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McCall v. D.C. Housing Authority

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

November 19, 2015

Donald M. McCall, Appellant,
D.C. Housing Authority, et al., Appellees.

Submitted February 26, 2015

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CAB-8225-12) (Hon. Thomas J. Motley, Trial Judge)

F. Douglas Hartnett was on the brief for appellant.

Alfred L. Scanlan, Jr., and James N. Markels were on the brief for appellee.

Before Washington, Chief Judge, McLeese, Associate Judge, and Belson, Senior Judge.

Belson, Senior Judge

Appellant Donald McCall filed a complaint against the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) and four DCHA police officers based on the District of Columbia Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA), D.C. Code §§ 1-615.51-59 (2012 Repl.), on October 19, 2012. He now appeals from the trial court's order dismissing his complaint as barred by the applicable one-year statute of limitations.[1] We reverse, holding (1) that McCall should have the opportunity to demonstrate that the defendants violated the WPA by bringing about a hostile work environment that persisted into the limitations period, and (2) that regardless of the success or failure of McCall's hostile work environment claim, his termination as alleged constituted a discrete violation of the statute that independently triggered the limitations period.

I. Facts

We summarize the facts as alleged in the complaint, taking them as true for purposes of reviewing the order dismissing the complaint. On January 5, 2011, McCall was working as a Special Police Officer (SPO) for DCHA when he arrested a man known as "Black" for violating a DCHA notice barring him from entering the Garfield Terrace apartments. After the arrest, McCall found marijuana, cocaine, and drug paraphernalia on the arrestee's person and in the apartment where he was found. At this point McCall called for back-up, and "after arriving on the scene a Metropolitan Police unit from the 3rd District assisted him in searching the apartment for additional drugs and other contraband (guns)."[2]

Other members of the DCHA police force arrived, and instructed McCall to give the arrestee a new five-year barring notice. They then removed the arrestee's handcuffs, and told him he was free to go. When McCall asked why, he was told that the order came from a supervisor, Sergeant Clarence Major and that he should "go home." Standard police forms documenting the arrest were not created, the drugs and drug paraphernalia were not seized or properly processed and, McCall alleges, they may instead have been sold or returned to drug dealers in the community.

When McCall later asked Sergeant Major about the drugs, Sergeant Major replied "[l]ook I'm not the one who's going to look bad here I'm going to put it on you." McCall wrote a standard statement detailing the events of January 5. Lieutenant Johnnie Villines, DCHA Police Region Commander, asked another officer ("E") who had been on duty that night to lie in a manner that incriminated McCall instead of the other officers involved, but "E" refused and as a result suffered punishment by DCHA authorities. Subsequently, a "campaign of harassment" began against McCall, involving excessive and repeated scrutiny and false accusations of workplace blunders. The goal of this campaign was to force McCall to quit or to find a pretext for firing him.

On or about April 5, 2011, McCall was ordered to attend a class on the District's disorderly conduct statute at the MPD Training Academy. During a break in the class, Lieutenant Julia Meyers called McCall back to DCHA headquarters. As McCall walked into the building, Officer Floyd Flavors stated that he would kill McCall if he continued to push the issue of the stolen narcotics. In the meeting with Lieutenant Meyers, McCall was accused of impersonating a police officer based on information that he reported to the class without his badge-a situation that McCall had remedied by retrieving his badge from his car. Nevertheless, McCall was placed on administrative leave on that same day, April 5, 2011, while the false impersonation charge was investigated-actions that McCall views as retaliatory. DCHA officials sought a warrant for his arrest, but were unable to obtain the cooperation of the U.S. Attorney. No charges were ever filed against McCall regarding the incident.

McCall was eventually reinstated, but he became very sick, and also feared for his life. Because his medical issues and fear rendered him unable to return to work, he left his home to live with family in the state of New York. As late as May 17, 2011, McCall voiced his concerns about the incidents of January 5, 2011, to various persons with the DCHA, including Lieutenant Villines and Nicole Mason, an attorney with the DCHA. He submitted a claim for worker's compensation, but Lieutenant Villines refused to help him with his paperwork, and insisted that he return to work even after a physician had certified that McCall should not be working. This refusal persisted even after McCall's attorney resubmitted the worker's ...

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