Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Gartman v. Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

February 22, 2018

ELIZABETH GARTMAN
v.
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF JEFFERSON PARISH

         SECTION "F"

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish's motion to dismiss Elizabeth Gartman's complaint for failure to state a claim. The plaintiff alleges federal and state law claims, but the motion is only directed to the federal law claims. The defendant also moves to dismiss the remaining state law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction if the Court grants the defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's federal claims. For the following reasons, the defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is GRANTED in part, as to the federal due process claim, and DENIED in part, as to the retaliation claim under the False Claims Act. The defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is DENIED.

         Background

         These due process and False Claims Act retaliation claims arise out of the termination of an employee of a public agency, and the lawsuit that followed.

         The Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish is a public body that provides housing assistance to low income residents in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana through the administration of various programs. Participation in these programs is determined by eligibility guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD supplies HAJP with most of its funding, and therefore, oversees HAJP's activities and spending, and works closely with HAJP employees.

         HAJP hired Elizabeth Gartman on June 2, 2009 as an office manager. On June 12, 2012, Gartman and HAJP entered into an employment agreement setting forth the terms of Gartman's employment. The agreement provided that Gartman was an at-will employee, and could be terminated with or without cause and with or without notice by the Executive Director. In early 2016, HAJP did not renew its employment contract with the Executive Director. Gartman was appointed Acting Executive Director by a board resolution on April 12, 2016. Her appointment was intended to last for ninety days, but was extended indefinitely until a permanent Executive Director was hired.

         By the end of the year, Gartman's relationship with her co-workers had deteriorated. In November 2016, Gartman contacted the HUD fraud hotline within the Office of the Inspector General. She reported that she suspected mismanagement and “apparent collusion” between the director of the New Orleans HUD Office, Cheryl Williams, and members of the HAJP Board. Although reports to the hotline are expected to be kept confidential, Williams was informed of Gartman's call and confronted Gartman. Shortly thereafter, according to the complaint, Gartman was forced to complete unnecessary and burdensome tasks by the HUD and the HAJP board and experienced delays from both bodies in critical moments relating to HAJP's funds. Additionally, HUD required Gartman to submit a Corrective Action Plan that addressed HAJP's failure to comply with HUD rules and regulations pertaining to funding. From November 2016 until February 2017, Gartman alleges that she complied with HUD's request, but that prompted criticism and harassment from HAJP board members. She was terminated by the HAJP Board of Commissioners on February 21, 2017, allegedly as a result of her cooperation with HUD and alerting OIG to her suspicions regarding the relationship between certain HAJP board members and certain HUD employees.

         Gartman brought this lawsuit against HAJP, alleging that she was retaliated against in violation of the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h), and in violation of her federal due process rights. She also made several claims under state law. On January 18, 2018, HAJP moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed. Rule of Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6). The motion to dismiss was directed solely at Gartman's federal law claims. HAJP also moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Fed. Rule of Civ. Proc. 12(b)(1), in the case the Court granted the motion to dismiss and only the state law claims remained.

         I.

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to move for dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Such a motion is rarely granted because it is viewed with disfavor. See Lowrey v. Tex. A & M Univ. Sys., 117 F.3d 242, 247 (5th Cir. 1997)(quoting Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Sales, Inc. v. Avondale Shipyards, Inc., 677 F.2d 1045, 1050 (5th Cir. 1982)).

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009)(citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8). "[T]he pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require 'detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court “accept[s] all well-pleaded facts as true and view[s] all facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” See Thompson v. City of Waco, Texas, 764 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Doe ex rel. Magee v. Covington Cnty. Sch. Dist. ex rel. Keys, 675 F.3d 849, 854 (5th Cir. 2012)(en banc)). But, in deciding whether dismissal is warranted, the Court will not accept as true legal conclusions. Id. at 502-03 (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         To survive dismissal, “‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Gonzalez v. Kay, 577 F.3d 600, 603 (5th Cir. 2009)(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678)(internal quotation marks omitted). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations and footnote omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (“The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.”). The Court's task “is to determine whether the plaintiff stated a legally cognizable claim that is plausible, not to evaluate the plaintiff's likelihood of success.” Thompson v. City of Waco, Texas, 764 F.3d 500, 503 (5th Cir. 2014)(citation omitted). This is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” I ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.