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Presta v. Gressler

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 15, 2014

JOY PRESTA, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY GRESSLER, Individually and as Member of Council of City of Little Falls; JAMES W. WALLACE, Herkimer Cnty. Adm'r; and CAROLE L. LaLONDE, Clerk of Herkimer Cnty. Legislature, Defendants.

ROBERT L. BEEBE, ESQ., THE LAW OFFICE OF ROBERT L. BEEBE, LLC, Clifton Park, NY, Counsel for Plaintiff.

GREGG T. JOHNSON, ESQ., APRIL J. LAWS, ESQ., LEMIRE, JOHNSON & HIGGINS, LLC, Malta, NY, Counsel for Defendants Wallace and LaLonde.

MICHAEL J. MURPHY, ESQ., CARTER, CONBOY, CASE, BLACKMORE, MALONEY & LAIRD, P.C., Albany, NY, Counsel for Defendant Gressler.

DECISION and ORDER

GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.

Currently before the Court, in this employment civil rights action filed by Joy Presta ("Plaintiff") against the three above-captioned municipal employees, is a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) filed by James W. Wallace and Carole L. LaLonde ("the County Defendants"). (Dkt. No. 15.) For the reasons set forth below, the County Defendants' motion is granted.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Claims

Generally, Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that, between approximately May 22, 2012, and January 9, 2013, all three Defendants caused her to be terminated from her full-time position with the County of Herkimer (pursuant to which she served as the acting Tax Assessor of the City of Little Falls at a yearly salary of $39, 886 plus benefits), and re-appointed to a part-time position with the City of Little Falls (pursuant to which she served as the official Tax Assessor of the City of Little Falls at a yearly salary of $14, 560 within benefits), because she determined that three "YMCA properties" partially owned by Defendant Gressler did not qualify for the tax exemption that they had been receiving. ( See generally Dkt. No. 1, Attach. 1, at ¶¶ 1-42 [Plf.'s Compl.].)

Based on these factual allegations, and liberally construed, Plaintiff's Complaint asserts the following four claims: (1) a claim of tortious interference with contract against Defendant Gressler, under New York State common law; (2) a claim of defamation against all Defendants, under New York State common law; (3) a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants, under New York State common law; and (4) a due process "stigma plus" claim against all Defendants, under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, § 6 of New York State Constitution. ( Id. at ¶¶ 43-61.)

Familiarity with these claims, and the factual allegations supporting them, is assumed in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties. ( Id. )

B. Parties' Briefing on County Defendants' Motion

1. County Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Chief

Generally, in support of their motion for judgment on the pleadings, the County Defendants assert five arguments. ( See generally Dkt. No. 15, Part 1 [Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

First, argue the County Defendants, Plaintiff's two New York State common-law tort claims against the County Defendants (i.e., her claims of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress) must be dismissed, because she failed to timely serve a notice of claim upon the County as required by New York County Law § 52 and New York General Municipal Law § 50-i, and she failed to affirmatively plead in her Complaint that she complied with the notice-ofclaim requirement. ( Id. at 8-10 [attaching pages "4" through "6" of Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

Second, argue the County Defendants, in the alternative, Plaintiff's intentional-inflictionof-emotional-distress claim against the County Defendants must be dismissed, because she has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting any conduct on behalf of the County that was either extreme or outrageous but merely insulting (and, indeed, the documents attached to Plaintiff's Complaint plausibly suggest that the County's decision to eliminate her position was made "due to a lack of funding" and "as a result of the financial challenges presently being encountered by the County, " see Dkt. No. 1, Attach. 1, at 63, 67). (Dkt. No. 15, Part 1, at 10-11 [attaching pages "6" and "7" of Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

Third, argue the County Defendants, similarly in the alternative, Plaintiff's defamation claim against the County Defendants must be dismissed, because she has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting either (a) a false and defamatory statement of fact by the County Defendants regarding Plaintiff, or (b) the publication of any such statement to a third party. ( Id. at 12 [attaching page "8" of Defs.' Memo. of Law].)

Fourth, argue the County Defendants, Plaintiff's "stigma plus" claim against the County Defendants must be dismissed, because she has failed to allege facts plausibly suggesting that (a) any County Defendant made any stigmatizing statements regarding Plaintiff, or adopted any statements contained in Defendant Gressler's letter of June 5, 2012 (or even that the letter contained any stigmatizing statements), (b) any such stigmatizing statements in the letter were made public, or (c) any such stigmatizing statements in the letter were made concurrently with Plaintiff's dismissal nearly seven months later, on December 28, 2012 (and, indeed, again, the documents attached to Plaintiff's Complaint plausibly suggest that the County's decision to eliminate her position was made for budgetary reasons). ( Id. at 12-15 [attaching pages "8" through "11" of Defs.' Memo. of Law].) Moreover, argue the County Defendants, the fact that Plaintiff alleges she was hired ...


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