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Campanella v. O'Flynn

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 26, 2017

CHARLES E. CAMPANELLA, II, DEBORAH S. CAMPANELLA, Plaintiffs,
v.
MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF PATRICK M. O'FLYNN, MONROE COUNTY UNDERSHERIFF GARY CAIOLA, CHIEF DEPUTY STEVEN SCOTT, LIEUTENANT LOU TOMASSETTI, and other known or unknown members of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, individually and in their official capacities, [1]Defendants.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          FRANK P. GERACI, JR. Chief Judge United States District Court

         INTRODUCTION

         On April 29, 2010, Plaintiffs Charles (“Deputy Campanella”) and Deborah Campanella (“Ms. Campanella”) (collectively “Plaintiffs”) brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Monroe County, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office (“MCSO”), and MCSO employees Patrick M. O'Flynn (“Sheriff O'Flynn”), Gary Caiola (“Undersheriff Caiola”), Steven Scott (“Chief Scott”), and Lucio Tomassetti (“Lieutenant Tomassetti”) (collectively “Defendants”). ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants retaliated against Deputy Campanella in violation of Plaintiffs' constitutional rights. Id. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that Defendants investigated, threatened, reprimanded, reassigned, and refused to promote Deputy Campanella in retaliation for Ms. Campanella's association with a political rival and Deputy Campanella's statements about the investigation into a local matter. Id.

         Initially, Plaintiffs' Complaint alleged multiple First Amendment and Due Process violations as well as libel, slander, defamation, and negligent failure to train and supervise. Id. However, in resolving Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings, ECF No. 11, Judge Larimer dismissed all but two of Plaintiffs' First Amendment claims. ECF No. 24. Additionally, Judge Larimer dismissed all of Plaintiffs' claims against Monroe County and MCSO. Id. The case was then transferred to this Court. ECF No. 33. Plaintiffs' surviving claims allege that Sheriff O'Flynn, Undersheriff Caiola, Chief Scott, and Lieutenant Tomassetti took seven adverse employment actions against Deputy Campanella in retaliation for two things: Deputy Campanella's statement about the investigation of a local construction firm and Ms. Campanella's affiliation with a man who ran as the Democratic candidate for Monroe County Sheriff in 2009. Id.

         On July 19, 2016, Defendants moved for summary judgment. ECF No. 60. Plaintiffs' Response was due by August 16, 2016. See L.R. Civ. Pro. 7(b)(2)(A). But Plaintiffs did not respond to Defendants' motion or request an extension. Accordingly, on February 6, 2017, the Court issued a decision granting the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. See ECF No. 61. On March 3, 2017, Plaintiffs moved to set aside that decision. See ECF No. 65. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(1), Plaintiffs argued that their failure to respond to the summary judgment motion was the result of a reasonable mistake. See Id. The Court agreed that the mistake was reasonable, granted Plaintiffs' motion, and allowed Plaintiffs to respond to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. See ECF No. 68. On May 26, 2017, Plaintiffs filed their response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. See ECF No. 69. Defendants filed their reply on June 2, 2017. See ECF No. 70.

         Having reviewed the parties' submissions, the Court finds that genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether Defendants conducted an investigation into Deputy Campenalla's gossiping and issued a Memorandum of Record in connection with that investigation in retaliation for Ms. Campanella's association with Sheriff O'Flynn's political opponent. With respect to Plaintiffs' other alleged adverse employment actions and protected activity, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Charles Campanella worked for MCSO from 1988 to 2012. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 2; 69-1, ¶ 2. During the relevant periods of Deputy Campanella's employment with MCSO, Patrick O'Flynn was the Monroe County Sheriff. Id. at ¶ 9. Sheriff O'Flynn was first elected in 2001, ECF No. 60-4, 11:2-4, and was reelected in 2005, 2009, and 2013. Id. at 11:18-20. In each election, Sheriff O'Flynn ran as the Republican Party's candidate. Id. 72:23-25. Under Sheriff O'Flynn, and at all times relevant to the issues in this case, Gary Caiola was the Undersheriff. ECF No. 60-2, ¶ 10. Steven Scott was the Chief Deputy. Id. at ¶ 11. Lucio Tomassetti was the Special Operations Commander. Id. at ¶ 27.

         Ms. Campanella works in the real estate and insurance businesses and is active in local government. ECF No. 60-6, 6-7, 18. In 2008, Ms. Campanella won the Republican Party's endorsement for a town council seat for the Town of Riga. Id. at 50:7-9; ECF No. 60-2, ¶ 16. That same year, Ms. Campanella began working as a part-time business manager for Leader Security Services (“Leader”). ECF No. 60-2, ¶ 17. Leader was founded by Daniel Greene. Id. at ¶ 14. Before founding Leader, Greene worked for MCSO as an undersheriff under Sheriff O'Flynn. Id. at ¶ 9, 13. On May 9, 2009, Greene announced that he was running for Sheriff, as the Democratic Candidate, against Sheriff O'Flynn. Id. at ¶ 15. In that same general election, Ms. Campanella ran for town counsel on the Republican ticket alongside Sheriff O'Flynn. ECF No. 60-6, 50:7-9. Ms. Campanella worked for Leader until December 2012. ECF No. 60-6, 21:10-12.

         a. Deputy Campanella's Employment at MCSO Prior to Ms. Campanella's Employment at Leader Securities

          During his 24 years at MCSO, Deputy Campanella's duties and assignments varied. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶¶ 3-7; 69-1, ¶¶ 3-7. From 1988 until 1990, Deputy Campanella worked as a part-time Deputy Sheriff. ECF No. 60-3. In 1990, Deputy Campanella became a full-time Road Patrol Deputy. Id. Two or three years later, Deputy Campanella was assigned to his first special assignment, the DARE program. Id. After three or four years in the DARE Program, Deputy Campanella was assigned to the Warrant Unit. Id. After spending three or four years in the Warrant Unit, Deputy Campanella was assigned to the Narcotics Unit. Id. In 2005, Deputy Campanella was assigned to the Community Services Unit as a Crime Prevention Officer (“CPO”). Id.; see also ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶¶ 34, 41; 69-1, ¶¶ 34, 41.

         While carrying out his road patrol and special assignment duties, Deputy Campanella also took on some side assignments for MCSO. ECF No. 60-3 at 20-21. Deputy Campanella was a member of the SWAT team for 14 years, between 1994 and 2008, and a SWAT Team Leader for four years, from 2008 until his retirement. ECF No. 60-2, ¶ 3-6. Deputy Campanella took on additional road patrol duties. ECF No. 60-3, 99:4-8. Deputy Campanella was a firearms instructor during Police Academy classes. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 7; 69-1, ¶ 7. Lastly, Deputy Campanella's duties as a member of the Community Services Unit involved leading a range of community programs. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶¶ 91-93; 69-1, ¶¶ 91-93. Those programs included Senior Citizens Academy, Fatal Crash Simulations, firearms and alcohol safety talks, Neighborhood Watch meetings, and Operation Safe Child.[2] ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 93; 69-1, ¶ 93.

         As a CPO, Deputy Campanella's standard hours were Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. ECF No. 60-3, 41:10. But taking on additional duties and participating in community programs often required him to work evenings and weekends. Id. at 35:12-20 (Deputy Campanella led firearms safety talks in the evenings); id. at 41:16-22 (same for Neighborhood Watch); id. at 45:5-8 (SWAT operations often required Deputy Campanella to work evenings and weekends); id. at 99:4-8 (same for road patrol shifts); id. at 123:20-23 (Deputy Campanella operated the Operation Safe Child machine on the weekends). When Deputy Campanella worked in the evening or over the weekend, he received overtime pay. Id. at 41:19-22.

         b. Deputy Campanella's Employment at MCSO following Ms. Campanella's Employment at Leader

         Beginning in 2008, some aspects of Deputy Campanella's employment with MCSO changed. That year, MCSO began to limit the amount of time a deputy could remain assigned to a specialized unit. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 37; 69-1, ¶ 37. To that end, MCSO reassigned deputies in at least some specialized units. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 42; 69-1, ¶ 42. That included Deputy Campanella. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶¶ 34-35; 69-1, ¶¶ 34-35. On September 23, 2008, Chief Scott announced that MCSO would be reposting the CPO positions and reassigning Deputy Campanella and the two other CPOs. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶¶ 31, 38; 69-1, ¶¶ 31, 38. Deputy Campanella remained in the CPO position until September of 2009, ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 41; 69-1, ¶ 41; 60-3, at which time he was assigned to work temporarily as a full-time Firearm Instructor.[3] ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 42; 69-1, ¶ 42. On January 25, 2010, Deputy Campanella was reassigned to Road Patrol. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 44; 69-1, ¶ 44. At that time, the two other CPOs were either also reassigned to Road Patrol or retired. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶¶ 45-46; 69-1, ¶¶ 45-46.

         Plaintiffs claim that, around the time that Chief Scott announced the CPO reassignments, Chief Scott and Sheriff O'Flynn commented on Ms. Campanella's association with Dan Greene. First, Plaintiffs claim that, in reference to Ms. Campanella, Chief Scott asked Deputy Campanella, “[H]ow is that going to work, with her working for a Democrat?” and “Isn't she afraid that will be a problem?” ECF No. 69-5 at 4. Second, on October 20, 2008, Sheriff O'Flynn commented on Ms. Campanella's association with Dan Greene while meeting with Deputy Campanella at a Starbucks. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 55; 69-1, ¶ 55. Either before or during this meeting, Sheriff O'Flynn learned that Ms. Campanella was working for Dan Greene at Leader Security. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 56; 69-1, ¶¶ 22, 56. In the context of a conversation about Greene's potential campaign for sheriff, Sheriff O'Flynn said to Mr. Campanella, “that would put you in a box if [Greene] runs.” ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 95; 69-1, ¶ 59.

         In the spring of 2009, MCSO officers investigated allegations that Deputy Campanella was inappropriately gossiping. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶¶ 61-67; 69-1, ¶¶ 61-67. In April 2009, MCSO Major Crimes Investigators Patrick Crough and Kevin Garvey told Undersheriff Caiola that they heard Deputy Campanella spreading a rumor that MCSO officers might face criminal charges for conducting an improper investigation of the Robutrad matter. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 61; 69-1, ¶ 61. Robutrad is a now-defunct local company that once did construction work for Monroe County. ECF No. 60-3, 138-39. Robutrad employees allegedly repaired the homes of local Republican officials while still on the county clock. Id. Crough and Garvey requested that MCSO investigate Deputy Campanella's gossiping in connection with those statements. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 61; 69-1, ¶ 61. But Undersheriff Caiola did not believe Deputy Campanella's statements “were serious enough” to warrant further inquiry. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 62; 69-1, ¶ 62; 60-5, 126:11-15.

         A few weeks later, Undersheriff Caiola heard that Deputy Campanella had been telling other MCSO officers that MCSO charged Deputy Anthony DiPonzio with abuse of sick time for visiting his son in the hospital. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 63; 69-1, ¶ 63. Deputy DiPonzio's son, a Rochester Police Officer, was shot in the head while on duty in January of 2009. ECF No. 60-5, 122-23. Based on that report, Undersheriff Caiola asked Chief Scott to conduct an investigation into both instances of Deputy Campanella's gossiping. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 64; 69-1, ¶ 64; 60-5, 131:11-15. On May 1, 2009, Chief Scott, Lieutenant Tomassetti, and Sergeant Lawrence interviewed Deputy Campanella. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 67; 69-1, ¶ 67. During that interview, Deputy Campanella claims to have requested warnings under Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967), and union representation. ECF No. 69-2, ¶ 22. But according to Deputy Campanella, he was told he was not entitled to Garrity warnings or union representation. Id. Deputy Campanella also claims that the officers also interviewed at least four other MCSO deputies in connection with this investigation. See id.

         On May 14, 2009, Lieutenant Tomassetti issued Deputy Campanella a Memorandum of Record (“MOR”) regarding these gossiping allegations. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 76; 69-1, ¶ 76; 60-12. The MOR described the instances of gossiping, noted Deputy Campanella's responses to the allegations, and summarized Deputy Campanella's violations of MCSO's code of conduct. ECF No. 60-12. The MOR focused on Deputy Campanella's gossiping about Deputy DiPonzio, but it also mentioned the Robutrad matter. Id. Sheriff O'Flynn, Undersheriff Caiola, Chief Scott, Internal Affairs, and Deputy Campanella's personnel file were copied on the MOR. ECF No. 27-15. In closing, the MOR warned Deputy Campanella that “[a]ny further action of this type may result in disciplinary action . . . .” Id.

         On June 12, 2009, MCSO created a full-time and permanent Firearms Deputy position in an attempt to reduce the amount of overtime that temporary and part-time instructors generated. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 98; 69-1, ¶ 98. Deputy Campanella and six other officers applied for that position. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶¶ 101, 104; 69-1, ¶¶ 101, 104. Seven officers sat on the selection committee. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶¶ 111-12, 120; 69-1, ¶¶ 111-12, 120. Four of the seven officers on the selection committee recommended Deputy Brian Moore for the position. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 120; 69-1, ¶ 120. On June 30, 2009, MCSO awarded the position to Deputy Moore. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 113; 69-1, ¶ 113. Finally, about one month later, Deputy Campanella was removed from the Operation Safe Child assignment. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 93; 69-1, ¶ 93.

         Plaintiffs attribute these events to Ms. Campanella's association with Dan Greene and Leader Security. See generally ECF No. 69-5. Plaintiffs claim that, on September 24, 2008, Sergeant Jeff Wagner told Deputy Campanella that Defendants reassigned him to Road Patrol because of Ms. Campanella's association with Dan Greene and Leader Security. See ECF No. 69-2, ¶ 13. Plaintiffs also claim that Sergeant Scott Walsh told Deputy Campanella that, in August of 2008, Sheriff O'Flynn and Undersheriff Caiola “were watching everyone at Leader [Security], ” intended to “take[] down” everyone affiliated with Leader Security, and began monitoring the Leader Security website.[4] See ECF No. 69-5; see also ECF No. 60-3, Deposition of Deputy Campanella, at 79: 13-15. Conversely, Defendants claim that the changes in Deputy Campanella's employment were unrelated to Ms. Campanella's association with Dan Greene and Leader Security. See generally ECF No. 60-20. Defendants contend that the changes either occurred before MCSO learned of Ms. Campanella's employment or were taken for a legitimate reason. See Id. at 1.

         After 24 years with MCSO, Deputy Campanella retired on June 23, 2012. ECF Nos. 60-2, ¶ 8; 69-1, ¶ 8.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         A motion for summary judgment should be granted where the moving party shows that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact” and that the moving party “is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is material if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law . . . .” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute regarding such a fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. Thus, when presented with a motion for summary judgment, the Court must determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 251-52.

         The moving party bears the burden of showing that there are no genuine disputes of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). To that end, the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. at 158. That is to say, “on summary judgment the inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts contained in the moving party's materials must be viewed ...


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