

Plaintiff previously sought relief in the New York state courts for various claims arising out of the facts described above. On November 12, 2010, Plaintiff initiated a special proceeding against the DOE, pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules, seeking an order that would annul the DOE's finding that Plaintiff engaged in sexual harassment, rescind Plaintiff's resignation and reinstate Plaintiff as Superintendent for District 19. On April 7, 2011, the special proceeding was withdrawn by order of Justice Cynthia S. Kern.

On April 21, 2011, Plaintiff initiated an action in New York Supreme Court against the City of New York and the DOE for prima facie tort, fraudulent inducement and defamation arising out of Defendants' conduct in seeking Plaintiff's resignation and "publishing to the industry" that Plaintiff was discharged for sexual harassment. On November 7, 2011, Justice Kern dismissed the case for failure to state a cause of action and on grounds that the City of New York was not a proper party to the action. Weinstein v. City of New York et al ., No. 104823/11, 2011 WL 5631241, at *1 (N.Y. Sup.Ct. Nov. 4, 2011). Specifically, as to Plaintiff's claim for prima facie tort, the New York Supreme Court held that: (1) Plaintiff's prima facie tort claim was in essence a claim for wrongful discharge, and Plaintiff, as an at-will employee, was prevented by New York law from both bringing a wrongful discharge tort and converting such a claim into a prima facie tort; and (2) to the extent Plaintiff pleaded as a separate claim that Defendants' conduct prevented him from obtaining another job within the DOE, such a claim sounded in the classic tort of defamation and was therefore required to be pleaded as such. Id. As to Plaintiff's fraudulent inducement claim, the New York Supreme Court held that Plaintiff had not stated a claim for fraudulent inducement but rather "merely allege[d] in conclusory terms that defendants made knowing representations of present material fact to plaintiff intended to deceive him and ...


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