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Bordamonte v. Lora

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 7, 2017

ROY BORDAMONTE, Plaintiff,
v.
HECTOR LORA, LUIS GUZMAN, GARY SCHAER, ALEX BLANCO, RALPH DANNA, CARLOS FIGUEROA, individually and in their official capacities, and THE CITY OF PASSAIC, a municipal corporation, Defendants.

          OPINION

          WILLIAM J. MARTINI, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Roy Bordamonte brings this action against Alex Blanco (“Blanco”), five other individuals and the City of Passaic (collectively “Defendants”), alleging violations of Plaintiff's First Amendment right to freedom of speech pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, N.J.S.A. 10:6-2, and the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 34:19-1, et seq. This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Blanco's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and on Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint. There was no oral argument. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED in part, and DENIED in part. Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is a citizen of the City of Passaic, where he also serves as a police officer in the Passaic Police Department (“PPD”). See Pl.'s Mot. to Amend/Correct Compl., Ex. 1 at ¶ 16, ECF No. 18 [hereinafter “Am. Compl.].[1] Defendant Blanco is the former Mayor of Passaic. Id. at ¶ 6. The other individual defendants are Passaic government officials and police officers, including the current Mayor. Id.

         Prior to September 2016, Plaintiff submits that he was a Sergeant in the PPD assigned to the Detective Bureau, “of which he had de facto command.” He also held leadership positions in the PPD's Quality of Life, gang and narcotics units. See id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff further submits that he was “very effective” in these roles and “received many commendations” for his service. Id. at ¶ 11.

         At some point prior to September 16, 2016, federal authorities indicted Blanco on federal corruption charges. See id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Schaer, the President of the City Council, selected Defendant Lora as his preferred candidate to replace Blanco as Mayor around that same time. See id. at ¶ 14. Shortly thereafter, Richard Diaz, then Director of Public Safety, announced his candidacy for Mayor. See id. at ¶¶ 11, 15. Plaintiff attended Diaz's announcement and submits that he was a known supporter of Diaz's candidacy. Id. at ¶ 17.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his right to freedom of speech by taking retaliatory actions against him due to his political support of Diaz. See id. at ¶¶ 21-42. The Complaint alleges the following five counts:

Count I: violation of Plaintiff's rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, id. at ¶¶ 43-47;
Count II: violation of Plaintiff's rights under the New Jersey Civil Rights Act (“NJCRA”), N.J.S.A. 10:6-2, id. at ¶¶ 48-52;
Count III: conspiracy to violate Plaintiff's rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, id. at ¶¶ 53-55.
Count IV: violation of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act, N.J.S.A. 34:19-1 et seq., id. at ¶¶ 56-58; and
Count V: respondeat superior against Defendant City of Passaic, id. at ¶ 59.

         Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he was demoted from detective and assigned to patrol duties on October 26, 2016. Id. at ¶ 21. Plaintiff also lost his leadership position in the Quality of Life and narcotics units. Id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff further alleges various and continued actions undertaken by Defendants intended to harass him, including the creation of an internal affairs investigation that targeted him. See id. at ¶¶ 24-42.

         On November 17, 2016, Defendant Blanco pleaded guilty to the corruption charges and forfeited the Mayor's office. Id. at ¶ 25. Significant to the instant motion, Plaintiff alleges that Blanco was “instrumental in” the decision to demote Plaintiff prior to leaving the Mayor's office. See id. at ΒΆ 23. Plaintiff further alleges that Blanco, along with Defendants Schaer and Lora, directed Defendant Danna's harassment of Plaintiff, which included the ...


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