United States District Court, N.D. New York
THE PLAINTIFF: LAW OFFICES OF ELMER ROBERT KEACH, III, P.C.
THE DEFENDANTS: BAILEY, JOHNSON PC
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
L. SHARPE SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE
Ruth Fredericks Vibert commenced this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, alleging a First Amendment retaliation
claim, an equal protection violation,  and a violation
of New York Civil Service Law § 75-b against defendants
County of Rensselaer, Jack Mahar, and Anthony Patricelli.
(Compl. ¶¶ 24-42, Dkt. No. 1.) Pending is
defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. Nos. 61,
62, 63, 66.) For the reasons that follow, the motion is
time relevant to this matter, Vibert was the Chief of
Corrections - one of three divisions - in the Rensselaer
County Sheriff's Office. (Defs.' Statement of
Material Facts (SMF) ¶¶ 1, 5, Dkt. No. 62, Attach.
2.) She was appointed as Chief of Corrections on or about
March 19, 2012 and served in that position until about March
18, 2013. (Id. ¶¶ 12-14.) By job
description, the Chief of Corrections was required to have a
four-year degree. (Id. ¶ 16.) Mahar, the
Sheriff, oversaw all three divisions and was responsible for
hiring and firing; he had “complete discretion relative
to any employment decisions associated with [the] Chief of
Corrections . . . position.” (Id. ¶¶
2, 7, 8, 15.) Vibert did not have the requisite degree but
agreed to earn a two-year degree within the first year of her
employment. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 19.) Mahar
apparently made an accommodation and effectively modified the
job description to require only a two-year degree.
(Id. ¶ 20.) The parties disagree as to whether
Mahar ever had discussions with Vibert regarding her job
performance and professionalism, but if any such meetings
took place, the parties agree that they were not documented.
(Id. ¶¶ 24, 25.)
February 15, 2013, Vibert contacted Mahar in the evening on
his mobile telephone to seek guidance with regard to an
incident between Sheriff's Office employees Master
Sergeant Patricelli, alleged by Vibert to be Mahar's
close personal friend, (Pl.'s SMF ¶ 14, Dkt. No. 75
at 31-43), and Corrections Officer John Gorman, (Defs.'
SMF ¶¶ 4, 26). Mahar directed Vibert to “not
get involved” in an incident, which, in his view - one
with which Vibert disagrees - occurred outside the workplace.
(Id. ¶ 27; Dkt. No. 63 ¶ 13.) Vibert
approached Mahar four days later, this time in person at work
and with documents in hand related to the incident, to again
address the episode between Patricelli and Gorman.
(Defs.' SMF ¶ 30; Dkt. No. 66, Attach. 1 at 65, 67.)
Mahar reiterated that Vibert should not interfere.
(Defs.' SMF ¶ 31.) At that point, the New York State
Police were conducting an investigation into the incident of
which Vibert was aware. (Id. ¶ 33.) Vibert
contends, and defendants deny, that Mahar “instructed
her to shred the documents” and to “retaliate
against Officer Gorman by taking unjustified and adverse
employment action against him.” (Pl.'s SMF
¶¶ 15, 16, 18.) “Vibert told Undersheriff
Patrick Russo about . . . Mahar's instruction to shred
the documents, ” and “he advised [her] not to
shred any documents.” (Id. ¶ 20.)
the parties disagree on the timing, at some point, Mahar
became aware that Gorman had “prepared a Workplace
Violence Prevention Incident Report, ” which was among
the documents that Vibert wanted Mahar to review.
(Id. ¶ 38; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 6.)
“Around th[e] same time period, . . . Mahar was
reminded by his confidential secretary of . . . Vibert's
obligation to complete her two-year degree within a period of
one year.” (Defs.' SMF ¶ 40.) Vibert was
subsequently unable to produce the requisite degree upon
request by Mahar. (Id. ¶¶ 41-42; Dkt. No.
66, Attach. 25.) By letter dated March 1, 2013, Vibert was
notified that her employment would be terminated as of March
18, 2013 for failure to meet the degree requirement.
(Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 42, 45; Dkt. No. 66, Attach.
commenced this action in 2014. (See generally
Compl.) Following the completion of discovery, defendants
moved for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 61.)
Standard of Review
standard of review pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is well
established and will not be repeated here. For a full
discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to
its decision in Wagner v. Swarts, 827 F.Supp.2d 85,
92 (N.D.N.Y. 2011), aff'd sub nom. Wagner v.
Sprague, 489 F. App'x 500 (2d Cir. 2012).