United States District Court, S.D. New York
JOHN COCUZZA, JACQUELIN MILLIEN, GREG ESPOSITO, STEFAN TCHOR, LARRY LANS, and MELISSA SEMINARA, Plaintiffs,
SHERIFF LOU FALCO and COUNTY OF ROCKLAND, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
Vincent L. Briccetti United States District Judge.
John Cocuzza, Jacquelin Millien, Greg Esposito, Stefan Tchor,
Larry Lans, and Melissa Seminara, bring this action against
defendants Sheriff Lou Falco and the County of Rockland under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging political retaliation in
violation of plaintiff's First Amendment rights.
the Court is defendants' partial motion to dismiss the
complaint as to plaintiffs Cocuzza, Esposito, Tchor, and
Seminara pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). (Doc. #17).
reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.
Court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
following factual background is drawn from “the facts
alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint
as exhibits, and documents incorporated by reference in the
complaint.” See DiFolco v. MSNBC Cable L.L.C.,
622 F.3d 104, 111 (2d Cir. 2010). For purposes of deciding
the pending motion, the Court accepts as true all
well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and draws all
reasonable inferences in plaintiff's favor.
the support of plaintiffs' union, the Correction Officers
Benevolent Association of Rockland County
(“COBARC”), defendant Falco was elected Sheriff
of Rockland County in November 2011.
2015, many COBARC members no longer supported Sheriff Falco
due to Falco's efforts to modify the collective
bargaining agreement between COBARC and Rockland County.
Indeed, several COBARC members, including plaintiffs Cocuzza,
Millien, Tchor, Lans, and Seminara, publicly endorsed
Falco's opponent, Richard Vazquez, in the 2015 election
for Rockland County Sheriff.
Falco was re-elected in November 2015.
claim that following his re-election, Falco and his
subordinates selectively enforced departmental policies
against those who supported Vazquez. Plaintiffs allege they
were disciplined for common practices long deemed acceptable,
and even encouraged, by Falco and other supervisors.
According to plaintiffs, supporters of Falco engaged in the
same practices but were not disciplined. These practices
included failing to provide supervision to inmates on suicide
and precautionary watch, sleeping while on duty, and
falsifying log book entries.
plaintiffs claim Falco selectively enforced long-ignored
departmental policies against Cocuzza to pressure him to
resign from his employment and to retaliate against him for
his support for Vazquez. The charges brought against Cocuzza
were based on conduct that took place between April 2015 and
November 2015. However, at no point during this six-month
period did Falco or any of his ranking subordinates advise
Cocuzza of any job-related performance issue or deficiency.
During his nearly thirteen years as a Rockland County
corrections officer, Cocuzza had received satisfactory
performance evaluations, which changed only after he became
the president of COBARC and opposed Falco and his candidacy
addition to bringing disciplinary charges against Cocuzza,
Falco “importuned” the Rockland County District
Attorney's Office to bring criminal charges against
Cocuzza for the same conduct. (Compl. ¶ 26).
6, 2016, Cocuzza entered into a stipulation of settlement to
resolve his disciplinary charges with the Office of the
Rockland County Sheriff. The stipulation provided that
Cocuzza resigned his position as a corrections officer and
that he would simultaneously execute a general release,
releasing defendants from all claims Cocuzza had or may have
had against them. In consideration of Cocuzza's
resignation and general release, the County agreed to drop
the disciplinary charges against him, provide a neutral