United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
A. BOLDEN DISTRICT JUDGE
Maria Moulthrop, brings several federal and state claims
against Defendants, various individuals associated with the
City of Waterbury Police Department (“WPD”) and
Waterbury Public Schools (“WPS”). Ms.
Moulthrop's claims arise out of an internal investigation
and subsequent criminal prosecution regarding her alleged
mismanagement of school funds in her role as Principal of
Hopeville Elementary School. The following parties are named
as Defendants: Lieutenant Michael Slavin; Detective David
McKnight; Detective Orlando Rivera; Chief Vernon Riddick;
Mayor Neil O'Leary; Paul Guidone; Ronald Frost; Mary Ann
Marold; Doreen Biolo; Thomas Pannone; and Frederick L.
Moulthrop has alleged the following claims: conspiracy to
perform an unreasonable search and seizure (Count One); false
arrest (Count Two); malicious prosecution (Count Three);
Monell failure to train (Count Four); violation of
the Financial Privacy Act (Count Five); intentional
spoliation of evidence (Count Six); and breach of contract
Slavin, McKnight, Rivera, Riddick, O'Leary, Guidone,
Frost, Marold, Biolo and Pannone (together “City
Defendants”) have moved to dismiss Counts One through
Five and Count Seven of Ms. Moulthrop's Amended
Complaint. City Defs. Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No.
Defendant Frederick Dorsey has separately moved to dismiss
Count Six of the Amended Complaint, Ms. Moulthrop's sole
claim against him. Dorsey Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 31. For
the reasons that follow, City Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss is GRANTED, and Defendant
Dorsey's Motion to Dismiss is MOOT.
Moulthrop is the former Principal of Hopeville Elementary
School (“Hopeville”), a public school in the City
of Waterbury, Connecticut. Am. Compl. ¶ 2. In July 2011,
the Connecticut State Department of Education
(“SDOE”) issued a report publishing students'
test results on a statewide performance test. Id. at
¶¶ 3-4. That same month, a local newspaper in
Waterbury raised suspicions about the relatively high
performance of certain Hopeville students in light of the
reported test results. Id. at
¶ 4. The SDOE subsequently hired
Attorney Frederick Dorsey to conduct an investigation into
suspected testing irregularities at Hopeville. Id.
at ¶ 8.
August 2011, Ms. Moulthrop was placed on administrative leave
without pay pending the investigation, along with several
other Hopeville teachers and administrators. Id. at
¶¶ 8-9. During the course of the investigation,
Attorney Dorsey conducted a taped interview of Ms. Moulthrop,
which is no longer available. Id. at ¶¶
13-16. Based at least in part on this interview, Attorney
Dorsey prepared a formal report, dated September 2011,
finding “sufficient credible evidence” that
“testing irregularities” took place under Ms.
Moulthrop's leadership. Id. Based in part on
Attorney Dorsey's report, David Snead, Superintendent of
Waterbury Public Schools, informed Ms. Moulthrop that the
City of Waterbury was considering terminating her employment.
Id. at ¶¶ 27-28.
Pannone was appointed acting principal to replace Ms.
Moulthrop for the 2011-2012 school year. Id. After
Mr. Pannone commenced his term as acting principal, he came
across bank statements in the name of the Hopeville Parent
Teacher Organization (“Hopeville PTO”) listing
Ms. Moulthrop's home address. Id. at
¶¶ 31-33. Mr. Pannone forwarded this information to
Ronald Frost, WPS Personnel Director, and Paul Guidone, WPS
Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, who then
used the information to access the Hopeville PTO bank account
at TD Bank. Id. Various WPS officials reviewed the
bank statements of this account, including Mary Ann Marold,
WPS Education Liaison, and Doreen Biolo, WPS Business Office
Manager. Id. ¶¶ at 34-35.
on these account records, on December 6, 2011, Mr. Frost and
Ms. Marold filed a criminal larceny complaint with Lieutenant
Slavin and Detective McKnight of the Waterbury Police
Department alleging that Ms. Moulthrop misappropriated school
funds for personal use. Id. Three days later, Ms.
Moulthrop resigned from her position. Id. at ¶
Arrest Warrant Application
December 2011, Lieutenant Slavin and Detective McKnight
completed an application for an arrest warrant before a
Magistrate Judge. Arrest Warrant, City Defs. Ex. F, ECF No.
37-7. In support of this arrest warrant, Lieutenant Slavin
and Detective McKnight submitted an affidavit outlining the
evidence that had been provided against Ms. Moulthrop by Mr.
Frost and Ms. Marold. Arrest Warrant Affidavit, City Defs.
Ex. G, ECF No. 37-8. This affidavit explained that Mr. Frost
contacted the Waterbury Police Department because he and Ms.
Marold “believed that Moulthrop may have solicited and
used money raised by the parents and children of Hopeville
School for her own personal use, under the name of the
non-existent Hopeville School PTO.” Id. at 3.
support of this allegation, the arrest warrant affidavit
explains that Mr. Pannone, in his role as acting principal,
noticed mail addressed to the Hopeville PTO listing Ms.
Moulthrop's home address on copies of Hopeville PTO
checks. Id. According to the affidavit, Mr. Pannone
contacted Ms. Moulthrop, who confirmed that the account was
in her name and who then instructed TD Bank to have Mr. Frost
be the sole account holder for that account. Id. The
affidavit states that, when Mr. Frost reviewed the bank
statements of that account, he noticed “questionable
transactions” that were paid for using Hopeville PTO
funds, including a payment of over $1, 000 to Crestwood Ford
and payments to BJ's Wholesale totaling around $2, 000.
Id. The payments made to BJ's Wholesale included
numerous BJ's gift cards, an Apple iPod for $237.99, a
Casio camera for $249.99, and several food items that,
according to the affiant, were not offered at the Hopeville
cafeteria. Id. at 5-7.
to the Amended Complaint, however, Ms. Moulthrop never gave
permission for Mr. Frost to access that account. The Amended
Complaint states: “Frost used the Hopeville PTO TD Bank
statements he received from Pannone on September 2, 2011, to
unlawfully gain access to Moulthrop's Hopeville PTO TD
bank account by misrepresenting that Superintendent Snead
owned the account, convincing TD Bank to remove Moulthrop as
the sole signer and account owner without her authorization,
and adding Frost's name as the sole signer on the
account.” Am. Compl. ¶ 33. It is undisputed that
the account was in the name of the Hopeville PTO at the time
Mr. Frost gained access, and that Ms. Moulthrop had
previously been the only individual with access to that
the core allegations supporting Lieutenant Slavin's and
Detective McKnight's application for an arrest warrant is
that the Hopeville PTO did not actually exist. Id.
at 3. In support of this contention, Lieutenant Slavin and
Detective McKnight cited Mr. Frost and Ms. Marold as having
stated that “each individual PTO has a board of
directors that, to their knowledge, must approve all
expenditures and fundraisers and that no one person would
ever have control over the entire organization.”
Id. at 3. The Hopeville PTO, however, did not have a
board of directors and was under Ms. Moulthrop's
exclusive control. Id.
to the affidavit, “Detective McKnight found an online
definition for a PTO” which stated that a PTO “is
a group of parents and teachers that work together for the
benefit of the school and the children being educated there
and it is usually recognized by the IRS as a nonprofit,
tax-exempt group.” Id. The affidavit further
stated that “Principal Pannone also conducted his own
interviews with Hopeville School teachers and found there has
not been a PTO at Hopeville in over 10 years.”
Id. at 4. The affidavit confirmed that only Ms.
Moulthrop seemed to have knowledge of this PTO, suggesting
that the PTO was not a valid entity. Id.
arrest warrant affidavit also includes a statement from Mr.
Frost in which he claimed that Molly Hernandez, a parent of a
Hopeville student, made a “formal complaint”
expressing concern about Ms. Moulthrop's fundraising
activities in connection with the Hopeville PTO. Id.
at 2. The affidavit states that, according to Mr. Frost, Ms.
Moulthrop was selling snacks in the Hopeville cafeteria for
one dollar apiece to raise funds for the Hopeville PTO.
Id. Mr. Frost allegedly told the WPD investigators
that Ms. Hernandez was concerned about this activity because
“there is not a PTO at Hopeville School and there has
never been one.” Id. The affidavit also states
that the City of Waterbury provided Ms. Moulthrop with a
stipend of 50 cents per student, which was allegedly supposed
to be “used for student related activities and placed
in a student activity fund”; however, “there was
no student activity fund at Hopeville School while Moulthrop
was Principal.” Id. at 11. Instead, Ms.
Moulthrop placed those funds directly into Hopeville PTO
Moulthrop, however, insists that the Hopeville PTO was a
valid organization. According to Ms. Moulthrop, a PTO does
not require a board of directors or bylaws. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 103-106. She also alleges that Ms. Marold was
aware of this fact when communicating with the WPD regarding
Ms. Moulthrop's case and that both Mr. Frost and Ms.
Marold intentionally made false representations to the police
in connection with this investigation. Id. She
further states that various individuals at Hopeville were
paid for school-related expenses out of the Hopeville PTO
account, and that those individuals knew that the payments
were being made in the name of the Hopeville PTO.
Id. at ¶ 100.
Crestwood Ford Purchase
addition to the description of Mr. Frost's and Ms.
Marold's concerns about the Hopeville PTO, the affidavit
provided detailed descriptions of several of the purchases
from the Hopeville PTO account that the affiant deemed
questionable. One such description included a written
statement from Denise Benemerito, one of the former owners of
Crestwood Ford, which Ms. Benemerito had provided in response
to an inquiry from the WPD regarding a $1, 061.80 expense to
Crestwood Ford that was reflected in the Hopeville PTO
account. Id. at 7. According to the affidavit, Ms.
Benemerito stated that, after Crestwood Ford closed in 2010,
she opened a new business by the name of Bone Appetite.
Id. Ms. Benemerito further stated that, to her
surprise, Ms. Moulthrop came into Bone Appetite one day and
asked Ms. Benemerito whether she remembered an incident in
which Ms. Moulthrop “wrote a check from the wrong
checkbook” to pay for car repairs. Id. Ms.
Benemerito allegedly responded by saying that she
“[did] not remember anything like that.”
Id. According to Ms. Benemerito, Ms. Moulthrop was
“persistent about this and kept saying that she was so
upset because she wrote a check from the wrong checkbook, she
even mentioned that she wrote the check out of a PTO
account.” Id. Ms. Benemerito noted that Ms.
Moulthrop was holding two one-hundred dollar bills in her
hand when she had this conversation, explaining: “I
felt that her having the money in her hand was her trying to
pay me off for agreeing with her story.” Id.
addition to Ms. Benemerito's account of this transaction,
the arrest warrant affidavit also includes a summary of Ms.
Moulthrop's version of events in connection with this
particular purchase. The affidavit states:
Moulthrop told us that she had written a check to Crestwood
Ford out of the Hopeville PTO account by accident because her
personal checkbook is the same color as the Hopeville PTO
checkbook. Moulthrop stated that the Hopeville check bounced
and as a result she deposited $1300.00 from her personal
account into the Hopeville PTO account. Moulthrop did show us
a photocopy of the transaction receipts from this deposit
from her personal account into the Hopeville PTO account.
Id. at 10. The affidavit further notes that
“Moulthrop stated she would keep the receipts in her
office but once she was removed from Hopeville School she has
no idea what happened to the receipts.” Id.
Leaf Blower Purchase
affidavit also describes other incidences of suspected misuse
of school funds. Specifically, the affidavit notes that Ms.
Moulthrop was recorded to have purchased a backpack leaf
blower from the Home Depot for $316.94; however, the
affidavit states that, according to Victor Martinez, a
custodian at Hopeville, the school only had one backpack leaf
blower, which Ms. Moulthrop had purchased from Schmidt and
Serafine's. Id. at 10 (“About five years
ago Maria bought me a backpack leaf blower for the school
from Schmidt and Serafine's. This is the only blower we
ever got from Maria. I am 100% positive the blower we have
now is the only one Maria bought for the school.”).
According to the affidavit, when asked about this purchase,
Ms. Moulthrop confirmed to WPD officials that she had
purchased two separate leaf blowers with school funds,
explaining that “the leaf blower she bought broke down
so she purchased another leaf blower with PTO funds.”
Flat Screen Television and Camera Purchases
the affidavit describes that Ms. Moulthrop, while on
administrative leave, returned some items to Hopeville from
her possession that had been purchased using Hopeville PTO
funds, including a flat screen TV and a Casio camera.
Id. at 11. According to the affidavit, the
television showed “obvious signs of wear.”
Id. When Ms. Moulthrop was questioned about these
purchases, she explained that “she brought those items
to her home so her son could teach her how to use
them.” Id. The affiant expressed suspicion at
this response, noting that “Moulthrop had full access
to the City of Waterbury IT department who would have been
able to help her with any technical problems she had with the
TV or camera.” Id.
Arrest and Criminal Prosecution
arrest warrant application was approved and a warrant was
signed by a Magistrate Judge. Id. On June 28, 2012,
Ms. Moulthrop was arrested and charged with larceny. Am.
Compl. ¶ 39. Shortly afterwards, the SDOE initiated
proceedings to revoke Ms. Moulthrop's educator
certificates. Id. at ¶¶ 40-43. Ms.
Moulthrop requested a formal hearing in connection ...