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Black v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia

September 29, 2015

DION E. BLACK, Plaintiff,

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          DION E. BLACK, Plaintiff, Pro se, Washington, DC.


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         Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Dion Black (" Mr. Black" ) filed this lawsuit after being reassigned by Defendant, the District of Columbia (" the District" ), to a new position within the District's Department of Transportation (" DDOT" ). Mr. Black alleges four claims: (1) violation of his due process rights; (2) conspiracy among District employees to deprive him of his due process rights; (3) whistleblower protection; and (4) defamation.[1] Am. Compl., Docket No. 11 at 11-17.

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Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record, the District's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         II. Background

         A. Mr. Black's official reprimand procedure and reassignment

         Mr. Black worked in the Office of the General Counsel at the DDOT. Am. Compl. ¶ 25. On January 10, 2012, Assistant Attorney General for DDOT Melissa Williams (" Ms. Williams" ) informed Mr. Black that she was proposing an official reprimand be issued for his absence without approved leave, neglect of duty, and insubordination. Id. ¶ ¶ 13-14. Mr. Black, in accordance with DDOT procedures and D.C. Code § 1-616.51 (2013), was afforded an opportunity to provide a written response to the proposed discipline action. Id. ¶ 17. Mr. Black filed a written response on January 17, 2012 with Steve Messam (" Mr. Messam" ), the Deputy Chief of the DDOT's Administrative Services Branch. Mr. Messam acknowledged receipt of Mr. Black's response by signing the envelope within which the written response was enclosed. Id. ¶ 22.

         Mr. Black's case was assigned to Ronaldo Nicholson (" Mr. Nicholson" ), a deciding official who did not have a working relationship with Ms. Williams or Mr. Black. Id. ¶ 32. In May 2012, Mr. Black was reassigned to a position in the Transportation Policy and Planning Administration (" TPPA" ) within DDOT. Id. ¶ 25 ; Ex. 6.

         In November 2012, Mr. Black requested a copy of DDOT's grievance alternative dispute procedures. Id. Mr. Messam directed Mr. Black to the District Personnel Manual Chapter 16. Id. ¶ ¶ 30-31. Mr. Black responded that " in accordance with DPM § 1633.1, each agency Director must approve an agency policy for alternative dispute resolution and that this approved process must be reasonably made known to employees upon request." Id. ¶ 30.

         On December 7, 2012, Ms. Williams allegedly instructed one of her subordinates to finalize the disciplinary action letter for Mr. Nicholson's signature. Id. ¶ 33. In December 2012, Mr. Black contacted Mr. Nicholson directly to ensure he had Mr. Black's response. Id. ¶ 33. Mr. Black then e-mail Mr. Messam to ensure his response was being considered. Id., Ex. 8. Mr. Messam assured Mr. Black that the Mr. Nicholson was following the fair and impartial procedures set forth by DPM 1613 and that Mr. Black's response had been submitted to Mr. Nicholson. Id. Mr. Messam added " your attempt at ex parte communication with Mr. Nicholson essentially impedes [the fair and impartial] process." Id. Still, Mr. Messam invited Mr. Black to resubmit his response in a sealed package to Human Resources staff. Id.

         On December 21, 2012, Mr. Messam met with Mr. Black and gave him the final decision letter signed by Mr. Nicholson. Id. ¶ 45. The letter stated that Mr. Nicholson reviewed the proposed reprimand, Mr. Black's written response, and other documentation. Id. ¶ 46; see also Ex. 9. Mr. Black asked for a copy of his response from Mr. Messam's file. Id. ¶ 47. Mr. Messam indicated Mr. Black's response was in Ms. Williams's possession. Id.

         B. Mr. Black's appeal of the final reprimand decision

         After Mr. Black's reprimand was issued, he submitted a grievance of the discipline action to Jose Thommana (" Mr. Thommana" ), the assigned grievance official. Id. ¶ ¶ 49-50. Mr. Black argued that the reprimand process violated his due process rights, in particular because Ms. Williams and Mr. Messam did not provide Mr. Black's response to the proposed disciplinary action to Mr. Nicholson. Id. at ¶ 51. Mr. Black also requested that Mr. Thommana

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implement the alternative dispute resolution procedure " as required pursuant to District Personnel Manual ยง ...

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