United States District Court, D. New Jersey
L. WOLFSON UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE
Daniel Baldwin (“Plaintiff”), an African American
male, alleges that his employer, defendant Monmouth County
Prosecutor's Office (the “MCPO”), and his
supervisor, Christopher Gramiccioni (“Prosecutor
Gramiccioni”), the Monmouth County Prosecutor
(collectively, “Defendants”) have intentionally
refused to promote Plaintiff to the position of Sergeant on
four separate occasions on the basis of race, in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1963, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), the New Jersey Law
Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. § 10:5-3, et seq.
(“NJLAD”), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 under the
14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. In the instant
matter, the MCPO and Prosecutor Gramiccioni separately move
for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below,
Defendants' motions are GRANTED in their
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted.
Plaintiff is an African American male, who had worked for the
Somerset County Prosecutor's Office, the Essex County
Prosecutor's Office, and the Hillside Police Department,
before he ultimately joined the MCPO in October 2006. MCPO
Facts, ¶¶ 1-3. From 2006 until April 2013,
Plaintiff was assigned to the MCPO's Major Crimes Unit,
and, during this time, Plaintiff's Performance
Evaluations showed that he was a “competent detective
who met or exceeded expectations” in most categories.
Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. In 2009, Plaintiff served
as the lead detective in the murder investigation of Jonelle
Melton (the “Melton Case”), one of the MCPO's
highest profile investigations, involving a schoolteacher who
was killed during an attempted robbery. Id. at
2011, Gramiccioni joined the MCPO as the First Assistant
Prosecutor, prior to becoming the Acting Prosecutor in July
2012. Id. at ¶ 8. In June 2012, Plaintiff was
still the lead investigator on the Melton Case, which
remained unsolved; however, he requested to be transferred
from the Major Crimes Unit to the Financial Crimes Unit.
Id. at ¶ 9. In April 2013, the MCPO granted
Plaintiff's request, but he continued to be involved in
the Melton Case; in addition, for an unspecified period of
time after his transfer, Plaintiff was detailed to the
Organized Crime Unit in order to assist on a wiretap
investigation, the target of which included a suspect in the
Melton Case. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11.
2013, the MCPO hired Kevin Mahoney as a detective
(“Mahoney”). Id. at ¶ 12. Mahoney
did not possess any prior law enforcement experience, but he
was a United States Army Veteran who served in Operation
Iraqi Freedom, during which he received multiple accolades,
including an “Army Commendation Medal” and
“Combat Infantry Badge.” Id. He also
held two Masters Degrees, one of which was in Business
Administration, and he had more than 20 years of experience
in the private sector, at companies such as Boeing, where he
oversaw and managed “personnel and significantly large
budgets.” Id. In addition, Mahoney had
previously attended the Criminal Justice Academy, where he
earned the “Merit Award” because of his
leadership abilities. Id. at ¶ 13.
on his financial background and experience, Prosecutor
Gramiccioni and Chief Pasterchick, a former Special Agent for
the IRS and DEA who was appointed as the Chief for the MCPO
in 2006, assigned Mahoney to the Financial Crimes Unit.
Id. at ¶¶ 13, 42. Subsequently, as a
result of his “unremarkable performance, ”
Plaintiff was transferred from the Financial Crimes Unit to
the Trial Support Section, where his responsibilities
included handling investigations and mentoring new or junior
detectives. Id. at ¶¶ 14-15. Although
Plaintiff characterized his reassignment as “punishment
detail, ” intended to “minimize his work
productivity and severely reduce his ability to be promoted[,
]” Prosecutor Gramiccioni viewed the Trial Support Unit
as an important “training ground” for newly hired
detectives. Id. at ¶¶ 16-17. In fact,
Prosecutor Gramiccioni previously promoted a Sergeant from
the Trial Support Unit to the Major Crimes Bureau as a
Lieutenant, on the basis of his exemplary performance in the
Trial Support Unit. Id. at ¶ 17.
2014, Detective Samis was designated as the lead detective in
the Melton Case, following which, in November 2015, suspects
were arrested in connection with the ongoing murder
investigation of Ms. Melton. Id. at ¶¶
March 2015, while in an elevator, Plaintiff and Prosecutor
Gramiccioni discussed Plaintiff's assignment to the Trial
Support Unit, and Plaintiff opined that his talents were
being underutilized. Id. at ¶¶ 20-21.
Following their conversation, Plaintiff received an email
from Prosecutor Gramiccioni, inviting Plaintiff to meet with
him and the Chief of Detectives to discuss Plaintiff's
“career path.” Id. at ¶ 23.
However, on the advice of counsel, Plaintiff declined
Prosecutor Gramiccioni's invitation; instead, on May 29,
2015, Plaintiff filed an internal complaint with Kevin Burke,
the Monmouth County Deputy Administrator. Id. at
¶¶ 24-26. In the complaint, Plaintiff alleged that
he had been denied several promotions within the MCPO, on the
basis of his race. Id. at ¶ 25.
former Director of Human Resources, Mr. Burke was familiar
with the County's Employee Guide Prohibiting Workplace
Discrimination and Harassment (the “Discrimination
Policy”). Id. at ¶ 28. The Discrimination
Policy was distributed throughout the MCPO, and it precluded
employees from engaging in discrimination and/or harassment
based on the enumerated NJLAD protected classes; in addition,
it established a procedure for employees to file complaints
of discrimination with the County. Id. at
¶¶ 29-30. According to the Discrimination Policy,
the County would investigate complaints of discrimination and
render remedial action, if appropriate. Id. at
preferred Mr. Burke to investigate his discrimination
complaint because of his unique background. Id. at
¶¶ 33, 35. In addition to his lengthy experience in
Human Resources, Mr. Burke was formerly employed by the New
Jersey State Police for 25 years, until he retired as a
Major/Troop Commander. Id. at ¶ 34. After Mr.
Burke agreed to conduct the investigation, he interviewed
Plaintiff for 30 to 45 minutes. Id. at ¶ 37.
During the interview, Mr. Burke explained that the Prosecutor
held a Constitutional Office and neither he, nor Human
Resources, possessed the authority to overturn the
Prosecutor's promotional decisions. Id. at
¶ 37. Plaintiff indicated that he understood, and Mr.
Burke subsequently contacted the following parties, in order
to advise them of Plaintiff's complaint: (a) Andrea
Bazer, County Counsel; (b) Teri O'Connor, County
Administrator; and (c) Frank Tragno, Jr., the former Monmouth
County Human Resources Director. Id. at ¶ 38.
Gramiccioni expressed his approval of Mr. Burke's
investigation, and the County designated Steve Kleinman, the
Special Monmouth County Counsel who handled labor and
employment matters, to provide technical and legal advice to
Mr. Burke during the course of the investigation.
Id. at ¶ 39. Prosecutor Gramiccioni also
provided the following materials to assist with Mr.
Burke's investigation: (a) information relating to the
demographic makeup of the office and promotions of African
Americans within the MCPO; and (b) a copy of the MCPO's
promotional policies and procedures. Id. at ¶
MCPO's promotional policies and procedures, which were in
place before Prosecutor Gramiccioni was appointed, explicitly
state that: “[w]hile there are no standardized lists of
criteria that will be used in this process, promotions may be
based upon a wide range of factors, ” including
“past performance, evaluations, law enforcement
experience, unique abilities or expertise needed for the
position, training, displayed leadership qualities, and the
overall assessment of the candidate's skills and
abilities.” Prosecutor Gramiccioni's Statement of
Material Facts (“Prosecutor's Facts”),
¶¶ at 14, 18. Ultimately, however, a promotional
decision is based on “the Prosecutor's
discretion.” Shortly after his appointment, Prosecutor
Gramiccioni emailed his Executive Staff, in which he set
forth a specific list of promotional criteria and emphasized
that, “although seniority was an important factor,
” the MCPO would benefit from “candidates that
won't just rest on their laurels with the promotion and
treat it as an expectation, but who will work to better
themselves and the operation as a whole.” Id.
at ¶ 19.
Pasterchick oversaw the MCPO's promotional process, along
with his Staff, which included one Deputy Chief of Detectives
and three Captains. Id. at ¶ 43. In addition,
Chief Pasterchick supervised and directed more than eighty
law enforcement officers and the criminal investigations
which they performed. Id. at ¶¶ 41, 43. In
that connection, Chief Pasterchick recommended law
enforcement officers for promotion to Prosecutor Gramiccioni
and his Executive Staff, which is comprised of the First
Assistant Prosecutor, two Deputy First Assistant Prosecutors,
and the Chief of Staff. Id. at ¶ 43.
supervisory position became available within the MCPO,
interested detectives submitted promotional memoranda; after
the expiration of a ten-day period, the Chief of Detectives
would first review the applications with his deputy chief and
captains, in order to provide recommendations. MCPO Facts, at
¶¶ 44-45. The promotional memoranda and
recommendations of the Chief of Detectives were then provided
to, and reviewed by, the Prosecutor over deliberations with
his own Executive Staff. Id. at ¶¶ 46-47.
Moreover, during those meetings, Chief Pasterchick would
reiterate his recommendations, which he based on the
following considerations: discussions with his deputy chief
and captains; the particular needs of the vacant supervisory
position; and the candidates' performance, evaluations,
and seniority, as well as their ability to lead and motivate.
Id. at ¶¶ 49, 51.
Pasterchick also purportedly considered the MCPO's
preference for a diverse command structure; during his tenure
as the Chief of Detectives, two African American females and
one African American male were promoted to supervisory
positions, on the basis of Chief Pasterchick's
recommendations to the Prosecutor and the Executive Staff.
Id. at ¶¶ 49, 50. More specifically, Karen
Odom was promoted from the position of Lieutenant to Chief
Pasterchick's Deputy Chief of Detectives, skipping over
the position of Captain, and Natalie Zuppa, as well as Doug
Johnson, were both promoted from the position of Sergeant to
Lieutenant, and then from Lieutenant to Captain. Id.
In fact, during his tenure, over sixty percent of Chief
Pasterchick's Executive Staff consisted of minorities.
the course of his investigation, Mr. Burke reviewed the
MCPO's promotional policies and procedures, and he
interviewed Plaintiff, MCPO senior staff members, and
Prosecutor Gramiccioni. Id. at ¶ 52.
Ultimately, Mr. Burke concluded that Prosecutor Gramiccioni
and his Executive Staff made promotional decisions which were
solely based on legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.
Id. In other words, Mr. Burke found no evidence to
support that Prosecutor Gramiccioni and his Executive Staff
either engaged in a general discriminatory practice towards
African Americans, or that Plaintiff was transferred to the
Trial Support Unit for an improper reason. Id. at
¶¶ 53-54. Rather, Mr. Burke determined that the
MCPO acted with the intention of “promoting the
best-qualified candidate[s] in keeping with the needs of
the” department. Id. at ¶ 55.
24, 2015, Mr. Burke summarized his findings in a letter to
Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 57. In his final remarks,
Mr. Burke stated: “[b]ased upon my careful assessment
of the situation, as set forth above, there is no basis at
this time for me to conclude that you have been subject to
racial discrimination in violation of the NJLAD or County
policy. However, if you have any further information you wish
to bring to my attention now or in the future, I am prepared
to review it.” Id. at ¶ 58. Plaintiff did
not provide Mr. Burke with any additional information;
rather, on November 25, 2015, Plaintiff filed a charge of
discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission. Id. at ¶¶ 59-60. On January
29, 2016, Plaintiff received a “Right to Sue
Letter.” Id. at ¶ 60.
the period in dispute,  Plaintiff applied to be promoted to the
position of Sergeant on May 13, 2014, December 1, 2014, July
28, 2015, and December 9, 2015. On each of those occasions,
promotional memoranda from approximately thirty other
applicants were submitted for consideration, of which a total
of eight candidates were selected to be promoted to the
Sergeant position. Id. at ¶ 64.
2014 promotions were awarded to George Snowden, to the
position of Sergeant in the Narcotics Unit, and Michael
Clancy, to the position of Sergeant in the Major Crimes Unit.
MCPO hired Snowden in January 2007, three months after
Plaintiff, and he initially was assigned to the Narcotics and
Criminal Enterprise Investigation Unit. Id. at
¶ 67. Snowden had previously served in a supervisory
capacity as a Sergeant at the Newark Police Department. In
that regard, he had experience in conducting narcotics and
wire intercept investigations, and he provided testimony in
various State and Federal Court proceedings, resulting in
numerous convictions and the imposition of three life
sentences. Id. ¶ 68. Snowden's MCPO
supervisors were impressed with his abilities, and his chain
of command highly recommended him for a promotion.
Id. Indeed, he developed a reputation as a
“go-to person, ” particularly in narcotics
investigations which required “wiretapping
MCPO hired Clancy in 2009. Id. at ¶ 70.
Although Clancy was less senior than Plaintiff, he had
previously served as a detective in the Ocean County Police
Department, where he supervised dayshift operations.
Id. He received training from the FBI as a
Hostage/Crisis Negotiator, a role which he assumed for the
Monmouth County Emergency Response Team, until he eventually
became the Chief Negotiator; in that capacity, he supervised
a six-member team that handled suspect negotiations on all
suicidal, barricaded, and hostage situations throughout the
entire County of Monmouth. Id. Detective Snowden
also received training in “homicide investigations,
hostage/crises negotiations and arson investigations”
from the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Division of
Criminal Justice, the New York City Police, as well as the
FBI. Id. At the MCPO, Clancy handled several
“complex” homicide/robbery and arson cases, as he
developed a reputation for utilizing “innovative and
different” techniques for solving major crimes, and his
peers and supervisors spoke “very highly” of his
leadership abilities and work ethic. Id.
December 2014 promotions were awarded to Ryan Muller, to the
position of Sergeant in the Forensics Unit, and Walter
Mazariegos, to the position of Sergeant in the Narcotics
Unit. Id. ¶¶ 72-73, 77.
joined the MCPO in July 2006, and, as such, he was several
months more senior than Plaintiff. Muller was assigned to the
Forensics Unit-a “specialized unit, ” in which
Plaintiff never worked. Id. ¶¶ 73-74.
Indeed, a significant amount of training was required in
order to become a “skilled forensics detective.”
Id. at 74. Before the MCPO employed Muller, he
acquired experience in forensic investigations, he obtained
two Bachelor Degrees from Rutgers University, and was
qualified as a Fingerprint Expert, Firearms Expert, and Crime
Scene Investigation Expert. Id. at ¶ 75. Muller
ultimately became the “go to person” within the
Forensic and Technical Bureau at the MCPO, the section within
which he was promoted. Id.
is a bilingual Hispanic American who is Plaintiff's
senior by approximately four months at the MCPO. Id.
at ¶¶ 77, 79. Before joining the MCPO, Detective
Mazariegos was employed by the New Jersey Attorney
General's Division of Criminal Justice, and, in
cooperation with the DEA, the Attorney General's
Diversion Unit, and the New Jersey Department of Consumer
Affairs, he conducted sensitive prescription narcotics
investigations involving medical professionals who illegally
or improperly prescribed and distributed narcotics.
Id. at ¶ 78. Detective Mazariegos had
experience in investigating sophisticated criminal
enterprises, including organized crime, sex trafficking
networks, and narcotics traffickers, and his “financial
expertise” allowed him to investigate and seize monies
from the illegal sale of narcotics. Id. at ¶
July 2015 promotions were awarded to Erich Schmidt, to the
position of Sergeant in the Financial Crimes Unit, and
Richard Chapman, to the position of Sergeant in the Major
Crimes Bureau. Id. at ¶¶ 82, 85.
MCPO hired Schmidt in May 2000, and he was assigned to the
Special Investigations Section, Financial Crimes and Public
Corruption Bureau, Financial Crimes/Special Prosecution Unit.
Id. at ¶ 83. As a “very senior”
detective, he had experience in the investigation of
financial crimes; he was on special assignment to the IRS for
over five years, where he participated in the Financial Fraud
Task Force Pilot Program and in matters where “millions
of dollars had been seized.” Id. Schmidt's
supervisors at the IRS described him as an “excellent
detective, ” and they opined that he “well
represented” the MCPO during his special assignment.
Id. At the time of his promotion, Schmidt had,
without dispute, more experience than Plaintiff in the area
of financial crimes. Id. at ¶ 84.
is an African American male who joined the MCPO in March
2003, and he is Plaintiff's senior by three and a half
years. Id. at ¶ 85. He was assigned to the
Criminal Investigation Section, Major Crimes Bureau,
Homicide/Property Crimes Unit, and he served as the lead
detective in a significant amount of high-profile murder and
sexual assault cases. Id. As a former detective in
the Asbury Park Police Department, Chapman was trained in the
following areas: internal affairs investigations; bias crime
investigations; child abuse investigations; sexual assault
investigations; and homicide investigations. Id. He
was “well respected” by his peers and supervisors
at the MCPO, who viewed him as a “dedicated solid major
crimes Detective.” Id.
the December 2015 promotions were awarded to Richard
Brocculiere, to the position of Sergeant in the Special
Investigations Section, Prosecution Support Bureau, Computer
Crimes Unit, and Scott Samis, to the position of Sergeant in
the Special Investigations Section, Trial and Administrative
Support Bureau, Trial Support/Fugitives/Juvenile Crime Unit.
Id. at ¶¶ 87, 89.
the MCPO hired Broccoliere, he was employed by the United
States Secret Service, where he developed a background in
computer crimes. Id. at ¶ 88. Bruccoliere was
ultimately promoted to the position of Sergeant in the
Computer Crimes Section, because of his “specialized
skills” and expertise which were required to qualify
for that “highly technical” position.
MCPO hired Samis in 2003, more than three years before
Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 90. Samis primarily served
in the Narcotics Unit during the course of his tenure at the
MCPO, during which worked on loan to the DEA for a three-year
period. Id. at ¶ 91. Detective Samis was viewed
favorably by his peers, and he was considered to be a
“very senior, dedicated and high-energy
detective” who developed a reputation for mentoring
younger and less experiences colleagues. Id. at
¶ 92. ...