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KADETSKY v. EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUC.
September 10, 2001
MARK C. KADETSKY, PLAINTIFF,
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUCATION, HOWARD MINNICHBACH, BOARD MEMBER, RALPH A. RIDOLFINO, PRINCIPAL, EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL, DR. JEAN LEVINE, DEPARTMENT HEAD, JOINTLY, SEVERALLY, AND IN THE ALTERNATIVE, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Orlofsky, District Judge:
This hotly contested employment dispute raises the question
of whether the continuous acrimony between a public high school
teacher and his supervisors rises to the level of a violation of
the teacher's constitutional and federal statutory rights. While
I acknowledge that the events that are the subject of this lawsuit
have vexed all parties involved, after consideration of the
summary judgment record, I conclude that Plaintiff's claims do not
constitute violations of the Constitution of the United States or
Plaintiff, Mark Kadetsky, a tenured high school band director
at Egg Harbor Township High School, brought this federal action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983*fn1, alleging that the actions of
the Egg Harbor Township Board of Education and several of its
employees constituted retaliatory conduct in violation of
Kadetsky's First Amendment rights of free speech and petition and
his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process. Plaintiff also
alleged pendant state claims under the New Jersey State
Constitution, New Jersey's Conscientious Employee Protection Act
(CEPA), and common law claims of defamation.
I previously concluded in this case that Plaintiff had failed
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted on his CEPA and
federal due process claims. See Kadetsky v. Egg Harbor Township
Board of Education, 82 F. Supp.2d 327, 338, 340 (D.N.J.
2000) ("Kadetsky I").
Defendants now move for Summary Judgment, pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, on Plaintiff's remaining claims; specifically,
violations of his First Amendment rights to petition and free
speech under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violation of his right to due
process under the New Jersey Constitution, and common law claims
of defamation. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)*fn2 and 1367(a)*fn3.
For the reasons set forth below, I shall grant Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's federal law claims and
decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
remaining pendant state claims. Accordingly, Plaintiff's state
law claims shall be dismissed without prejudice to his right to
pursue such claims in state court. I intimate no opinion as to
the merits of Kadetsky's state law claims.
The facts of this case are many and were set out in Kadetsky
and will not be repeated here. For purposes of this opinion, a
brief summary will suffice.
Kadetsky became the band director at Egg Harbor Township High
School in the 1995-96 school year. His employment contract was
renewed in successive years until 1998, the year when Kadetsky was
slated to receive tenure. See Complaint at ¶¶ 10, 11. Kadetsky
contends that beginning in January, 1998, the Principal of Egg
Harbor Township High School, Ralph A. Ridolfino ("Ridolfino"), and
Kadetsky's immediate superior, Music Department Head, Dr. Jean
Levine ("Levine"), set out to create a false record of poor work
performance in order to prevent Kadetsky from obtaining tenure.
Id. at ¶ 12.
On February 25, 1998, Kadetsky took an "emergency personal
day" to meet with his union representative to discuss the
allegedly false records that Levine and Ridolfino were putting
into his personnel file. As a result, Ridolfino sent a letter
accusing Kadetsky of insubordination for taking a personal day
without permission. Id. at ¶ 14.
Kadetsky alleges that in retaliation for filing the grievance
and for his written appeal to Kelpsh, Ridolfino and Levine
"engineered" a complaint from the parents of one of Kadetsky's
band students. The complaint centered around Kadetsky's behavior
toward a student on a school trip. Id. at ¶ 17.
Kadetsky further alleges that in retaliation for a report he
filed concerning Ridolfino's improper behavior on school trips,
lodged in May of 1996, Ridolfino and Levine retaliated by accusing
Kadetsky of insubordination and failure to follow administrative
procedures. Id. at ¶¶ 26, 30E.
In April, 1998, Kadetsky was informed that he would not
receive a contract of employment for the 1998-99 school year. Id.
at ¶¶ 18, 30G. Kadetsky sought a hearing before the Egg Harbor
Board of Education regarding the issues affecting his bid for
tenure and the complaints made about him by Ridolfino and Levine.
Id. at ¶ 32. As a result of the Board's investigation, Kadetsky's
personnel file was purged, Levine was removed from her position as
Kadetsky's supervisor and appointed to a basic skills and
elementary school music position, and Kadetsky was granted tenure
after receiving a contract of employment for the 1998-99 school
year. Id. at ¶ 33.
II. THE LEGAL STANDARD GOVERNING A MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
"On a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine
whether the evidence shows that `there is no genuine issue as to
any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.'" Abraham v. Raso, 183 F.3d 279, 287
(3d Cir. 1999) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). "Any factual
dispute invoked by the nonmoving party to resist summary judgment
must be both material in the sense of bearing on an essential
element of the plaintiff's claim and genuine in the sense that a
reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party." Id.
(citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-251
(1986)). "In opposing summary judgment, a party `must do more
than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to
material facts,' Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), but a court should not prevent a
case from reaching a jury simply because the court favors one of
several reasonable views of the evidence." Abraham, 183 F.3d at
287. "[T]he judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence
and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether
there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249;
see also Abraham, 183 F.3d at 287. "Thus, while the nonmoving
party must present enough evidence to demonstrate a dispute is
genuine, all inferences ...