The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.
DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
This matter comes before the court on the defendants' motion
for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56(c). The plaintiff, Harry J. Winter ("the plaintiff" or "Mr.
Winter"), brings this pro se suit for breach of contract. The
plaintiff claims that the United States Department of Housing
and Urban Development ("HUD") has a contractual obligation to
reimburse him for a training workshop he attended in Las Vegas
and for the associated travel costs. Specifically, the plaintiff
alleges that HUD pre-approved his grant money for the trip,
according to customary procedure. See Pl.'s "Opposing"
Response to Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ("Pl.'s
Response") ¶ 15; Pl.'s Response Opposing Summ.J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n")
¶ 18. Defendants Mary Dunn and Lee Palman are named in their
official capacities as HUD employees.
The defendants move to dismiss this action under Rule 56(c) on
the ground that there is no genuine issue as to HUD's
non-authorization of the plaintiffs trip because the plaintiff
was aware that written approval was necessary for all grant
requests. See Mot. for Summ.J. at 3. Indeed, the plaintiff
concedes that official procedure required him to obtain written
approval. See Pl.'s Reply at 6.*fn1 The defendants also
assert that the agency did not act arbitrarily or capriciously
by declaring the trip an ineligible expense.
For the reasons that follow, the court holds that because
there is a genuine issue as to HUD's non-approval of the
plaintiffs grant request, the defendants' motion for summary
judgment is premature. Accordingly, the court will deny without
prejudice the defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Harry J. Winter is the President of the Resident Council for
Horizon House, a public-housing project that receives grant
money from HUD's Tenant Opportunities Program ("TOP"). See
Pl.'s Response ¶ 4. A Resident Council is a community liaison
body designed to improve resident satisfaction and quality of
life and to promote participation in self-help initiatives.
Council members receive training in community organization and
fiscal management, among other things. See id. Mr. Winter
asserts that the D.C. HUD Field Office gave him and other
council members inadequate training in grant-writing skills.
See Pl.'s Reply at 2-3. Consequently, council members asked
the D.C. Housing Authority ("DCHA") to investigate the workshop
offerings. See id. While Mr. Winter does not discuss the
result of this investigation, he and the other members decided
to seek out training programs on their own. See id. at 4. Mr.
Winter states that because HUD and DCHA failed to provide him
with information on local workshops, he found a suitable
grant-writing workshop in Las Vegas, Nevada. See id.
Mr. Winter claims that HUD official Mary Dunn pre-approved his
Las Vegas proposal over the telephone on July 29, 1999. See
Pl.'s Response ¶ 7-8. He admits, however, that she never put her
approval in writing. See Pl.'s Reply at 6. He also states that
he was aware that Ms. Dunn needed to provide written approval of
all such "draw down" requests. See id. Nevertheless, Mr.
Winter maintains that he followed the customary procedure for
draw-down requests, which was to receive verbal approval from
a HUD official. See Pl.'s Response ¶ 15; Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 18. He
submitted a grant-request form to HUD only after his trip. See
Pl.'s Response ¶ 14.
Mr. Winter states that Ms. Dunn called him on or about August
7, 1999 and advised him to cancel the trip, because the Office
of Inspector General ("OIG") was auditing Horizon House's
records. See Pl.'s Response ¶ 10. He asserts, however, that
Ms. Dunn never rescinded her approval:
I told Defendant Dunn that all tickets had been
purchased based on her approval. Defendant Dunn left
the option to me whether I would still go. I told her
that this trip was planned, you approved it, and I
still intend on going. The conversation abruptly
Id. The defendants counter that before Mr. Winter departed,
both the HUD D.C. Field Office and OIG determined that the trip
was not eligible for reimbursement and told him as much. See
Mot. for Summ.J. at 3; Defs.' Reply at 3. The defendants also
note that Resident Council training was free and available from
the HUD D.C. Field Office. See Mot. for Summ.J. at 2. Ms. Dunn
states that during the first week of August, she notified Mr.
Winter that HUD would not reimburse him for the Las Vegas
workshop. See id., Ex. 2 ¶ 5. She maintains that based on
materials provided by Mr. Winter, she could not determine how
the trip related to the operations of the TOP. See id., Ex. 2
The OIG conducted an auditing review of the Resident Council
on August 19, 1999. Joan Hobbs, an Assistant Inspector General
for Audit, says she specifically told Mr. Winter on that day
that his Las Vegas trip would not be eligible for reimbursement.
See id., Ex. 4 ¶ 3. Unless the training was pre-approved in
writing or the OIG's audit found a justifiable need for the
trip, Mr. Winter would travel at his own personal expense. See
id. In Mr. Winter's version of the conversation, Hobbs said
that he would be reimbursed if
the training were an eligible trip. See Pl.'s Response ¶ 13.
On October 13, 2000, the plaintiff filed his complaint in the
Small Claims and Conciliation Branch of the Civil Division of
the D.C. Superior Court. See Notice of Removal, Ex. A. On
November 9, 2000, the federal defendants removed the ...