United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
ALBERT J. QUINN, Plaintiff,
CITY OF NEWPORT, JOSEPH J. NICHOLSON, JR., in his capacity as Newport City Manager, LAUREN L. SITRIN, in her capacity as Newport Director of Finance, GARY SILVA, both individually and in his capacity as Chief of Police of the Newport Police Department, and JOHN DOE, 1"5, unnamed current or former City officials or employees, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions
for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 11 and 16. Sergeant Albert J.
Quinn brought this case alleging seven counts related to his
termination from the Newport Retired Officer Corps: First
Amendment Violation, Fifth Amendment Violation, Wrongful
Termination in Violation of R.I.G.L. § 28-50-3), Breach
of Contract, Bad Faith, and Defamation. The Defendants
("City") moved for summary judgment on each of the
counts and Sgt. Quinn filed a cross-motion for summary
judgment on Counts II, III, and IV. ECF Nos. 11 and 16. The
parties filed extensive responses and objections (ECF Nos.
18, 21, 23, 25, 29, and 31) and the Court heard the
parties' arguments. For the reasons stated below, the
Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Sgt. Quinn's
Motion (ECF No. 16) and GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART the
City's Motion. ECF No. 11.
Quinn served as a police officer in the Newport Police
Department (NPD) from 1980-2011. Upon retirement, Sgt. Quinn
was accepted and sworn into the Newport Retired Officer Corps
("ROC"). Sgt. Quinn, in accepting a position in the
ROC, signed a "Letter of Agreement for Retired Newport
Police Officers Working Special Details"
("Agreement"). The Agreement states: "I
understand that my position is as a Special Detail Retired
Officer and that my employment is strictly 'at will,'
meaning that either the city or I may terminate my role at
any time for any reason." ECF No. 1-6 at 2.
2014, a Newport restaurant co-owned by Sgt. Quinn was the
victim of a telephone fraud scam. An employee of the
restaurant filed a criminal complaint and the NPD opened a
criminal investigation into the scam. Detective Sergeant
Frank Rosa was assigned to conduct the investigation.
the NPD opened the investigation, Sgt. Quinn appeared to try
to interfere with the investigation. Sgt. Quinn contacted
Steven Riccardi, a retired Secret Service Agent, to ask if
the Secret Service ever investigated these crimes and Mr.
Riccardi replied that he may be able to supply resources and
aid in the investigation. As such, Sgt. Quinn provided Det.
Rosa with Mr. Riccardi's contact information, but Dot.
Rosa never reached out for help. Sgt, Quinn also reached out
to State Representative Peter Martin regarding the
investigation and scam.
thereafter, Sgt. Quinn was asked to speak as a victim of the
telephone fraud at a press conference held by the Rhode
Island State Attorney General. Sgt. Quinn provided a brief
statement that was broadcast on television. After the press
conference, Sgt. Quinn sat down with a Special Assistant
Attorney General who asked about the status of the case. Sgt.
Quinn, at the Special Assistant Attorney General's
request, provided him with Det. Rosa's contact
information but did not ask the Attorney General's Office
to contact the NPD.
after the press conference, an email was circulated among
members of the NPD stating, "ROC Quinn was in the [NPD]
station earlier in the week and was up in [the Criminal
Investigation Division] inquiring about his criminal case.
Please remind ROC Quinn that using his FOB to enter the
station for such purposes is not only inappropriate but
forbidden. If he has personal business, he is to go through
normal channels as eveiy other citizen." ECF No. 12 at
¶ 25. Sgt. Quinn was not informed of this email.
after the press conference, Sgt. Quinn entered the NPD with
State Representative Peter Martin.
thereafter, Chief Silva terminated Sgt. Quinn as a member of
the ROC. A police officer escorted Sgt. Quinn out of the
building. In the termination meeting, Chief Silva did not
mention the email but claimed that Sgt. Quinn had interfered
with the investigation and had "gone way outside the
bounds of an investigation." ECF No. 12 at ¶ 30.
Chief Silva also stated that the reasons for terminating Sgt.
Quinn were that Sgt. Quinn brought a state representative
into the NPD with the intent of intimidating an investigation
and that Chief Silva had received phone calls from the
Attorney General's Office and the Secret Service on the
same day that two Secret Service agents showed up
unexpectedly at the NPD.
months after the termination, Sgt. Quinn contacted the
then-acting Newport City Manager Joseph J. Nicholson, Jr. to
appeal his adverse employment action. The City Manager told
Sgt. Quinn that he had not received documentation of the
adverse employment action and that he would reach out to
Chief Silva. Around that same time, Sgt. Quinn spoke with the
Director of Human Resources Michael Coury who also said that
he had received no documentation of adverse employment action
against Sgt. Quinn. A few months later, the City Manager
informed Sgt. Quinn that he was approved to return to work.
When Sgt. Quinn took steps to arrange for recertification and
return to work, he was denied and did not return to work at
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is warranted when the pleadings, the discovery and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The court must look to the record and view
all the facts and inferences in the light most favorable to
the non-moving party. Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Canadian
Universal Ins. Co., 924 F.2d 370, 373 (1st Cir. 1991).
evaluating "cross-motions for summary judgment, the
standard does not change,' [courts] view each motion
separately and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
respective non-moving party." Bonneau v. Plumbers
& Pipefitters Local Union 51 Pension Tr. Fund ex rel.
Bolton, 736 F.3d 33, 36 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting
Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield v. Springfield,
724 F.3d 78, 89 (1st Cir. 2013)). The court must determine
whether either party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law based on the undisputed facts. Scottsdale Ins. Co. v.
Torres, 561 F.3d 74, 77 (1st Cir. 2009).
City has moved for summary judgment on all counts and Sgt.
Quinn has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on Counts
II, III, IV. The Court will address each Count in turn.
Count I-First Amendment
Quinn alleges that the City took the adverse employment
action against him to punish him for speaking with the
Attorney General's Office and to the public in his role
as a victim of a crime. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 107-08.
"A public official seeking to make a claim out of
retaliation in violation of her First Amendment rights must
meet a four-factor test." O'Donnell v.
Barry, 148 F.3d 1126, 1133 (D.C. Cir. 1988).
is, (1) the public employee must have been speaking on a
matter of public concern,' (2) the employee's First
Amendment interest must not be outweighed by the governmental
interest in promoting the efficiency of the public services
it performs through its employees without disruption! (3) the
employee's speech was a substantial and motivating factor
in prompting the punitive act! and (4) the City can prove by
a preponderance of the evidence that it would have reached
the same decision even without the protected conduct.
Court need not address each elemental argument in
O'Donnell because the evidence fails to support the claim
that Sgt. Quinn was terminated because of his statement to
the media or the Attorney General's Office. As enumerated
in O'Donnell, the employee's speech must be a