Sullivan v. Chester Water Auth.

Decision Date22 July 2022
Docket Number2:22-cv-00147-JDL
PartiesGREGORY B. SULLIVAN, Plaintiff v. CHESTER WATER AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maine

GREGORY B. SULLIVAN, Plaintiff
v.
CHESTER WATER AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants

No. 2:22-cv-00147-JDL

United States District Court, D. Maine

July 22, 2022


ORDER ON PENDING MOTIONS AND RECOMMENDED DECISION AFTER REVIEW OF COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 1915

John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff alleges that more than sixty-five individuals, businesses, and local, state, and federal agencies conspired to violate his and others' constitutional and statutory rights. (Complaint, ECF No. 1.) After he filed his complaint, Plaintiff moved to amend the complaint. (Motion, ECF No. 10.)

With his complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee, which motion the Court granted. (Motion, ECF No. 3; Order, ECF No. 7.) In accordance with the statute that governs matters filed without prepayment of the filing fee, a preliminary review of Plaintiff's complaint is appropriate. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

I grant Plaintiff's motion to amend his complaint. Following a review of Plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, I recommend the Court dismiss the matter.

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Standard of Review

The governing statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1915, is designed to ensure meaningful access to the federal courts for those persons unable to pay the costs of bringing an action. When a party is proceeding without prepayment of the filing fee, however, “the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines,” inter alia, that the action is “frivolous or malicious” or “fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted” or “seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). “Dismissals [under § 1915] are often made sua sponte prior to the issuance of process, so as to spare prospective defendants the inconvenience and expense of answering such complaints.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324 (1989).

When considering whether a complaint states a claim for which relief may be granted, courts must assume the truth of all well-plead facts and give the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom. Ocasio-Hernandez v. Fortuno-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2011). A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A self-represented plaintiff is not exempt from this framework, but the court must construe his complaint ‘liberally' and hold it ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Waterman v. White Interior Sols., No. 2:19-cv-00032-JDL, 2019 WL 5764661, at *2 (D. Me. Nov. 5, 2019) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)). This is “not to say that pro se plaintiffs are not required to plead basic facts sufficient to state a claim.” Ferranti v. Moran, 618 F.2d 888, 890 (1st Cir. 1980). Moreover, “[d]espite the

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highly deferential reading which [courts] accord a litigant's complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), [courts] need not credit bald assertions, periphrastic circumlocutions, unsubstantiated conclusions, or outright vituperation.” Correa-Martinex v. Arrillaga-Belendez, 903 F.2d 49, 52 (1st Cir. 1990).

Factual Background

Plaintiff moved to amend his complaint to correct the date he alleges an event occurred. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1) permits Plaintiff to amend his complaint once as a matter of course within 21 days of service of the complaint. The complaint has not been served upon any defendant. In accordance with Rule 15, therefore, Plaintiff's motion to amend is granted. Plaintiff's complaint is amended as Plaintiff requests. The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's complaint, as amended.

Plaintiff, who is African American, was employed by Defendant Chester Water Authority (CWA) in Chester, Pennsylvania from 2000 until 2008. (Complaint ¶¶ 1, 3, 14.) Plaintiff alleges state and local political officials not only prevented an investigation into, but participated in, the exploitation of the citizens of Chester, who are predominately poor and African American. (Id. ¶ 9.)

In 2000, Plaintiff filed a complaint with Defendant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the CWA and his union, Defendant International Brotherhood of Firemen and Oilers SEIU Local # 473, for racial discrimination and harassment, which complaint resolved through mediation. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 3, 5.) Plaintiff filed additional complaints for harassment and retaliation against CWA with the EEOC in 2003 and 2005; both complaints were dismissed. (Id. ¶ 6.)

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In 2007, Plaintiff injured a toe on his right foot in a workplace incident. (Id. ¶ 7.) He alleges he and other African American employees of CWA did not receive full benefits after injuries and illnesses. (Id.) He filed another complaint against CWA with the EEOC in 2007 for racial discrimination and retaliation, which complaint he did not pursue because of alleged intimidation. (Id. ¶ 7.) Plaintiff later refiled the complaint. (Id. ¶ 8.) He asserts the EEOC coerced him into a mediation of the matter in 2008, but no settlement was reached. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 10.) Plaintiff does not state how the complaint was resolved.

Plaintiff alleges he received substandard care for his toe injury. (Id. ¶ 11.) In July 2010, a surgeon operated on Plaintiff's toe. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff felt continuing pain after the surgery and asserts he received inadequate care because he reported the discrimination that he allegedly experienced. (Id. ¶ 22.) He contends that he never received adequate care for the toe from subsequent medical providers in Maine. (Id. ¶ 26.)

Plaintiff asserts that from 1999 until 2008 he experienced discrimination due to a hearing disability, and retaliation and harassment because of his disability and race. (Id. ¶ 12.) Plaintiff claims he was subjected to surveillance by a counterintelligence program, involving several individuals and organizations in Pennsylvania. (Id.)

CWA terminated Plaintiff's employment in October 2008. (Id. ¶ 14.) When he contacted the EEOC about filing another complaint, the EEOC directed him to speak with his union regarding his termination. (Id.) A union representative informed Plaintiff the union could not help him; Plaintiff did not pursue the matter. (Id.)

Plaintiff moved to Portland, Maine in March 2010 and applied for General Assistance soon after his arrival. (Id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff claims that Defendant City of Portland

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discriminated against him, as well as other minorities, the homeless, and those without financial means, and that he has been denied certain public services. (Id. ¶ 27.) He also claims he was denied care at various medical facilities. (Id. ¶ 17.)

Plaintiff complained to Defendant Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) beginning in July 2011 about the long lines to apply for and receive benefits, the irregularities regarding the General Assistance program's refusal to pay recipients' “back bills,” and the harassment from staff and other recipients. (Id. ¶ 28.) Plaintiff contends that after his complaint to DHHS, he was harassed by various agencies and businesses in Portland. (Id.)

Shortly after arriving in Maine, Plaintiff moved into Defendant YMCA of Portland housing, where he currently resides. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff claims staff at the facility permitted a resident to address him with a racially derogatory term, and that other residents have harassed him. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 41-43, 45.) Plaintiff alleges he had some difficulties with his cell phone after using the phone to research the statutes governing harassment. (Id. ¶¶ 50, 53.)

Plaintiff also claims while residing at the YMCA, his pain medication was taken and from him and some residents took items from other residents. (Id. ¶¶ 40, 42, 47.) In 2015, Plaintiff attempted to file charges against the director of the YMCA's residential program regarding the theft of medications and other belongings. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 36.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Portland Police Department did not investigate the charges. (Id. ¶ 36.)

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Plaintiff alleges staff harassed him for using the “handicap door” when entering the building. (Id. ¶ 48.) In 2020, staff informed Plaintiff that he needed to provide documentation of his disability to use the door. (Id. ¶ 54.) After providing the documentation, staff told him he had to have a cart to use the door. (Id. ¶ 55.)

In April 2010, Plaintiff began working at Defendant Clarion Hotel in Portland, where he claims he experienced discrimination. (Id. ¶ 20.) He alleges he was deprived of the tips he earned, he had to accomplish two-person tasks by himself, and cooks and waitstaff refused to make his meals or take his orders. (Id.)

In 2012, Plaintiff called 911 from a store near his residence for a ride to the hospital, and the arriving EMTs refused to transport him. (Id. ¶ 39.) He called 911 again and police officers responded. (Id.) The officers did not transport him to the hospital. (Id.)

Plaintiff asserts he was suspended from General Assistance from February 2013 to July 2013. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) Plaintiff was suspended from MaineCare and food stamps in December 2013. (Id. ¶ 30.) In 2017, Plaintiff was suspended temporarily from General Assistance for failing to provide requested information regarding his claimed disability. (Id. ¶¶ 33, 35.)

Plaintiff alleges various medical providers, General Assistance personnel, DHHS, and other individuals and agencies in Maine harassed him, discriminated against him, and denied him services based on his history in Pennsylvania and his complaints to government officials about his employment with CWA. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 27, 31, 33, 34, 46.) Plaintiff also contends that there were irregularities with his General Assistance benefits and MaineCare

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benefits, and that he was subject to surveillance and harassment because he complained. (Id...

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