United States District Court, S.D. Florida
QUINTON L. McGIRT, Plaintiff,
BROWARD COLLEGE; LINDA A. WOOD, individually and in her official capacity; CITY OF CORAL SPRINGS; and ANTHONY PUSTIZZI, individually and in his official capacity, Defendants.
P. GAYLES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
CAUSE comes before the Court on the Defendants City of Coral
Springs (the “City”) and Anthony Pustizzi's
Joint Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 81]. The Court has
carefully considered the parties' briefs, the exhibits
attached thereto, and the applicable law and is otherwise
fully advised in the premises. For the reasons that follow,
the motion shall be granted.
Quinton McGirt, a thirty-two-year-old African-American man,
was employed during the relevant time period by the City of
Coral Springs Police Department (the “Police
Department”). In early 2012, McGirt was hired by the
Police Department for the position of Traffic Accident
Investigator/Police Service Aid (“PSA”), a
civilian position whose duties include providing ancillary
support to the police officers at the scenes of motor vehicle
accidents. Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts
[ECF No. 82] (“Defs.' Statement”) ¶ 3.
After McGirt submitted several unsuccessful applications to
become a law enforcement trainee/police cadet, Defendant
Anthony Pustizzi, the City's Chief of Police, ultimately
promoted McGirt to the position in December 2013.
Id. ¶ 8. Pursuant to City administrative
policy, after his promotion, McGirt became a positional
probationary City employee subject to a one-year probationary
period during which time he could be terminated with or
without cause. Id. ¶ 9.
City sponsors and pays for its cadets to attend the police
academy, so McGirt attended Police Academy Class #291 at
Broward College (the “Academy”). Id.
¶¶ 1, 10. But shortly after McGirt began, the City
began to hear negative feedback about McGirt from the
Academy. Id. ¶ 11. First, a class supervisor
removed McGirt from class for being disrespectful.
Id. Second, McGirt was involved in a
near-altercation with another cadet during a physical
training session. Id. ¶ 18. Finally, McGirt was
accused of disrupting the class by making a comment during a
break that two female cadets perceived to be sexual in
nature. More specifically, a detective gave Class #291 a
presentation on gangs and informed the class that he had
appeared on an episode of the television series
Gangland. Id. ¶ 22. A female cadet
stated something along the lines of “Wow Sir. You
really have done everything, ” after which McGirt
immediately started singing “five dollar foot
long” (from commercial advertisements for Subway
restaurant), which the two female cadets took as sexual
innuendo. Id. ¶ 23. At the same time, another
cadet, Elliott Nieves, was observed by classmates making an
inappropriate hand gesture perceived to be of a sexual
nature. Id. ¶ 25.
Pustizzi directed Captain Chris Depalma and Sergeant David
Kirkland to respond to the complaints about McGirt's
behavior at the Academy. Id. ¶ 18. Depalma and
Kirkland interviewed McGirt about the allegations arising out
of the third incident. McGirt denied any wrongdoing and
claimed that the phrase “five-dollar foot long”
referred to someone “kissing up” to or flirting
with another person, as in kissing up to the sandwich
preparer at Subway to get a free sandwich. Id.
¶ 29. At the conclusion of the investigation, the City
determined that the “five-dollar foot long”
statement did not constitute a violation of the City's
express sexual harassment policy, but it ultimately
determined that McGirt's overall behavior amounted to
unbecoming misconduct and improper demeanor in violation of
the City's Administrative Police and the Police
Department's Rules and Regulations. Id. ¶
Pustizzi recommended that McGirt's employment with the
City be terminated. Id. ¶ 31. The City's
Director of Human Resources, Dale Pazdra, reviewed Chief
Pustizzi's recommendation with the City Attorney and
fully concurred in the decision. Id. Pazdra issued
correspondence to McGirt advising him that he was being
recommended for termination and that he had a right to an
informal pre-determination hearing before City Manager Erdal
Donmez, the official who makes the final decision with
respect to the termination of all City employees, including
police officers. Id.
exercised his right to this hearing, and he appeared
(represented by counsel) on April 14, 2014. Id.
¶ 32. McGirt and his counsel presented argument and
evidence in opposition to the proposed termination.
Id. One month after the hearing, and two weeks after
the completion of the investigation, Donmez terminated
McGirt's employment, effective May 15,
2014. Id. ¶ 33. In his
correspondence to McGirt, Donmez explained the basis (in
part) for his decision:
• On February 18, 2014, you were told to leave class by
Deputy Hunt for being disruptive. The email from Deputy Hunt
stated “I threw him out and told him that if he
disrespects me or another instructor again, I am sending him
back to the PD and he will not be welcome until the Chief
requests it”. The following day Sergeant Kozlowski and
Officer King met with you in person to discuss the email that
was received. Similar to the conversation Sergeant Kozlowski
had with you prior to entering the Academy, he explained
again the type of appropriate behavior that was expected of
you and that he would advocate for termination of your
employment for continued inappropriate behavior. This
counseling was documented in a memo to file dated February
• On March 28, 2014, Sergeant Kozlowski received a phone
call that on March 27, 2014, you were being disruptive in
class again by counting out of sequence during a Physical
Training session which frustrated another cadet at the
Academy. Based upon the City's Investigation, it was
deter- mined you provoked another Cadet to such an extent
that it nearly resulted in a physical altercation.
• Before arrival at the Police Academy to discuss the
March 27, 2014 incident with you, Sergeant Kozlowski received
another phone call on March 28, 2014. Sergeant Kozlowski was
informed that you disrupted class by making the comment
“five dollar foot long.” Other Cadets perceived
this comment as being sexual in nature, making them feel
uncomfortable and embarrassed. You claim, however, that this
phrase refers to someone “kissing up” to or
“flirting” with another person. Regardless of the
meaning of your comment, the comment disrupted class and was
In addition to the incidents summarized above; I have
reviewed the complete Investigation Report (#14-01). The
report contains statements from Academy Instructors, Deans,
and other cadets. The report illustrates in detail that
during the three months you attended the Academy you
exhibited an ongoing pattern of inappropriate behavior, poor
decision making, and a general unwillingness to adhere to
Academy conduct standards. Your inappropriate behavior was so
severe that your actions were characterized as
“bullying” by other cadets.
The expectations for your conduct and appropriate behavior
while attending the Academy were clearly communicated by both
Sergeant Kozlowski of the Coral Springs Police Training Unit
and Academy Instructors. Yet you disregarded those
instructions, resulting in your removal from the program. . .
Based on the severity of your conduct as a whole at the
Academy and in addition to the specific instances of conduct
cited in this letter, whether deemed serious misconduct or
extreme conduct, termination is warranted pursuant to City
policy. . . .
from Erdal Donmez, City Mgr., City of Coral Springs, Fla., to
Quinton McGirt (May 15, 2014) [ECF No. 83-21 at
exercised his right to a formal post-termination arbitration,
which was held on August 29, 2014, before Hearing Officer
Jack Martin Coe. Defs.' Statement ¶ 35. McGirt,
again represented by counsel, testified, called his own
witnesses, and cross-examined the City's witnesses.
Id. On September 10, 2014, Coe issued an opinion in
favor of the City upholding McGirt's termination.
Id. ¶ 35.
the arbitration, McGirt filed a charge of racial
discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) against the City and Broward
College. Am. Compl. ¶ 47. On August 14, 2015, the EEOC
issued McGirt right-to-sue letters for both the City and
Broward College. Id. ¶ 48; see also
Am. Compl. Ex. H.
filed a Complaint in this Court on November 3, 2015 [ECF No.
1], and amended it on May 3, 2016 [ECF No. 37]. Now,
following two orders from this Court on motions to dismiss
[ECF Nos. 30 & 64] and a stipulation by the parties
(adopted by the Court) to the dismissal of all claims against
Broward College and Dean Wood [ECF No. 74], four claims now
remain: race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq., against the City (Count I); procedural due process
and equal protection violations against the City and Pustizzi
(Count III); violations of Florida's Public Records Act,
Fla. Stat. § 119.01 et seq., against the City
(Count V); and common law defamation against the City (Count
VII). The City and Pustizzi have jointly moved for summary
judgment on all claims. McGirt opposes the motion.
judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a),
“is appropriate only if the movant shows that there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Tolan v.
Cotton, 572 U.S. -, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per
curiam) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)) (internal quotation
marks omitted); see also Alabama v. North Carolina,
560 U.S. 330, 344 (2010). “By its very terms, this
standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged
factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an
otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).
issue is “genuine” when a reasonable trier of
fact, viewing all of the record evidence, could rationally
find in favor of the nonmoving party in light of his burden
of proof. Harrison v. Culliver, 746 F.3d 1288, 1298
(11th Cir. 2014). And a fact is “material” if,
“under the applicable substantive law, it might affect
the outcome of the case.” Hickson Corp. v. N.
Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259-60 (11th Cir. 2004)
(citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
“Where the material facts are undisputed and all that
remains are questions of law, summary judgment may be
granted.” Eternal Word Television Network, Inc. v.
Sec'y of U.S. Dep't of Health & Human
Servs., 818 F.3d 1122, 1138 (11th Cir. 2016).
Court must construe the evidence in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in
that party's favor. SEC v. Monterosso, 756 F.3d
1326, 1333 (11th Cir. 2014). However, to prevail on a motion
for summary judgment, “the nonmoving party must offer
more than a mere scintilla of evidence for its position;
indeed, the nonmoving party must make a showing sufficient to