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Peter Hilburn and Felicia Ryan v. Bayonne Parking Authority

March 31, 2011

PETER HILBURN AND FELICIA RYAN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BAYONNE PARKING AUTHORITY;
JOSEPH DORIA, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITIES; THE CITY OF BAYONNE, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; PETER CRESCI, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS CHAIRMAN OF THE
BAYONNE PARKING AUTHORITY; MICHAEL PIERSON; KATHY LORE; AND
BAYONNE PARKING AUTHORITY : (BPA) COMMISSIONERS 1-10, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Dennis M. Cavanaugh

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

DENNIS M. CAVANAUGH, U.S.D.J.:

This matter comes before the Court upon motion by Peter Hillburn ("Hillburn") and Felicia Ryan ("Ryan") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") to amend their Complaint to add a claim or spoilation against City of Bayonne ("City"), and motion to strike the pleadings of City and Joseph Doria ("Doria") (collectively, "Defendants"), or alternately to continue discovery. Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 78, no oral argument was heard. After carefully considering the submissions of the parties, the decision of this Court upon each of these motions is set forth for the reasons herein expressed separately below.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

A. Factual History

Plaintiff Felicia Ryan ("Ryan") was hired by the BPA as Executive Secretary in January 2001. Plaintiff Peter Hilburn ("Hilburn," and collectively with Ryan, "Plaintiffs") was hired by the BPA as Executive Director in September 2006. Collectively, Plaintiffs and Defendant Kathy Lore ("Lore") comprised the BPA Executive Department, each of whom were at-will employees with no contractual right to employment.

Plaintiffs allege that between September 2006 and March 2007, members of the BPA and City of Bayonne were engaging in criminal and suspicious activities. Hilburn first became suspicious when someone asked him to sign a check for a Christmas party without any explanatory documentation. Hilburn was also displeased because the BPA Commissioners took trips and billed them to the BPA. Hilburn thereafter instituted a policy forbidding such practices. When Hilburn voiced his concerns to Mayor Joseph Doria ("Mayor Doria"), he claims Mayor Doria told him to "let it be."

Ryan became concerned when she found an envelope with three parking tickets and a "thank you" note from Pierson while retrieving payroll records from Lore's filing cabinet, leading her to believe that Lore was illegally fixing tickets. Her concern grew upon finding un-deposited cash in Lore's filing cabinet. Hilburn allegedly witnessed Lore failing to report, record or deposit cash from meter bags. Hilburn also suspected that his signature was being forged by someone at the BPA, possibly Lore.

Between March and May 2007, Hilburn voiced his concerns to several individuals, including Mayor Doria, Cresci, Coviello, Bayonne Corporation Counsel and the Bayonne Court Administrator. Finding their response inadequate, Hilburn contacted the New Jersey Attorney General ("Attorney General") and became an informant for the Attorney General's office.

In May 2007, the Attorney General served the BPA with the first of two subpoenas.

Plaintiffs allege that Coviello shredded the subpoenas due to concerns that news of the subpoenas would be leaked. Mayor Doria allegedly then told Hilburn that, "if you had anything to do with this, you f***ed me and you f***ed yourself."

On July 16, 2007, the BPA terminated Plaintiffs and Lore. Ryan was told that the BPA was eliminating both her position and the BPA's executive branch and that she would not be transferred to another department. Cresci informed the media that the terminations were part of a departmental reorganization to stimulate strategic improvements. Plaintiffs dispute this reasoning, however, ...


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