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Noble v. Sombrotto

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 17, 2017

DAVID W. NOBLE, JR., Plaintiff,
VINCENT R. SOMBROTTO, et al., Defendants.



         The history of this lawsuit is set out comprehensively in this Court's post-remand Supplemental Findings and Conclusions of March 27, 2015 and, accordingly, will not be rehashed again here. See Noble v. Sombrotto (“Noble IV”), 84 F.Supp.3d 11 (D.D.C. 2015). Pursuant to those Supplemental Findings and Conclusions, the Court issued an Order entering judgment in favor of the defendants--the National Association of Letter Carriers (“NALC”), various individual NALC officers, an officer of the union's Mutual Benefit Association, and an officer of the union's Health Benefit Plan--on David Noble's claims under Section 501 of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (“LMRDA”), 29 U.S.C. § 401, et seq., regarding the payment of in-town allowances. Order, ECF No. 305. The Court, however, was unable to resolve Mr. Noble's other surviving claim that “the defendants violated their obligations under Section 201 of the LMRDA by refusing his requests to inspect certain documents in order to verify the contents of financial reports that the NALC filed with the Department of Labor.” Noble IV, 84 F.Supp.3d at 13.

         The D.C. Circuit had vacated the Court's earlier finding that Mr. Noble's Section 201 claim was moot and had directed the Court to address the merits of that claim, “‘as well as the factual determination of what (if any) records Noble has requested but not yet received.'” Id. at 32 (quoting Noble v. Sombrotto (“Noble III”), 525 F.3d 1230, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 2008)). But, on remand, the Court concluded that the existing record and the parties' post-remand pleadings did not permit the Court to make the requisite factual determination. Id. Mr. Noble's post-remand proposed findings made “a conclusory assertion that he has not been provided sufficient documents, ” id. (citing Pl.'s Suppl. Proposals (“Pl.'s Proposals”), ECF No. 270 at 2, 4), and the defendants' post-remand proposals “did not explain precisely what he has been given access to.” Id. (citing Defs.' Suppl. Proposals (“Defs.' Proposals”), ECF No. 272 at 8-9). Without a clearer explanation of which requests are at issue, the Court found that it was unable to rule in favor of either party's Section 201 legal argument. Id.

         Accordingly, the Court directed the parties to file supplemental briefs. Id. at 32-33. Specifically, Mr. Noble was directed to “file a pleading setting forth in precise detail, with corresponding evidentiary citations, which requests for the inspection of documents he claims were refused by the NALC, and why his Section 201 claim should succeed as to each individual request, ” id. at 33; the defendants were directed to “file a response to these arguments, which shall include, among whatever other arguments the defendants deem appropriate, an explanation, with corresponding evidentiary citations, whether any requests still pursued by Mr. Noble have been fully complied with, ” id.; and Mr. Noble was permitted a reply brief. Id.

         Upon consideration of those supplemental filings, the existing record, and the applicable law, the Court concludes that Mr. Noble is not entitled to examine any NALC documents and records. Accordingly, the Court enters judgment in favor of the defendants on Mr. Noble's Section 201 claim.

         I. Findings of Fact

         On August 16, 1993, Mr. Noble sent a letter to then-President of the NALC Vincent Sombrotto informing President Sombrotto that he had filed charges with the NALC Executive Council. August 16, 1993 Letter from David Noble to Vincent Sombrotto, Pl.'s Ex. 31, ECF No. 296-12 at 1. Mr. Noble asserted that his charges were based on “significant and substantial discrepancies between the constitutionally authorized amounts of compensation and expenses payable to [President Sombrotto] and the members of the NALC Executive Council and the amounts disclosed under oath to the Department of Labor on the NALC's LM-2 Reports for the years 1984 through the present.” Id. Mr. Noble further demanded “the right to inspect, review and verify any and all documents, receipts, records, bills, checks, ledgers, account books, petty cash receipts, charge slips, minutes, and resolutions” that related to his charges. Id. at 3.

         President Sombrotto responded in a letter dated August 31, 1993. See August 31, 1993 Letter from Vincent Sombrotto to David Noble, Ex. Q to NALC's Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 126. Although President Sombrotto asserted that Mr. Noble had not established the “just cause” required for review of the NALC's records under the applicable federal statute, id. at 1 (citing 29 U.S.C. § 431(c)), he informed Mr. Noble that the NALC records relevant to his charges and “necessary to verify the NALC's LM-2 reports for 1988-1993” would be made available to him for his examination at the NALC's headquarters on September 13, 1993 or a date thereafter, and he directed Mr. Noble to contact Jerry Gutshall to make an appointment for the requested document and record examination. Id. at 1-2.

         Prior to undertaking any examination of records at the NALC's headquarters, Mr. Noble wrote to Jerry Gutshall on September 14, 1993. Noble IV, 84 F.Supp.3d at 21 (citing September 14, 1993 Letter from David Noble to Jerry Gutshall, Pl.'s Ex. 38, ECF No. 296-13 at 1). In that September 14, 1993 letter, Mr. Noble indicated that he wanted to review documents and records that fell into the following eighteen categories:

1. The payroll records of President Sombrotto and Secretary-Treasurer Richard P. O'Connell from 1980 to the present date.
2. All payroll records of the NALC Trustees from 1980 to the present.
3. In order to understand the assets reported in NALC's LM-2 reports, all records and documents relating to the bank account at the Minneapolis, Minnesota bank account at the Union Bank & Trust Company, account number 110390400, from 1989 to the present.
4. All receipts and other records and documents referred to in Item "3" of the NALC Executive Council's December 8, 1980 resolution concerning the payment of "in-town" entertainment expenses.
5. Expense vouchers for all NALC Executive Council members for August and September, 1988, 1990, and 1992. . . .
6. All NALC financial ledgers and accompanying notes, memoranda and reports prepared by the NALC, its employees, agents and service providers from 1981 to the present.
7. All receipts, bills, checks, check stubs, and charge card slips relating to expenditures made by all current and former NALC Executive ...

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