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Macera v. Village Board of Ilion

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 30, 2017

RONALD A. MACERA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
VILLAGE BOARD OF ILION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          Lawrence E. Kahn, U.S. District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Pro se plaintiffs Ronald A. Macera and Catherine M. Macera commenced this action against defendants Village Board of Ilion, CEO James Trevett, and Chief Timothy Parisi pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Dkt. No. 1 (“Complaint”). Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. Nos. 11 (“Motion”), 11-3 (“Memorandum”). Plaintiffs responded to Defendants' Motion and moved for summary judgment, Dkt. No. 15 (“Response”), and Defendants filed a reply, Dkt. No. 17 (“Reply”). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is denied with leave to renew.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background [1]

         Plaintiffs live in Ilion, New York. Compl. ¶ 2. For several years now, Plaintiffs have been feuding with the owners and patrons of a day care center located next to their house. Id. ¶¶ 6-28. The day care center is “NYS licensed, ” and Plaintiffs describe it as a “Home Occupancy Business.” Id. ¶ 6. The day care center is also “enjoined with [the Plaintiffs'] residence . . . by a deed stipulation of shared property.” Id. The dispute appears to stem from the day care center's alleged violations of several zoning regulations. Id. ¶¶ 9-10, 16, 19-20.

         From January 2009 to December 2011, CEO James Trevett, who appears to work for the Village of Ilion in some capacity, gave Plaintiffs incorrect information about the applicability of “the Codes Regulation of Home Occupancy Business” to the day care center. Id. ¶ 6. In December 2011, Plaintiffs informed “the Village Board (the Mayor)” of the issues they were having with the day care's alleged violations of zoning regulations. Id. ¶ 7. The next month, the day care center submitted false documents to the Village Board and Trevett. Id. ¶ 8. The nature of these documents is unclear, though it appears that they had something to do with the day care center's compliance with zoning regulations. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiffs note that Trevett and the Zoning Board “failed to notify [Plaintiffs] that [their] complaint was proceeding, ” id., though it is not clear what complaint Plaintiffs are referring to and what significance should be attached to the lack of notification.

         Over a year later, in June 2013, Plaintiffs expressed concern to Timothy Parisi, the Chief of the Ilion Police Department, about the “addition of a parking lot[] to the front of the Daycare Business.” Id. ¶ 9. Parisi told Plaintiffs that the parking lot did not violate any laws, but “this [determination was] a matter for the Traffic and Commission Board, ” not Parisi. Id. The day care center went ahead and “paved” the parking lot on June 25, 2013. Id. ¶ 10. Two or three days later, Ilion was “devastated [by] flooding, ” id., and “[w]hen things calmed down, ” Plaintiffs again contacted Parisi, id. ¶ 11. Plaintiffs gave him photographic evidence of parking violations resulting from the newly built parking lot. Id. Parisi acknowledged that parking violations were occurring in front of the day care center, and he “assured [Plaintiffs] that he would . . . up patrols, . . . and . . . encouraged [them] to feel free to call with any violation concerns.” Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiffs appear to have called Parisi and told him the times when the violations were taking place, but they were hesitant to do so, because they were experiencing “harassment from the daycare, daycare employee[s], clients and neighbors.” Id. ¶ 13. Despite the calls, Parisi did not increase patrols on the street. Id. ¶ 14.

         Also in June 2013, Plaintiffs wrote to Trevett to inform him that the day care center was planning on “relocat[ing] a portion of [a] fence that was erected in May of 2011, without a building permit, that would violate an enjoined deed stipulation, between our common shared driveway.” Id. ¶ 16. Trevett responded by saying that “the Village doesn't get involved with enforcing deed stipulations.” Id. ¶ 17. Yet Plaintiffs were not asking for this. Id ¶ 18. Instead, they wanted Trevett to follow the proper procedure when someone questions the legality of such a relocation, namely, “the encroaching [fence] is denied a permit and [the owners are] directed to file for [a] variance with [the zoning board].” Id. This never happened, and in August 2013, the owners of the day care relocated the fence without a permit, which “took Eminent Domain of [Plaintiffs'] property” by making their “deed unclean.” Id. ¶¶ 19-20. Through their attorney, Plaintiffs informed the day care center's owners of the violation, and Plaintiffs received a response from the Village Board attorney. Id. ¶ 19. Around this time, Trevett falsely told Plaintiffs that the fence was not illegal. Id. ¶ 21.

         Things soon came to a head with the owners of the day care center, who “hung a sign in front of the business . . . that provided false statements of facts [about Plaintiffs] and encouraged . . . harassment and intimidation [of Plaintiffs].” Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiffs experienced harassment as a result of the sign until “late September/early October 2013, on a daily basis.” Id. Then, one day in November 2013, Plaintiffs returned to their home to find cars blocking the sidewalk in front of the day care center. Id. ¶ 25. When Plaintiffs backed into their driveway, their view of foot traffic was obstructed by the parked cars. Id. Plaintiffs almost hit two young children who “appeared out of nowhere from behind the vehicle obstruction.” Id. Either Ronald or Catherine wrote a blog post to express frustration about this incident. Id. ¶ 26. A few days later, the Village Board, through its attorney, demanded that the blog be removed. Id. ¶ 27.

         In January 2014, Plaintiffs “were served . . . via the Village Attorney [with] a lawsuit on behalf of the . . . daycare.” Id. ¶ 28. The lawsuit included a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) forbidding Plaintiffs from “contacting Ilion Police Department, NYSOCFS, CPS and any public agency with ‘frivolous' complaints.” Id. The TRO did not define “frivolous.” Id. The TRO was “based on information from the IPD, that was supplied to [the] village attorney and [the] daycare business.” Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiffs made several New York Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) requests on January 14, 2014, in an attempt to obtain this information, but those requests were denied. Id. Plaintiffs made other FOIL requests that were successful, and they learned from the documents they obtained that the Village Board had “established a [vested financial] interest with the . . . daycare.” Id. ¶ 30. In particular, the Village Board paid for legal work performed by the Village Attorney on behalf of the day care center. Id.

         On January 18, 2014, Plaintiffs installed security cameras on their property, and on January 23, 2014, Plaintiffs received an amended TRO from the Village Attorney that prohibited them “from using any cameras, either still or video.” Id. ¶ 32. In February 2014, the “NYS Appellate Court” vacated the TROs. Id. ¶ 33.

         Plaintiffs allege violations of their rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, e.g., id. ¶¶ 7, 18, 20, 31, and they seek damages in the amount of $7, 500, 000, id. ¶ 34.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs filed their Complaint on June 14, 2016. Compl. Defendants moved to dismiss the Complaint on August 2, 2016. Mot. Defendants argue that Plaintiffs fail to state a First Amendment claim because they have not alleged facts suggesting that their speech was actually chilled by Defendants' conduct or that Defendants' actions were motivated by Plaintiffs' decision to exercise their First Amendment Rights. Mem. at 5-7. Defendants also suggest that any Fourteenth Amendment claim must fail because Plaintiffs have failed to allege that they were deprived of any property right. Id. at 7-8. Finally, Defendants argue that several of Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the statute of limitations applicable to § 1983 actions, id. at 9-10, and they argue ...


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