United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS
R. Underhill United States District Judge.
case arises out of Andrew Chiaravallo's
(“Chiaravallo”) termination as the Administrator
of Middletown Transit District (also known as
“Middletown Area Transit” or “MAT”),
which provides public transportation for the City of
Middletown, Connecticut (“the City”). Chiaravallo
alleges that the Mayor of Middletown, Daniel Drew
(“Mayor Drew”), made various pre-termination
defamatory remarks regarding Chiaravallo's purported
mismanagement of MAT, which were later published in the
media. He also alleges that Mayor Drew directed the MAT Board
of Directors (“the Board”) to terminate
Chiaravallo under the threat of not renewing the City's
contract with MAT and withholding the City's funding of
MAT. Chiaravallo was subsequently terminated by the Board.
on those allegations, Chiaravallo commenced this lawsuit on
August 13, 2018. See Compl. (Doc. No. 1).
Chiaravallo asserts procedural due process claims (Counts
Three through Nine) against the MAT and each member of the
Board (“the MAT Defendants”). Chiaravallo also
brings a procedural due process claim against Mayor Drew
(Count One), as well as a defamation claim (Count Ten), an
intentional interference with an advantageous business
relationship claim (Count Eleven), and a false light invasion
of privacy claim (Count Twelve). Lastly, Chiaravallo asserts
a procedural due process claim against the City (Count Two).
Defendants moved to dismiss those claims on September 12,
2018. See Doc. No. 21. Mayor Drew and the City
(“the City Defendants”) filed a motion to dismiss
on October 10, 2018. See Doc. No. 27. On February
25, 2019, I held a motion hearing and granted the MAT
Defendants' motion to dismiss Counts Three through
and took the City Defendants' motion under advisement.
See Doc. No. 49. For the following reasons, the City
Defendants' motion to dismiss is denied.
Standard of Review
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) is designed “merely to assess the legal
feasibility of a complaint, not to assay the weight of
evidence which might be offered in support thereof.”
Ryder Energy Distrib. Corp. v. Merrill Lynch Commodities,
Inc., 748 F.2d 774, 779 (2d Cir. 1984) (quoting
Geisler v. Petrocelli, 616 F.2d 636, 639 (2d Cir.
deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the
court must accept the material facts alleged in the complaint
as true, draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
plaintiff, and decide whether it is plausible that plaintiffs
have a valid claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009); Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); Leeds v.
Meltz, 85 F.3d 51, 53 (2d Cir. 1996).
Twombly, “[f]actual allegations must be enough
to raise a right to relief above the speculative level,
” and assert a cause of action with enough heft to show
entitlement to relief and “enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” 550
U.S. at 555, 570; see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679
(“[w]hile legal conclusions can provide the framework
of a complaint, they must be supported by factual
allegations.”). The plausibility standard set forth in
Twombly and Iqbal obligates the plaintiff
to “provide the grounds of his entitlement to
relief” through more than “labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555
(quotation marks omitted). Plausibility at the pleading stage
is nonetheless distinct from probability, and “a
well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy
judge that actual proof of [the claims] is improbable, and .
. . recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Id.
at 556 (quotation marks omitted).
his time as Administrator of MAT, Chiaravallo oversaw
MAT's vehicle fleet, financial obligations, and grant
applications to various city, state, and federal agencies.
Compl. ¶¶ 26-30. In 2016, MAT faced growing
financial problems. Id. ¶¶ 32-34. On July
1, 2016, the State decreased MAT's funding by
approximately $50, 000. Id. ¶ 34. The next
fiscal year, beginning on July 1, 2017, the State reduced
MAT's funding by another $80, 000. Id. ¶
36. To address the decrease in funding, Chiaravallo sent an
email to state Representative Joseph Serra on January 12,
2017, advising him that MAT did not have the funds necessary
to operate its current service lines and that MAT would be
forced to implement service reductions unless MAT received
additional funding. Id. ¶ 39.
March 2017, Chiaravallo sent emails and letters to the
Connecticut Department of Transportation regarding MAT's
financial distress. Id. ¶ 42. On March 8, 2017,
Chiaravallo met with Mayor Drew during an annual meeting on
the City's budget. Id. ¶ 43. At the
meeting, Chiaravallo advised Mayor Drew that MAT would be
making service cuts if it did not receive additional funding.
Id. Chiaravallo also advised Mayor Drew that he
would be seeking funding from the State and not the City, to
which Mayor Drew responded, “good job.”
Id. On April 10, 2017, the City's Common Council
held Budget Department Hearings with Mayor Drew and
Chiaravallo present. Id. ¶ 45. At those
meetings, Chiaravallo advised the City's Common Council
and Mayor Drew that MAT had experienced funding cuts from the
State and that raising fares had not made up those cuts.
Id. ¶ 46. The Common Council, Mayor Drew, and
the Boardwere all allegedly aware of MAT's
distressed financial condition by 2017. See id.
12, 2017, Chiaravallo advised Mayor Drew that MAT would be
implementing bus and van service cuts and that MAT intended
to announce those cuts to the public in three days.
Id. ¶ 48. In response, Mayor Drew accused
Chiaravallo of mismanaging MAT. Id. ¶ 51.
Chiaravallo alleges that Mayor Drew subsequently made the
following communications regarding Chiaravallo's
9, 2017, Mayor Drew sent a letter to Chiaravallo which
“falsely stated that [Mayor Drew] learned about
MAT's service cuts after they had been made . . . when in
fact [Mayor Drew] had been informed [earlier] on May 12, 2017
that bus and van service cuts would be made effective July 1,
2017, that Saturday evening bus and van service would be cut
effective June 3, 2017, and that those cuts would be
announced to the public on May 15, 2017.” Id.
¶ 53. The letter also accused Chiaravallo of failing to
inform local officials of the financial challenges facing MAT
and accused Chiaravallo of potentially violating federal law
by implementing the anticipated service cuts. Id.
¶¶ 54-57. The letter was copied to numerous state
and local government officials and was also published over
the internet, on television, and in newspapers including the
Hartford Courant, the Middletown Press, WTNH, NBC
Connecticut, and the Yankee Institute. Id. ¶
23, 2017, Mayor Drew filed a formal complaint with the
Federal Transit Administration (“FTA”), charging
that Chiaravallo was responsible for violating federal law by
implementing certain service cuts. Id. ¶ 58.
Mayor Drew's complaint was publicly broadcasted in the
Hartford Courant, the Middletown Press, and on the internet.
27, 2017, Mayor Drew sent a letter to Chiaravallo and the
Board demanding that the Board terminate Chiaravallo's
employment. Id. ¶ 59. The letter accused
Chiaravallo of mismanagement alleging that Chiaravallo failed
to inform government officials about MAT's financial
situation. Id. The letter stated in part:
MAT is a separate entity entirely from the City, and the City
has no management authority over MAT, we do have a contract
with MAT and we spend substantial taxpayer dollars on MAT.
Your contract is currently on my desk for renewal, along with
the substantial appropriation that accompanies it. I will not
sign the contract or release the funds until the following
requirements are met:
• Mr. Chiaravallo will resign immediately;
• Mr. Lewis will terminate his consulting contract and
any employment or contracting relationship with MAT
• If these resignations do not occur, the Board will
vote to terminate the respective employment and consulting
relationships, effective immediately;
• MAT will send a letter, duly authorized by the Board,
to DOT and the City of Middletown, requesting help from DOT
and asking that DOT provide an acting emergency manager, to
be appointed by the Board, with full executive authority and
full Board cooperation;
• MAT's Board will transition from the six current
members to two, which is the maximum number authorized by
statute, and will work with the City on a transition plan to
• MAT will appoint a new representative to RiverCOG;
• The H and I routes, as well as evening service, will
remain in place.
Ex. A. to MAT Defs' Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 21-2 at
2-3). The information in Mayor Drew's June 27, 2017
letter was publicly broadcasted in newspapers and ...