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Gallow v. Pittis

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

September 4, 2019

Toni Gallow, Plaintiff,
Adam Pittis, et al., Defendants.

          Magistrate Judge Kimberly A. Jolson



         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 33.) Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Opposition to the Motion (ECF No. 38), and Defendants filed a Reply (ECF No. 41). The matter is now ripe for decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Because this is a motion for summary judgment by the defendants, all disputed facts are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Davenport v. Causey, 521 F.3d 544, 546 (6th Cir. 2008).

         As relevant here, on January 7, 2019, Plaintiff Toni Gallow filed her Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 26) in which she alleges one federal cause of action and seven state causes of action against Defendants East Guernsey Local School District Board of Education (“East Guernsey”) and Adam Pittis. The sole federal cause of action that Ms. Gallow alleges (Count One) is a violation of her Fourteen Amendment due process rights by Adam Pittis, in both his individual and official capacities.[1] The relevant allegations from Ms. Gallow's complaint are as follows.

         Ms. Gallow is a teacher who has been employed by East Guernsey since 2003. (ECF No. 26 ¶¶ 15, 17, 72.) In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Ms. Gallow has held more than a dozen supplemental positions, including as a Home Tutor, Yearbook Advisor, Resident Educator Mentor, and Head Boys & Girls Track Coach (the “supplemental positions”). (Id. ¶¶ 17, 20.) With respect to her teaching position, Ms. Gallow has the job security that tenure provides; however, with respect to the supplemental positions, she has been required to reapply annually for any positions that she sought. (Id. ¶ 20; ECF Nos. 26-3 - 26-6.) Each year, Ms. Gallow reapplied for various supplemental positions, and each year she signed a one-year contract for each position she was granted. (ECF No. 26 ¶ 20; ECF Nos. 26-3 - 26-6.) The contracts for her supplemental positions all expressly provide that they expire at the end of the applicable school year and that the supplemental positions do not carry with them any right to a continuing contract or a notice of nonrenewal. (ECF Nos. 26-3 - 26-6.)

         East Guernsey procedure requires each interested teacher applying for a supplemental position to submit a letter of interest to the office of the superintendent. (ECF No. 26 ¶ 32.) It is then the superintendent's prerogative whether to recommend to East Guernsey to grant the contract. (Id.) East Guernsey has the ultimate say in whether to grant or deny each request for a contract for a supplemental position. (Id.)

         In summer 2015, East Guernsey hired Mr. Pittis to be the new superintendent for the school district. (Id. ¶ 26.) In June 2016, Ms. Gallow submitted letters of interest to Mr. Pittis's office for seven supplemental positions for the 2016-17 school year. (Id. ¶¶ 31-32, 52.) Ms. Gallow had previously been appointed to these seven positions, often many times before. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 25, 31.)

         On September 9, 2016, Ms. Gallow and Mr. Pittis attended a meeting during which Mr. Pittis accused Ms. Gallow of a crime. (Id. ¶¶ 37-38.) Specifically, Mr. Pittis accused Ms. Gallow of falsifying her time sheets and “double billing.” (Id. ¶¶ 38-39.) At two subsequent meetings, Ms. Gallow provided evidence to Mr. Pittis to refute his allegations. (Id. ¶¶ 43-44, 48.) However, Mr. Pittis told Ms. Gallow that he would not be recommending renewal of most of her supplemental contracts for the 2016-17 school year, seemingly based on his suspicions of wrongdoing by Ms. Gallow. (Id. ¶¶ 45, 49.) As a result, Ms. Gallow received contracts for only three of the seven supplemental positions for which she applied. (ECF Nos. 26-4 - 26-6.)

         Subsequent to these meetings, Mr. Pittis told other East Guernsey employees about his suspicions that Ms. Gallow had been double billing. (ECF No. 26 ¶ 56.) Rumors began to spread, and Ms. Gallow became the subject of significant gossip in the community. (ECF No. 26 ¶¶ 60- 62.) Based on all of this, on October 24, 2017, and again on November 6, 2017, Ms. Gallow requested that she be granted a name-clearing hearing in order to prove that the allegations were false. (Id. ¶¶ 66-67.) Mr. Pittis denied both requests. (Id. ¶ 67.)

         Ms. Gallow alleges that Mr. Pittis's refusal to allow her a name-clearing hearing has deprived her of her liberty interest in her reputation, good name, honor, and integrity, in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 78, 80.)


         Summary judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant has the burden of establishing there are no genuine issues of material fact, which may be achieved by demonstrating the nonmoving party lacks evidence to support an essential element of its claim. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Barnhart v. Pickrel, Schaeffer & Ebeling Co., 12 F.3d 1382, 1388-89 (6th Cir.1993). The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “ ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' ” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970).

         A genuine issue exists if the nonmoving party can present “significant probative evidence” to show that “there is [more than] some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Moore v. Philip Morris Cos., 8 F.3d 335, 339-40 (6th Cir. 1993). In other words, “summary judgment will not lie . . . if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; see also Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (concluding that summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence could not lead the trier of fact to find for the non-moving party).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Defendants have filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on the grounds that qualified immunity is a bar to liability on Count One, the only federal claim. (ECF No. 33, at 1.) Defendants then argue that the Court should decline to exercise supplemental ...

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