631 F.Supp. 1082 (D. Puerto Rico 1986), Civ. 85-0916, Agosto v. Aponte Roque

Docket NºCiv. 85-0916
Citation631 F.Supp. 1082
Party NameAgosto v. Aponte Roque
Case DateMarch 19, 1986
CourtUnited States District Courts, 1st Circuit, District of Puerto Rico

Page 1082

631 F.Supp. 1082 (D. Puerto Rico 1986)

Maria M. AGOSTO, Luz M. Camacho, Virginia Diaz, Vicente Vazquez Castro and Miguel A. Vega, Plaintiffs,

v.

Awilda APONTE ROQUE, individually and as Secretary of the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and Maria P. Scott, individually and as Regional Director of the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Defendants.

Civ. No. 85-0916 (JP).

United States District Court, D. Puerto Rico.

March 19, 1986

Page 1083

Pedro Miranda Correa, San Juan, Puerto Rico, for plaintiffs.

José Hamid Rivera, Saldaña, Rey, Morán & Alvarado, Santurce, Puerto Rico, for defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

PIERAS, District Judge.

This is an action for injunctive relief and damages brought under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, where plaintiffs alleged violation of their constitutional rights to freedom of belief and association and to due process under the law. This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the complaint under 28 U.S.C. Section 1331 and 1343(3) and (4).

A non-jury trial was held on December 16, 17 and 18, 1985, where both parties presented their witnesses and submitted documentary evidence. 1 Upon conclusion of the trial, the parties submitted the case to this Court for adjudication. Based on the evidence submitted by the parties and after due deliberation, this Court now makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

A. FINDINGS OF FACT

1. All five plaintiffs, María M. Agosto, Luz M. Camacho, Virginia Díaz, Vicente Vázquez Castro, and Miguel A. Vega, are career public employees of the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

2. Defendant Awilda Aponte Roque is, and was at the time of the action that gave rise to the complaint, the Secretary of the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

3. Defendant Maria Scott Morales is, and was at the time of the actions which gave rise to the complaint, the Regional Director of the Humacao Region of the Department of Education of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and was the direct supervisor of all five plaintiffs as career public employees of the Department of Education.

4. All five plaintiffs are members of the New Progressive Party (hereinafter NPP), and their political affiliation was well known in the community and by co-workers in the Department of Education. The NPP lost the general elections held in Puerto Rico on November 6, 1984, and the control of the Executive Branch of the Commonwealth Government, which it held for the previous eight years.

5. Both defendants are members of the Popular Democratic Party (hereinafter PDP), the political party whose candidate, Rafael Hernández Colón, was elected Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in the general elections held on November 6, 1984, and who at present holds said office. Awilda Aponte Roque was appointed Secretary of the Department of Education after Governor Rafael Hernández Colón had taken office as Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on January 2nd, 1985. María P. Scott Morales was appointed to her position as Director of the Humacao Region of the Department of Education by Awilda Aponte Roque after the latter had been appointed Secretary of the Department of Education. Defendant María P. Scott has been a candidate for public office in the Popular Democratic Party ticket. Also, Scott was Popular Party majority leader of the City of Yabucoa Municipal Assembly.

6. The NPP advocates statehood for Puerto Rico and the PDP advocates the status of a Commonwealth (Estado Libre Asociado) or, as the term is literally translated, a free associated state.

7. Both defendants knew, at the time of the actions which gave rise to the complaint, that all five plaintiffs were members of the New Progressive Party. In addition, defendant Awilda Aponte Roque had actual

Page 1084

knowledge of the actions taken by her subordinate, defendant María P. Scott against all plaintiffs as detailed below.

8. Plaintiff María M. Agosto has been a career public employee with the Department of Education during the last twenty-five (25) years. She has done post-graduate studies and has attained a Master's Degree in Education. Her first position was as Elementary School teacher and through the years she rose through the position of Curriculum Designer, Elementary School Director, Assistant Superintendent, and Superintendent of Schools, until in 1978 she attained her present position of Regional Assistant Director of Humacao Regional Office.

9. Plaintiff Luz M. Camacho has been a career public employee with the Department of Education during the last twenty-six (26) years. She has done post-graduate studies and has attained a Master's Degree in Education. Her first position was as an Elementary School Teacher and through the years she rose through the positions of Elementary School Director, Assistant Superintendent and General Supervisor I, until in 1983 she attained her present position as General Supervisor of School Services V in the Humacao Regional Office.

10. Plaintiff Virginia Díaz has been a career public employee with the Department of Education during the last thirty two (32) years. She has done post-graduate studies and has attained a Master's Degree in Public Health Education. Her first position was as an Elementary School Teacher and through the years she rose through the position of Elementary School Teacher, Secondary English Teacher, Health Zone Supervisor, Elementary English Teacher, and Assistant School Superintendent, until in 1983 she attained her present position as General Supervisor of School Services III in the Humacao Regional Office.

11. Plaintiff Vicente Vázquez Castro has been a career employee with the Department of Education during the last twenty-two (22) years. He has done post-graduate studies and has attained a Master's Degree in Education. His first position was as an Elementary School Teacher and through the years he rose through the positions of Elementary English Teacher, Secondary English Teacher, Elementary School Principal, Secondary School Principal and Assistant Superintendent, until in 1984 he attained his present position as General Supervisor of School Services V in the Humacao Regional Office.

12. Plaintiff Miguel A. Vega Díaz has been a career employee with the Department of Education during the last twenty-eight (28) years. He has done post-graduate studies and has a Master's Degree in School Administration and Supervision. His first position was as an Elementary School Teacher and through the years he rose through the positions of Elementary School Principal, and School Superintendent until in 1984 he attained his present position as General Supervisor of School Services in the Humacao Regional Office.

13. All the plaintiffs attained higher level positions through competitive procedures for each level, having taken examinations, having been selected from among other candidates due to their qualifications, and having passed a two-year probationary period.

14. Defendant María P. Scott became Humacao Regional Director on January 14, 1985, and all plaintiffs were her subordinates. Within four days of her appointment, Scott had taken away the duties and responsibilities of all five plaintiffs, assigning said duties to personnel in the Region who are members of the Popular Democratic Party and who were in lower positions than plaintiffs.

15. Defendant María P. Scott did not meet or consult with plaintiffs prior to taking away their duties, even though plaintiffs were in fact the senior staff in the Humacao Region. Plaintiff María Agosto was the Assistant Regional Director and, as such, second only to the Regional Director, Mrs. Scott, while the other four plaintiffs occupied the third echelon in the Region, below Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Agosto, but above the rest of the personnel.

Page 1085

16. Upon being relieved of their duties, plaintiffs requested from defendant Scott that she inform them of the reason for her actions, whereupon Mrs. Scott told them generally that the Popular Democratic Party had won the elections and that because of that, there had to be changes in the Region. She stated that there had been a political change in the government in November 1984 and therefore, changes had to take place in all aspects. Plaintiffs then requested a meeting with Mrs. Scott to discuss the taking away of their duties. Said meeting was to be held on January 22, 1985, but when plaintiffs arrived, Mrs. Scott refused to meet with them alone, insisting that if there was to be a meeting, it had to be with the attendance of Mrs. Aida Marcano, Mrs. Nydia Prestamo, Mrs. Lydia Cruz, Mr. Luis Meléndez, Mr. Jesus Molinari, Mr. Joel Díaz and Mr. Jorge Príncipe. These persons were the ones who had substituted plaintiffs in their duties and Mrs. Scott identified them to plaintiffs as her group of "confidence". All of them were members of the Popular Democratic Party.

17. Defendant Scott never met with plaintiffs as requested to discuss the taking away of their duties as she insisted that she would only meet if her "confidence group" was present.

18. All plaintiffs testified that they had been relieved of their duties and responsibilities solely because of their political affiliation. Even though defendant María P. Scott was a party in the case, was present during all the process and also testified, she presented no other justification for her conduct.

19. On January 24, 1985 all plaintiffs wrote to defendant Awilda Aponte Roque explaining that Mrs. Scott had taken away their duties and asking Mrs. Aponte Roque to take a hand in the situation and resolve the matter urgently in light of its importance...

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4 practice notes
  • 671 F.Supp. 112 (D. Puerto Rico 1987), Civ. 86-0403, Ramos Matta v. Tirado Delgado
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • September 10, 1987
    ...Party, have won a great advantage in the patronage field resulting in their entrenchment in Puerto Rico. See Agosto v. Aponte Roque, 631 F.Supp. 1082, 1095-96 & nn. 4-5 (D.P.R.1986), aff'd in part, No. 86-1300 (1st Cir. Aug. 14, 1987). Under Puerto Rico Supreme Court cases, the new NPP ......
  • 800 F.Supp. 1033 (D. Puerto Rico 1992), Civ. 85-0916, Agosto v. Aponte Roque
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • August 6, 1992
    ...controlling this case are set forth in detail in the Opinion & Order issued by this Court on March 19, 1986. Agosto v. Aponte Roque, 631 F.Supp. 1082, 1083-1092 (D.Puerto Rico (1986). A brief summary of the facts is nonetheless essential in understanding the issues now before the Court.......
  • 889 F.2d 1209 (1st Cir. 1989), 86-1300, Agosto-de-Feliciano v. Aponte-Roque
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
    • December 8, 1989
    ...a prima facie case of political discrimination and that the defendants had not submitted a "credible justification." 631 F.Supp. 1082 (D.P.R.1986). It granted an injunction reinstating plaintiffs to their former duties. It observed that neither defendant had raised the defense of ......
  • 672 F.Supp. 40 (D. Puerto Rico 1987), Civ. 85-2323, Donate Romero v. Colorado
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • September 16, 1987
    ...damages assessed to plaintiffs in addition to the injunctive relief of reinstatement and back pay awarded. 2 See Agosto v. Aponte Roque, 631 F.Supp. 1082 (D.P.R.1986), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, No. 86-1300, slip op. (1st Cir. Aug. 14, 1987); Morales Morales v. Arias, 656 F.Supp. 973, 97......
4 cases
  • 671 F.Supp. 112 (D. Puerto Rico 1987), Civ. 86-0403, Ramos Matta v. Tirado Delgado
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • September 10, 1987
    ...Party, have won a great advantage in the patronage field resulting in their entrenchment in Puerto Rico. See Agosto v. Aponte Roque, 631 F.Supp. 1082, 1095-96 & nn. 4-5 (D.P.R.1986), aff'd in part, No. 86-1300 (1st Cir. Aug. 14, 1987). Under Puerto Rico Supreme Court cases, the new NPP ......
  • 800 F.Supp. 1033 (D. Puerto Rico 1992), Civ. 85-0916, Agosto v. Aponte Roque
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • August 6, 1992
    ...controlling this case are set forth in detail in the Opinion & Order issued by this Court on March 19, 1986. Agosto v. Aponte Roque, 631 F.Supp. 1082, 1083-1092 (D.Puerto Rico (1986). A brief summary of the facts is nonetheless essential in understanding the issues now before the Court.......
  • 889 F.2d 1209 (1st Cir. 1989), 86-1300, Agosto-de-Feliciano v. Aponte-Roque
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
    • December 8, 1989
    ...a prima facie case of political discrimination and that the defendants had not submitted a "credible justification." 631 F.Supp. 1082 (D.P.R.1986). It granted an injunction reinstating plaintiffs to their former duties. It observed that neither defendant had raised the defense of ......
  • 672 F.Supp. 40 (D. Puerto Rico 1987), Civ. 85-2323, Donate Romero v. Colorado
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • September 16, 1987
    ...damages assessed to plaintiffs in addition to the injunctive relief of reinstatement and back pay awarded. 2 See Agosto v. Aponte Roque, 631 F.Supp. 1082 (D.P.R.1986), aff'd in part, rev'd in part, No. 86-1300, slip op. (1st Cir. Aug. 14, 1987); Morales Morales v. Arias, 656 F.Supp. 973, 97......