Cooper v. U.S. States Postal Service

Decision Date18 April 2007
Docket NumberNo. 3:03CV01694(DJS).,3:03CV01694(DJS).
Citation482 F.Supp.2d 278
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
PartiesBertram COOPER, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, et al., Defendants.

Renee Colette Redman, American Civil Liberties Union, Hartford, CT, Suzanne Ellen Wachsstock, Wiggin & Dana, Stamford, CT, for Plaintiff.

Douglas P. Morabito, U.S. Attorney's Office, New Haven, CT, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

SQUATRITO, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Bertram Cooper ("Cooper") brings this action for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants United States Postal Service ("the Postal Service"), John E. Potter ("Potter"), and Ronald G. Boyne ("Boyne") (collectively, "the Defendants"), and against Intervenor Defendants Full Gospel Interdenominational Church, Inc. ("the Church"), Dr. Philip Saunders Heritage Association, Inc. ("the Association"), and Sincerely Yours, Inc. ("SYI") (collectively, "the Intervenor Defendants"), alleging violations of his rights, and the rights of all citizens, under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Now pending are the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (dkt.# 38) and Cooper's Motion for Summary Judgment (dkt.# 41).1 For the reasons stated herein, the Defendants' motion (dkt.# 38) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and Cooper's motion (dkt.# 41) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. FACTS2

This case involves whether, and to what extent, it is constitutional for the Postal Service to allow a religious organization to operate a business known as a contract postal unit ("CPU"), which, pursuant to a contract with the Postal Service, provides certain postal services to the public. At all times relevant to this case, the following information applies: Cooper is a natural person residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Defendant Potter is Postmaster General of the United States, which is the chief executive officer of the Postal Service. See 39 U.S.C. §§ 202(c), 203. Defendant Boyne is the Postmaster of the Manchester, Connecticut post office. Intervenor Defendant the Church, a religious organization, originally signed the contract with the Postal Service for a CPU to be located on private property at 1009 Main Street in Manchester, Connecticut; this contract was subsequently transferred to Intervenor Defendant SYI, a Connecticut not-for-profit corporation that operates the CPU on private property in Manchester. The Association, also a Connecticut not-for-profit corporation, was organized to hold the real estate of the Church, and is the titleholder and landlord to the real estate located at 1009 Main Street in Manchester, Connecticut.3

A. THE POSTAL SERVICE AND CONTRACT POSTAL UNITS

The Postal Service, which derives its authority from the Constitution of the United States, see U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 7, acts as an independent establishment of the executive branch of the federal government, see 39 U.S.C. § 201. The general duties of the Postal Service are to plan, develop, promote, and provide adequate and efficient postal services at fair and reasonable rates and fees, and to receive, transmit, and deliver written and printed matter and parcels throughout the United States and the world. See 39 U.S.C. § 403. Congress has bestowed the Postal Service with the power "to provide and sell postage stamps and other stamped paper, cards, and envelopes and to provide such other evidences of payment of postage and fees as may be necessary or desirable." Id. § 404(a)(4).

In certain circumstances, the Postal Service enters into contracts establishing CPUs, which are distinguishable from traditional, government-run "official" post offices (also known as "classified units") staffed and operated by Postal Service employees. The Postal Service's Glossary of Postal Terms defines a CPU as

a postal unit that is a subordinate unit within the service area of a main post office. It is usually located in a store or place of business and is operated by a contractor who accepts mail from the public, sells postage and supplies, and provides selected special services (for example, postal money order or registered mail).

(Dkt.# 49-B, Ex. 16.) CPUs are operated by persons who are not postal employees. (See id., Ex. 20.) CPUs are not permitted to provide products from competing services such as Federal Express or the United Parcel Service, but they may conduct non-postal business on the premises in an area that is separate and distinct from the postal products. All postal funds must be kept separate from the non-postal funds.

The Postal Service relies upon CPUs to bring postal services to areas in which the Postal Service has determined that the establishment of a classified unit would be unfeasible. There are approximately 5,200 CPUs nationwide, and they are currently operated in, among other places, colleges, grocery stores, pharmacies, quilting shops, and private residences. The Postal Service has represented that there are several CPUs being operated by institutions and groups with religious affiliations.

The Postal Service asserts that CPUs are more cost-effective than classified units because CPUs offer the same products as classified units, but without the costs (e.g., employee salaries and benefits) associated with classified units. Contracts for CPUs usually come in two varieties, performance-based contracts and fixed-price contracts. A performance-based contract is a contract in which the supplier is paid in relationship to how much revenue the CPU generates. Some factors for determining the percentage that a supplier will receive under a performance-based contract are: the competition in the area; the need in the community; and the cost for operating that particular CPU. A fixed-price contract is a contract in which the supplier receives twelve monthly payments per year to reflect the annual rate, regardless of the amount of revenue the CPU generates. The Postal Service prefers performance-based CPU contracts.

The decision to open a CPU starts at the local level, where issues such as the length of the wait lines at classified units, area need, cost, and competition are considered. Once it has been determined that a particular area is in need of a CPU, there is an approval process from the local level to the Postal Service's district office. The Postal Service then engages in a solicitation and evaluation process whereby the Postal Service solicits bids from the community for CPU locations. The Postal Service receives and evaluates the bids. Selection for the awarding of a CPU contract is based on a formula regarding a "business score" and a "price score," and the standard criteria used in evaluating CPU proposals are: suitability of location, suitability of the facility, and ability to provide services.

Each CPU has a contracting officer representative appointed to oversee that CPU. The contracting officer representative is responsible for administering the contract. Once a CPU contract has been awarded, the contracting officer representative has the responsibilities of conducting on-site reviews, performing an annual re, view of the CPU's bond, conducting periodic financial reviews with an annual audit, and reviewing the operating/service hours at the CPU. There is no required schedule that a contracting officer representative must keep with regard to a CPU, although he must conduct on-site reviews "periodically."

B. THE SINCERELY YOURS, INC. CONTRACT POSTAL UNIT

Boyne, who is a member of the Church, has been the Postmaster for the Town of Manchester since 1998. Boyne has been trained to oversee CPUs and has acted as a contracting officer representative on several occasions at various CPUs; however, he has testified that he spends minimal time on CPU matters. Before the CPU contract was awarded to the Church (which was later transferred to SYI), the Town of Manchester had two prior CPUs in operation, the Weston Pharmacy CPU and the Community Place CPU, which provided postal services to a large contingent of the Manchester community for whom the trek to the classified Manchester Post Office was too burdensome or inconvenient. Boyne was the contracting officer representative for the Community Place CPU from 1998 through October 2001, when the Community Place CPU closed.

Eight months prior to closing, the Community Place CPU gave the Postal Service notice of its closing. There was substantial community interest generated by this closing, as the community sought to find a suitable replacement. Although the Postal Service considered establishing a second classified unit in Manchester, it ultimately decided to contract for a new CPU. The Postal Service immediately began a search to find a site that would replace the Community Place CPU. This search included the solicitation of proposals for a new CPU, and the Postal Service sent solicitations throughout the Manchester community. Boyne states that he met with the mayor of Manchester, "two congressmen and the senator,4 the board of directors for the Town of Manchester, and the Manchester Downtown Council regarding the replacement CPU. Two organizations submitted bids to operate the replacement CPU: Manchester Hardware, Inc. ("Manchester Hardware") and the Church. Apparently, before the Church and Manchester Hardware submitted their competing bids, Manchester Hardware had submitted previous bids, which the Postal Service rejected. The Postal Service evaluation committee for the CPU bids submitted by Manchester Hardware and the Church consisted of Denise Adessa, Tony Impronto, and Mark Kielbasa. This committee gave the Church a higher suitability score than Manchester Hardware,5 and on November 20, 2001, the Postal Service awarded the CPU contract to the Church. Boyne was not involved in the evaluation, selection, or award of the CPU contract to the Church. On October 9, 2003, the Church and the Postal Service modified the CPU contract by replacing the Church...

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