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Cinaglia v. Levin

April 14, 2003

RICHARD CINAGLIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUSAN BASS LEVIN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

OPINION

Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on Plaintiff's claims alleging violation of his constitutional rights under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Plaintiff opposes summary judgment and requests, in the alternative, leave to file an amended complaint asserting a claim based on the Impairment of Contracts Clause, Art. I, § 10, of the United States Constitution. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court will also exercise its discretion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a) to deny Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Leave to Amend with respect to Plaintiff's proposed Impairment of Contracts Clause claim.

I.

Plaintiff, Richard Cinaglia, was employed by the City of Camden ("Camden") as Chief Financial Officer ("CFO") and Comptroller for twenty-seven (27) years. On May 10, 2000, following an order by the Honorable Francis J. Orlando, A.J.S.C. that Camden had "grossly failed to comply with the Local Fiscal Affairs Law and the Local Budget Law, and that this gross failure has substantially jeopardized [Camden's] fiscal integrity," City of Camden v. Kenny, 336 N.J. Super. 53, 56, 763 A.2d 777, 779 (App. Div. 2000), the Local Finance Board ("Board") adopted a resolution for the purpose of placing Camden under its supervision pursuant to the Supervision Act, N.J.S.A. 52:27BB-55 et seq.

On January 23, 2001, Camden's business administrator, Norton Bonaparte ("Bonaparte"), requested that the Board review the office of the CFO. Bonaparte also recommended to the Board that Plaintiff be removed from his position in order to improve compliance with financial reporting standards.

On February 14, 2001, the Board held a meeting regarding Bonaparte's request and recommendation. At this meeting, testimony was taken from Bonaparte, as well as David Miller, a state auditor, and Plaintiff. Bonaparte testified regarding his concerns about Camden's accounting practices, and recommended that Plaintiff be removed from his position as CFO. Bonaparte also stated that he asked Plaintiff to resign and that Plaintiff had refused to do so. Miller's testimony dealt with the audits, Camden's computer system, and the responsibilities of the CFO under the Camden City Code. Plaintiff testified that a number of problems interfered with the office's ability to keep proper financial accounts. No further action was taken at this meeting.

On June 25, 2001, the Board conducted a hearing wherein it was decided that it was necessary to Camden's financial rehabilitation to remove Plaintiff from the CFO position. Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel at this hearing, again testified to the various problems that interfered with the office's ability to keep proper financial accounts. Plaintiff also reiterated his testimony regarding Camden's computer system. Several other people, including Bonaparte and Miller, also testified at this meeting.

On June 29, 2002, Camden's City Council met to consider the Board's resolution. However, the City Council failed to take action to remove Plaintiff from his position. On July 3, 2001, the Acting Director, Anthony Cancro, issued an order directing that Plaintiff be removed from his position as CFO/Comptroller, pursuant to the Board's statutory authority under N.J.S.A. 52:27BB-66.1, and in accordance with the Board's resolution of June 25, 2001.

While Plaintiff appealed his dismissal from the Comptroller position to the State Merit System Board of the Department of Personnel, he did not, however, appeal his removal from the CFO position. Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants removed Plaintiff from his tenured position as Chief Financial Officer for the City of Camden in violation of his due process and equal protection rights. The complaint also alleges that Defendants' conduct was retaliatory in nature in violation of Plaintiff's First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, compensatory damages, and attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

II.

"[S]ummary judgment is proper `if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must construe the facts and inferences in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Pollock v. American Tel. & Tel. Long Lines, 794 F.2d 860, 864 (3d Cir. 1986). The role of the court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). However, "a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or ...


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