22 F.3d 26 (2nd Cir. 1994), 950, Martz v. Incorporated Village of Valley Stream

Docket Nº:950, Docket 93-7785.
Citation:22 F.3d 26
Party Name:Deborah MARTZ, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF VALLEY STREAM; George Donley, Individually, and as Mayor of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; Paul Brown, Individually, and as Trustee of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; Michael Belfiore, Individually, and as Trustee of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; Thom
Case Date:April 07, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
 
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22 F.3d 26 (2nd Cir. 1994)

Deborah MARTZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF VALLEY STREAM; George Donley,

Individually, and as Mayor of the Incorporated Village of

Valley Stream; Paul Brown, Individually, and as Trustee of

the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream; Michael

Belfiore, Individually, and as Trustee of the Incorporated

Village of Valley Stream; Thomas Williams, Individually,

and as Village Attorney for the Incorporated Village of

Valley Stream; Nunzio Colombo, Individually, and as

Treasurer of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream;

Joseph W. Gathard, as Trustee of the Incorporated Village of

Valley Stream; Rosario Messina, as Trustee of the

Incorporated Village of Valley Stream, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 950, Docket 93-7785.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

April 7, 1994

Argued Jan. 12, 1994.

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Elliot I. Susser, Lake Success, NY (Lysaght, Lysaght & Kramer, P.C., Lake Success, NY, of counsel), for plaintiff-appellant.

Kenneth Novikoff, Uniondale, NY (Evan H. Krinick, Rivkin, Radler & Kremer, Uniondale, NY, of counsel), for defendants-appellees.

Before: MINER, MAHONEY, Circuit Judges, and RESTANI, [*] Judge.

MINER, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff-appellant Deborah Martz appeals from a summary judgment entered on July 14, 1993 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Spatt, J.), in favor of defendants-appellants the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream, George Donley, Paul Brown, Michael Belfiore, Thomas Williams, Nunzio Colombo, Joseph W. Gathard and Rosario Messina ("Village", collectively) and dismissing Martz's complaint, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, in its entirety. The district court found that (1) the Village's alleged breach of a contract with Martz in not paying her for professional services rendered did not constitute a deprivation of a property interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, and (2) alleged defamatory statements attributed to the Village and first published in a local newspaper approximately six months after the expiration of Martz's one-year term of appointment as Deputy Village Attorney did not deprive her of any liberty interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

For the reasons that follow, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED.

BACKGROUND

In April of 1985, Martz was appointed by the Board of Trustees of the Village to a one-year term as Deputy Village Attorney for the Village's Board of Zoning Appeals ("BZA"). The original resolution 1 appointing Martz

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provided that she was to be paid an annual retainer to attend a specified number of meetings and public hearings of the BZA, prepare all written decisions of the BZA and prepare all written interpretations of the Village Zoning Code. A separate resolution empowered the Board of Trustees to contract with Martz to perform additional legal services on a case-by-case basis. This resolution also provided that she would be compensated at a fixed hourly rate and required Martz to submit verified written vouchers before receiving payment.

Early in 1988, Martz was directed by the Board of Trustees to begin drafting a new Zoning Code and was asked to wait until the project was completed before requesting payment. Although the new Zoning Code was passed in September of 1990, the Board of Trustees asked Martz to continue to work on minor revisions. In March of 1991, the Board of Trustees suggested that she submit her final bill for services rendered. Accordingly, Martz submitted verified written vouchers to her supervisor, Michael Hopkins. These vouchers totaled $40,220.00 for services provided in connection with Martz's drafting of the Zoning Code and for other BZA-related services. The vouchers then were signed by Hopkins and the members of the Board of Trustees and given to the Village Treasurer.

On April 1, 1991, a new mayor and three new trustees took office, having been elected on March 19, 1991. Martz's term as Deputy Attorney expired on April 1, and she was not re-appointed. Martz did not contest the failure to re-appoint. In mid-April, having not yet received payment for her work on the Zoning Code, Martz telephoned the Village's payroll department to check on the status of her vouchers. She was told that the vouchers had been picked up by the new Village Attorney, Thomas Williams. The Village continued to withhold payment and, on August 5, 1991, a resolution to pay Martz (submitted by the two incumbent Trustees) was defeated by a three-to-two vote of the Village Board. According to the Village, Martz was refused payment because the vouchers were viewed as being submitted and approved under extraordinarily suspicious circumstances. Several vouchers described services allegedly rendered over one year prior to their submission without any evidence of a resolution or contract authorizing Martz's services and without any corresponding budgetary appropriation. Other vouchers allegedly had been verified on March 15, 1991, but included time entries for work to be performed in the future.

On September 19, 1991, almost six months after Martz's appointment had expired, a local weekly newspaper, the Valley Stream Maileader, published a letter to the editor from Village Attorney Williams responding to an earlier letter from a Valley Stream citizen that discussed the number of lawsuits filed against the Village during the new administration's tenure. In the letter, Williams stated that it was his opinion, and the opinion of other lawyers with whom he had consulted, that Martz had committed malpractice by allowing a default judgment to be...

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