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Parker v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 28, 2016

William Parker, Plaintiff,
v.
National Railroad Passenger Corporation, d/b/a Amtrak, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff William Parker filed this lawsuit against his former employer, Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak"), alleging discriminatory treatment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 14.01.1 et seq. Plaintiff-an African-American police officer who worked in the Amtrak Police Canine Unit- asserts that Defendant terminated his employment on the basis of his race. Defendant disagrees and instead asserts that it had a legitimate non-discriminatory reason to terminate him-namely, that Plaintiff had engaged in unethical behavior and then lied to Amtrak investigators about his conduct.

         This matter is before the court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the pleadings and evidence, the court finds that no reasonable juror could conclude that Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff when it terminated his employment. Accordingly, the court grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.[1]

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         In 2007, Amtrak hired Plaintiff to serve as a Captain in the Amtrak Police Department's (APD) Canine Unit. Def's Stmt, of Facts in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 29-2 [hereinafter Def's Stmt], ¶ 1; Pl's Stmt, of Facts in Supp. of Opp'n of Def's Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 34-2 [hereinafter Pl's Stmt.], at 12, ¶ 1. After serving in this role for approximately four years, Plaintiff was promoted to Inspector-a management-level position-where he was responsible for overseeing, supervising, and training other Canine Unit officers. Def's Stmt. ¶¶2-3; Pl's Stmt, at 12, ¶ 2.

         In September 2011, both the APD's Office of Internal Affairs ("Internal Affairs") and the Amtrak Office of the Inspector General ("OIG") received anonymous complaints concerning Plaintiff. Def's Stmt. ¶¶ 12, 22. Internal Affairs and OIG are distinct offices within Amtrak and have separate investigative authority. Id. ¶ 23. The complaints alleged, among other things, that Plaintiff co-owned a property in Maryland (the "Property") with a subordinate officer-Sarah Bryant-with whom he was romantically involved and that, as a result of their relationship, he was impermissibly steering overtime funds to Bryant. i#.¶¶ 16, 22. Internal Affairs and OIG launched separate investigations into those allegations, which included interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence from the public record. Id. ¶¶ 12-27.

         1. Internal Affairs' Investigation

         Three months later, in March 2012, Internal Affairs concluded its inquiry and issued its Report of Investigation ("Internal Affairs Report"). Internal Affairs found that the allegations against Plaintiff were "not sustained" by the record and closed the investigation without taking any significant adverse employment action. Id.¶ 19; Pl's Stmt, at 15, ¶ 19. Internal Affairs did send Plaintiff a Letter of Counseling advising him to avoid acting in ways that might lead to future potential appearances of impropriety. Def's Stmt. ¶¶20-21; Pl.'s Stmt. at 15-16, ¶20; Pl's Opp'n, Ex. 6, Investigative Report from Adrienne R. Rish to Lisa Shahade and William Hermann, ECF No. 29-6 [hereinafter OIG Report], at 3.

         Not everyone within Internal Affairs, however, agreed with the outcome of Plaintiff s investigation. Officer Linda Dixon, the head of Internal Affairs at the time and the lead investigator's immediate supervisor, dissented from the decision not to hold Plaintiff accountable and refused to sign the final Internal Affairs Report. Pl's Stmt, at 7, ¶ 26. Internal Affairs nonetheless issued its Report and, on April 19, 2012, Officer Dixon sent a memo to the then-APD Chief of Police, expressing her disagreement with the Internal Affairs Report's conclusions. Def 's Stmt. ¶ 28; OIG Report at 3. According to Plaintiff, Dixon then circumvented the APD chain of command and raised her dissatisfaction about the Internal Affairs Report directly with OIG. Pl's Stmt, at 7, ¶ 26-30. The record does not reveal Dixon's specific objections to Internal Affairs' findings.

         2. OIG's Investigation

         Meanwhile, OIG s parallel investigation into Plaintiff s conduct continued, concluding six months later and reaching a far different conclusion than Internal Affairs. On October 12, 2012, OIG issued an Investigative Report ("the OIG Report"), finding that the allegations against Plaintiff were in fact sustained by the evidence. The OIG Report found that Plaintiff and his subordinate, Officer Bryant, jointly owned the Property and that Plaintiff had given preferential treatment in giving assignments to Bryant and others whom he had hired, which resulted in greater overtime pay for those employees. OIG Report at 5, 12-14. The OIG Report also concluded that Plaintiff (1) had intentionally misled both OIG and Internal Affairs investigators, and (2) had submitted false tax documents in connection with his purchase of the Property in potential violation of Maryland law. Id. at 5-14.

         OIG submitted its report to the APD's Acting Chief of Police at the time, Lisa Shahade. After reviewing the report, Shahade terminated Plaintiff from his position. Def's Stmt. ¶¶ 53-54; Id., Ex. J, Declaration of Lisa Shahade, ECF No. 29-14 [hereinafter Shahade Decl.], ¶ 13.

         B. Procedural Background

         1. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

         On September 30, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit in this court, alleging: (1) discrimination in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 14.01.1 et seq. (Count 1); and, (2) discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count 2). See generally Compl.

         On October 23, 2015, following discovery, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, in which it argued that it had terminated Plaintiff for a legitimate non-discriminatory reason-specifically, his acts of misconduct and deceit, as detailed in the OIG Report. See generally Def's Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. Judg, ECF No. 29 [hereinafter Def's Mot.]. On December 24, 2015, Plaintiff filed his Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, claiming that Defendant's proffered non-discriminatory reason for terminating him was a pretext for discrimination. See generally Pl's Opp'n to Def's Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 34 [hereinafter Pl's Opp'n]. On January 27, 2016, Defendant filed a Reply to Plaintiff s Opposition. See Def.'s Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 41 [hereinafter Def.'s Reply].

         2. Additional Motions

         In addition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, a host of procedural motions filed by Plaintiff are before the court. On January 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a "Motion to Defer Ruling on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment Pending Additional Discovery, " in which he requested leave to take additional discovery-namely, the depositions of the current APD Chief of Police, Polly Hanson, and a third-party investigator for the Laurel Police Department, John Superson. See generally Pl's Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Defer Summ. J. for Add'l Discovery, ECF No. 37-1 [hereinafter Pl's Mot. to Defer Summ. J.]. Defendant opposed Plaintiff s request to re-open the record. See generally Def.'s Opp'n to Pl's Mot. to Defer Summ. J., ECF No. 39. The court will address the claimed relevance of the proposed additional discovery in the Discussion section below.

         On February 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Leave to File a Surreply in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, " seeking to supplement the record with evidence regarding Defendant's alleged failure to produce records relating to the OIG investigation during discovery. See generally Pl's Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to File Surreply, ECF No. 47-1 [hereinafter Pl's Mot. for Surreply]. Defendant opposed that motion, as well. See generally Def.'s Opp'n to Pl's Mot. for Surreply, ECF No. 50.

         On August 3, 2016, Plaintiff filed a third motion entitled "Motion to Supplement the Record on Summary Judgment, " which sought to file-as an additional exhibit to Plaintiff's Opposition-an investigation report prepared by John Superson. See generally Pl's Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Suppl. the Record on Summ. J., ECF No. 54-1 [hereinafter Pl's Mot. to Suppl.]. Defendant opposed that motion, too. See generally, Def.'s Opp'n to Pl's Mot. to Suppl., ECF No. 57.

         Finally, on August 31, 2016, Plaintiff filed a "Motion for Leave to File Certificate of Authenticity of Records, " which concerned the proposed Superson report. See generally Pl's Mot. to Incl. Cert, of Records, ECF No. 60. Having already opposed the motion to add that exhibit to the record, Defendant also opposed the filing of the certificate of authenticity. ...


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