United States District Court, D. Connecticut
CHARMANE D. THURMAND, Plaintiff,
UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT, ET AL, Defendants.
RULING ON ETHICS DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
(DOC. NO. 15)
C. Hall United States District Judge
Charmane D. Thurmand (“Thurmand”), brings this
claim alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act, the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution, the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act
(“CFEPA”), and state claims of defamation, false
light, slander of credit, and negligent and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. See Complaint
(Compl.) ¶ 1.
names as defendants the University of Connecticut; Susan B.
Herbst, the President of UConn; Mun Y. Choi, the Provost of
UConn; Kent Holsinger, the Dean of the UConn Graduate School;
Scott Jordan, the UConn Chief Financial Officer; Stephanie
Reitz, the UConn Spokeswoman; Bruce Gelston, an investigator
at UConn's Officer of Audit, Compliance, and Ethics; and
Kimberly Hill, the UConn Associate Director for Community
Standards (collectively “UConn Defendants”). Also
named as defendants are Carol Carson (“Carson”).
the Executive Director of the State of Connecticut Office of
State Ethics; Thomas Jones (“Jones”), the Ethics
Enforcement Officer at the Connecticut Office of State
Ethics; and Mark Wasielewski (“Wasielewski”), the
Deputy Enforcement Officer of the State of Connecticut Office
of State Ethics
“Ethics Defendants”). Before the court is the
Ethics Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (“Mot. to
Dismiss”) (Doc No. 15).
reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss is granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
withstand a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The
plausibility standard is not a probability requirement; the
pleading must show, not merely allege, that the pleader is
entitled to relief. Id. Legal conclusions and
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” are
not entitled to a presumption of truth. Id. However,
when reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court must accept the
factual allegations in the operative complaint as true and
draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor.
See Graziano v. Pataki, 689 F.3d 110, 114 (2d Cir.
considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a district court must limit
itself to facts stated in the complaint or in documents
attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated in the
complaint by reference. “Of course, it may also
consider matters of which judicial notice may be taken under
Fed.R.Evid. 201.” Kramer v. Time Warner Inc.,
937 F.2d 767, 773 (2d Cir. 1991). Such matters include facts
that “can be accurately and readily determined from
sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be
questioned.” Fed.R.Evid. 201.
was employed by UConn, as the UConn Graduate School's
Diversity Officer, from October 1, 2012 to February 24, 2017.
Compl. ¶ 17. She was also a Ph.D. candidate at the UConn
Graduate School until her expulsion on May 19, 2017.
Id. ¶ 19. Thurman assisted the Graduate
School's Diversity Committee, which is responsible for
awarding various fellowships, scholarships and grants.
Id. ¶ 26.
was accused of violating her employment code by, inter
alia, deceiving Holsinger, the Dean of the UConn
Graduate School, and illegitimately obtaining a fellowship
for her husband. Id. ¶ 29. Thurmand alleges
that the UConn Defendants conducted a “biased, racially
[motivated, ] and retaliatory investigation of the charges,
” and falsely found that the accusations of theft were
well-founded. See Id. The UConn Defendants conducted
a similarly biased student conduct investigation, with the
same conclusion. Id. ¶ 30. The UConn Defendants
reported a false debt to collection and credit agencies.
Id. ¶ 34. Thurmand faced a hostile work
environment, and was subjected to a criminal investigation,
suspended from her employment, denied admission to academic
events, expelled from the Graduate School, and lost her
employment at Smith College. Id. ¶ 35.
UConn Defendants made numerous statements to media outlets
regarding the investigations. In those statements, the UConn
Defendants identified Thurmand by name, and repeated the
allegations of impropriety against her. Id. ¶
40. Thurmand alleges that these statements were false and
malicious, id. ¶ 41, and that non-minority
employees who were similarly situated were treated
differently, id. ¶ 42.
March 2017, the Ethics Defendants initiated a state ethics
complaint (“Ethics Complaint”) against Thurmand,
which Thurmand alleges was discriminatory and retaliatory,
and done for the purpose of harassment. Id.
¶¶ 45-48. The Complaint alleges that the Ethics
Defendants abused their authority by issuing illegitimate and
defamatory subpoenas and disclosing that Thurmand was the
subject of the Ethics Complaint. Id. ¶ 49. As a
result, Thurmand lost her employment at Smith College.
Id. ¶ 50, and suffered economic harm,
humiliation and other emotional harms, loss of sleep, and
continued professional harm. Id. ¶ 55.