United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
James Jackson, a former firefighter of Caucasian descent who
was terminated by the City of Bridgeport for filing false
insurance claims and a false police report following a
burglary at his home, brought this case against his former
employer, the City of Bridgeport (the “municipal
Defendant”), its Fire Chief Brian Rooney, Deputy Fire
Chief James Grace, and Mayor William Finch (collectively, the
“individual Defendants”). Jackson alleges that
the Defendants subjected him to discrimination, a hostile
work environment, and retaliation by terminating him.
Jackson claims that the Defendants do not discipline or
terminate Black or Hispanic firefighters with more serious
misconduct or criminal charges on their records. He asserts
claims for violation of the equal protection and due process
clauses of the United States Constitution under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 (“Section 1983”), Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”), the Connecticut
Fair Employment Practices Act (the “CFEPA”),
negligent supervision under Connecticut state law,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, and municipal
liability for the violation of his constitutional rights.
reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED as to Plaintiff's
claims arising under federal law. The Court declines to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state
STATEMENT OF FACTS
a Caucasian male, began working for the Bridgeport Fire
Department (“BFD”) on February 28, 2000.
Def.'s Rule 56(a)(1) Statement ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No.
32-1. As a BFD firefighter, Jackson took an oath
to uphold the Constitution of the United States, to uphold
the laws of the State of Connecticut, to obey the Rules and
Regulations of the BFD, and to obey the directives of his
supervisors. Id. ¶ 3. He was terminated by the
BFD on June 22, 2012. Termination Letter, Def.'s Ex. 1,
ECF No. 32-3.
his termination, Jackson had two prior disciplinary incidents
in his record. Termination Letter, Def.'s Ex. 1, ECF No.
32-3. On October 19, 2006, he received counseling concerning
a citizen complaint about rude conduct and, on February 25,
2011, he received a written warning for insubordination.
Plaintiff's Insurance Fraud and False Police
morning of October 31, 2011, Jackson reported a burglary at
his home to the Naugatuck police department. October 2011
Police Report at 1, Def.'s Ex. 3, ECF No. 32-3. There had
been a winter storm the night before. Def.'s Ex. 4, ECF
No. 32-3. Jackson reported that the following items were
stolen: a 2004 Old Dog chopper motorcycle, a Troybuilt
lawnmower, an Echo gas blower, a Ryobi gas trimmer, several
carpenters' tools, a Keurig coffee maker, two LCD
televisions, a DirecTV receiver, a Gateway laptop, and a
Gateway printer. October 2011 Police Report at 1, Def.'s
Ex. 3, ECF No. 32-3. The officer at the scene reported that
it appeared as if the burglars entered the kitchen by
smashing out the doorknob and lock of the kitchen door with a
sledgehammer that the officer found in the garage.
Id. The officer did not find any fingerprints at the
scene or on the sledgehammer. Id.
two days of filing the October 31, 2011 police report,
Jackson began filing insurance claims on items that were
allegedly stolen from his home. SBMA Trans. May 1, 2013
531:2-8, Def.'s Ex. 14, ECF No. 32-4. He received $15,
254 from Progressive for the allegedly stolen motorcycle.
SBMA Award at 4, Def.'s Ex. 9, ECF No. 32-3. He received
$8, 800.13 from Met Life on his homeowner's insurance
claim. April 2012 Police Report at 5, Def.'s Ex. 3, ECF
March 20, 2012 and April 13, 2012, the Naugatuck police
received anonymous emails claiming that Jackson staged the
burglary to make fraudulent insurance claims, took apart his
motorcycle to hide it, and built a false wall in his basement
to hide the allegedly stolen items. April 2012 Police Report
at 1-2, Def.'s Ex. 3, ECF No. 32-3. Two police officers
went to Jackson's home on April 18, 2012 to investigate.
Id. at 3. Jackson confessed to the Naugatuck police
that he had “padded his insurance claims” by
making false claims on several items which had not actually
been stolen. Id. Jackson maintained that he was the
victim of an actual burglary and that he then “received
some advise [sic] from his coworkers that told him to add
items to his insurance claim” to get extra money.
Id. His motorcycle, paint sprayer, portable air
conditioner, blender, and printer were not actually stolen.
Id. Instead, he had taken apart his motorcycle and
hid the pieces, along with the rest of the items, under the
basement stairs. Id. The police obtained an arrest
warrant on May 17, 2012 and arrested Jackson on May 18, 2012.
Arrest Warrant at 1-2, Def.'s Ex. 3, ECF No. 32-3.
Jackson confessed, he retracted his insurance claims and made
restitution to the insurance companies. Due Process Hearing
Trans. at 7, Def.'s Ex. 7, ECF No. 32-3. Jackson returned
the $15, 254 that he received for the motorcycle. SBMA Award
at 4, Def.'s Ex. 9, ECF No. 32-3. Of the $8, 800.13 he
received from his homeowner's insurance, he returned $7,
024.61, representing compensation for the allegedly stolen
property, and kept $1, 788.89, representing compensation for
damage to his home. Id.
Publicity and Plaintiff's Termination
from local television news networks, including NBC
Connecticut, WFSB Eyewitness News 3, and WTNH News 8,
reported Jackson's insurance fraud and his arrest.
Def.'s Ex. 4, ECF No. 32-3. The news coverage emphasized
that Jackson was a BFD firefighter. Due Process Hearing
Trans. at 18, Def.'s Ex. 7, ECF No. 32-3. Fire Chief
Rooney learned of this matter while watching the news and he
described the coverage as “an embarrassment.”
SBMA Award at 3, Def.'s Ex. 9, ECF No. 32-3.
letter dated May 22, 2012 and signed by Deputy Fire Chief
Grace, the BFD notified Jackson that he was being put on
Administrative Leave as of May 21, 2012. Leave Letter,
Def.'s Ex. 5, ECF No. ECF No. 32-3. The letter notified
Jackson that the BFD was conducting an investigation into his
arrest in connection with his false police report.
Id. Fire Chief Rooney testifies that he was the only
person involved in deciding whether Jackson violated BFD or
City rules in the investigation and administrative hearing
process leading to his termination. SBMA Trans. Feb. 13, 2013
238:23-239:1, Pl.'s Ex. 1, ECF No. 42-3.
investigation hearing occurred on June 4, 2012, and Jackson
made no comment. Due Process Hearing Letter, Def.'s Ex.
6, ECF No. 32-3. In a second letter dated June 8, 2012 and
signed by Fire Chief Rooney, the BFD notified Jackson of the
charges against him for violating the BFD Rule and
Regulations Sections 17.18, 17.41, and 17.45; the City of
Bridgeport Work Rules and Regulations, Numbers 9, 17, and 18;
and the City of Bridgeport Code of Ethics. Id. The
text of these rules was appended to the letter. Id.
The letter also gave Jackson notice that he was required to
attend a due process hearing on June 13, 2012, where he could
rebut the charges against him, and that, if he failed to
attend, he could face disciplinary consequences up to and
including the termination of his employment. Id.
process hearing took place on June 14, 2012. Due Process
Hearing Trans. at 1, Def.'s Ex. 7, ECF No. 32-3. Jackson
appeared at the June 14 due process hearing with his union
attorney, John Robert Gulash. Id.; SBMA Award at 3,
Def.'s Ex. 9, ECF No. 32-3. Fire Chief Rooney, Deputy
Fire Chief Grace, the BFD's attorney John Bohannon, Labor
Relations Officer Philip White, the City of Bridgeport
Director of Labor Relations Lawrence Osborne, and Dan
Hunsberger from the union also attended the hearing. Due
Process Hearing Trans. at 1, Def.'s Ex. 7, ECF No. 32-3.
At the outset, Attorney Bohannon read Jackson his Garrity
v. State of N.J., 385 U.S. 493 (1967)
warning. Id. at 2. The warning read as
Mr. Jackson, you are hereby advised that this interview is
for administrative purposes only and as a public servant you
are obligated to answer questions relative to your
employment. Any and all statements made by you during the
course of this interview cannot be utilized in any criminal
proceeding which may be currently pending or may be initiated
against you regarding this investigation. Failure to answer
any questions truthfully, presented to you during the course
of this interview, will subject you to a separate charge of
Id. Jackson acknowledged that he understood the
warning and apologized to Fire Chief Rooney for the negative
attention that he had brought to the BFD. Id.
recounted the events surrounding the false police report and
insurance claims. Due Process Hearing Transcript at 3-6,
9-14, Def.'s Ex. 7, ECF No. 32-3. He also clarified that,
while he told the police that a colleague had advised him to
pad his insurance claims, it was actually a social
acquaintance, not a colleague, who had advised him.
Id. at 4, 7. He then revised his story and stated
that he had spoken to colleague Lieutenant Morotto about the
robbery, and that Lt. Morotto asked if he had receipts and
records recording the value of the stolen items. Id.
at 14-15. Jackson came away with the impression that he could
suffer a “substantial unreimbursed loss” based on
not having such records, and he testified that he then
“made that horrible mistake” of making the false
police report and the insurance claims. Id. at
15-16. He stated that he “didn't spend the
money” and “didn't need the money” that
he received from the insurance companies. Id. at 16.
At the hearing, Jackson informed the panel that he was making
restitution to the insurance companies. Id. at 7-8.
the hearing, Fire Chief Rooney pressed Jackson on whether he
had staged the entire robbery, rephrasing the question around
four times. Due Process Hearing Transcript at 12, Def.'s
Ex. 7, ECF No. 32-3. Fire Chief Rooney commented that there
was an issue of “credibility.” Id.
the end of the hearing, Jackson stated that “when I
made the decision to do it I regretted the minute [the police
officer] called in that plate” for his motorcycle. Due
Process Hearing Transcript at 17, Def.'s Ex. 7, ECF No.
32-3. Fire Chief Rooney pointed out that Jackson
could have confessed much sooner, and Jackson admitted that
was true. Id. Jackson then repeated that he had made
a mistake and was glad that he “cooperated 100% with
the police” in April 2012, after they began questioning
him regarding whether his motorcycle was actually stolen.
Id. at 18. Deputy Fire Chief Grace commented that,
while Jackson was saying that he knew he had done something
wrong, he had not confessed until he was caught. Id.
at 17. Labor Relations Director Osborn asked Jackson whether
the local news networks were aware that he was a firefighter,
and Jackson answered yes, the news reports generally
mentioned that he was a firefighter. Id. at 18-19.
the due process hearing, Fire Chief Rooney sent Jackson a
letter, dated June 22, 2012, notifying him of his
termination. SBMA Award at 3, Def.'s Ex. 9, ECF No. 32-3;
Termination Letter, Def.'s Ex. 1, ECF No. 32-3. The
letter stated that, taking into account the facts Jackson
presented at the hearing, the BFD found that he had violated
all of the BFD and City of Bridgeport rules cited in the May
22, 2012 Administrative Leave letter. Termination Letter,
Def.'s Ex. 1, ECF No. 32-3.
other comments, the letter notes that Jackson's apologies
during the hearing were “of little concern when you
fraudulently contributed to the burglary at your home,
” that his actions in initially depositing the
insurance checks were a “clear example of your intent
to fully carry out your plan to bilk the insurance companies,
” and that his claims that he “felt bad about
lying to the police and insurance companies” were
“absolutely outrageous.” Termination Letter,
Def.'s Ex. 1, ECF No. 32-3. The termination letter goes
on to state that, as public servants, members of the BFD must
demonstrate the highest standards of ethical conduct both on
and off duty, so that “the public may have trust and
confidence in your presence when entering homes and
businesses.” Id. Fire Chief Rooney claims that
Jackson's misconduct combined with the publicity left the
BFD with no choice but to terminate him. SBMA Award at 4,
Def.'s Ex. 9, ECF No. 32-3.
resolved the criminal case against him on October 18, 2012,
with a plea of nolo contedere to the charge of false
reporting of an incident in the second degree, after he was
already terminated from the BFD. Plea Trans.1:22-25, 3:5-8,
Def.'s Ex. 12, ECF No. 32-4; SBMA Award at 4, Def.'s
Ex. 9, ECF No. 32-3. The Connecticut Superior Court sentenced
Jackson to a one-year suspended sentence and two years
conditional discharge. Plea Trans. 8:3-10, Def.'s Ex. 12,
ECF No. 32-4.
Jackson's termination, his union, the IAFF Local 834,
filed a grievance under the procedures outlined in its
collective bargaining agreement. Def.'s Local Rule
56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 39, ECF No. 32-1. The Connecticut
State Board of Mediation and Arbitration (“SBMA”)
commenced a hearing on January 14, 2013. Id. ¶
40. The SBMA conducted six evidentiary hearings and accepted
extensive briefing from the parties. Id. ¶ 41.
The SBMA denied the grievance and found that Jackson was
terminated for just cause. SBMA Award at 12, Def.'s Ex.
9, ECF No. 32-3.
union filed an application to vacate the SBMA's award
with the Connecticut Superior Court. Def.'s Local Rule
56(a)(1) Statement ¶ 42, ECF No. 32-1. The Superior
Court upheld the SBMA award on August 1, 2014, finding no
violation of public policy and that the City of Bridgeport
could terminate Jackson for his criminal conduct even if the
City did not have a per se rule of dismissal and the
criminal conduct at issue was off-duty. Superior Court
Decision at 12-13, Def.'s Ex. 10, ECF No. 32-3.
Defendant's Treatment ...