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Terzian v. Lombardi

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

April 3, 2018

Boghos Terzian
v.
James J. Lombardi, in his capacity as Treasurer for the City of Providence, et al.

          Providence County Superior Court No. 2015-340-Appeal. (PC 11-2346) Associate Justice Brian Van Couyghen

          Boghos Terzian, Pro Se For Plaintiff:

          Etie-Lee Z. Schaub, Esq., Robert P. Brooks, Esq. Kenneth B. Chiavarini, Esq. Julie A. Sacks, Esq. Kennell Meas Sambour, Esq. For Defendants

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          Associate Justice William P. Robinson III

         The plaintiff, Boghos Terzian, appeals from a June 12, 2015 final judgment entered following a bench decision in Providence County Superior Court granting the motions for summary judgment filed by the defendants, Laborers' International Union of North America, AFL-CIO, Public Service Employees' Local Union Number 1033 (the Union) and James J. Lombardi, in his capacity as Treasurer for the City of Providence. Mr. Terzian argues on appeal that the hearing justice erred in granting defendants' motions for summary judgment because, he contends, the City of Providence could not suspend and ultimately terminate him for off-duty conduct and because the Union did not comply with its duty to fairly represent him.[1]

         For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         Although it appears from the record that there are some disputed facts in the instant case, the essential facts are not in dispute. For our purposes, we need only relate those essential facts. We rely on the May 28, 2015 bench decision of the hearing justice as well as other documents contained in the record for the recitation thereof.

         Mr. Terzian was hired by the City in 2003. At all times pertinent to this case, he was a member of the Union. On August 1, 2007, Mr. Terzian was arrested and charged with three counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of carrying a pistol without a license. Those charges stemmed from an incident which transpired in front of Mr. Terzian's home when he was off-duty. The City suspended Mr. Terzian without pay the next day-August 2, 2007. The collective bargaining agreement between the City and the Union (the CBA) provides for a three-step grievance procedure; additionally, it provides that if "a grievance is not settled, such grievance may at the request of the Union, be referred to [arbitration]." After Mr. Terzian's suspension, a Union representative filed a grievance with respect to the suspension. That grievance progressed through the three steps provided for by the CBA and was ultimately held in abeyance pending the outcome of the criminal charges against Mr. Terzian.

         On May 12, 2008, a jury found Mr. Terzian guilty of all four criminal charges, and he was ultimately sentenced to eight years in prison, with one year to serve and seven years suspended with probation on each of the four charges, said sentences to be served concurrently.[2]

         On October 16, 2008, following Mr. Terzian's conviction and while he was incarcerated, a pre-termination hearing was conducted with respect to his job with the City. Mr. Terzian was not present at the hearing, but a Union representative and Mr. Terzian's private attorney did appear at the hearing. Subsequent to that hearing, in a letter dated October 31, 2008, the City informed Mr. Terzian that his employment had been terminated; that letter cited his inability to "report to work and perform [his] job duties" as the reason for his termination.

         Mr. Terzian contacted the Union in December of 2008, after he had been released from prison. On December 9, 2008, [3] the Union filed a second grievance, this time contesting Mr. Terzian's termination. The Union submitted the new grievance to all three steps in the grievance ...


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