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Newbrough v. Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

February 23, 2015

DAVID NEWBROUGH, Plaintiff,
v.
BISHOP HEELAN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS, THE DIOCESE OF SIOUX CITY, R. WALKER NICKLESS, and DAN RYAN, Defendants.

RULING ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JON STUART SCOLES, Chief Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment (docket number 17) filed by the Defendants on September 16, 2014, the Resistance (docket number 25) filed by the Plaintiff on October 17, and the Reply (docket number 31) filed by Defendants on October 27.

Also before the Court is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (docket number 38) filed by the Plaintiff on January 20, 2015, and the Resistance (docket number 43) filed by the Defendants on January 27, 2015. Pursuant to Local Rule 7.c, the motions will be decided without oral argument.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 5, 2013, Plaintiff David Newbrough filed a complaint seeking judgment against Defendants Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools ("BHCS"), The Diocese of Sioux City ("The Diocese"), R. Walker Nickless, and Dan Ryan. Newbrough claims he was terminated from his employment as Chief Financial Officer of BHCS as a result of religious and age discrimination. Newbrough also claims that after he filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission ("ICRC") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), Defendants retaliated against him by terminating him from a volunteer position as official scorekeeper at Heelan basketball games. All four Defendants filed separate answers on February 7, 2014, denying the material allegations and asserting certain affirmative defenses.

On March 11, 2014, the Court adopted a proposed Scheduling Order and Discovery Plan submitted by the parties. Also at that time, the case was referred to a United States magistrate judge for the conduct of all further proceedings and the entry of judgment, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and the consent of the parties. The case was assigned to Magistrate Judge Leonard T. Strand. Judge Strand entered an order setting the matter for trial on April 6, 2015, with a final pretrial conference on March 24, 2015.

On September 16, 2014, Defendants timely filed the instant motion for summary judgment. On October 17, Plaintiff filed a resistance to Defendants' motion for summary judgment and, in the same document, filed a motion for partial summary judgment. This procedure failed to comply with Local Rule 7.e ("A resistance to a motion may not include a separate motion or a cross-motion by the responding party. Any separate motion or cross-motion must be filed separately as a new motion."). Accordingly, the Court ordered Plaintiff to re-file his motion in compliance with the rules. On January 20, 2015, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for partial summary judgment.

Judge Strand set the parties' respective motions for summary judgment for hearing on November 20. The hearing was later continued to December 22. On December 19, however, Judge Strand found he was required to recuse himself. The case was then assigned to me.

III. RELEVANT FACTS

In support of their motion for summary judgment and in compliance with Local Rule 56.a.3, Defendants filed a statement of material facts. The statement sets forth those facts as to which Defendants contend there is no genuine issue. The statements are supported by citations to the record, as required by FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 56(c)(1)(A). Initially, Plaintiff did not respond to Defendants' statement of material facts, as required by Local Rule 56.b.2. Instead, Plaintiff simply filed his own statement of material facts in support of his motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court gave Plaintiff an opportunity to file appropriate responses. Plaintiff responded to Defendants' statement of material facts on January 20, 2015.

A. The Parties

Plaintiff David Newbrough was an employee of Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools from August 11, 2003, through January 25, 2013. Newbrough was the Director of Finance, or "CFO, " for Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools.

The Diocese of Sioux City is a religious corporation, association, or society. It is comprised of 24 counties in northwest Iowa, with 112 parishes. Defendant R. Walter Nickless was installed as Bishop of The Diocese on January 20, 2006, and currently holds that position.

Defendant Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools ("BHCS") is a religious corporation and religious educational institution. It is one of 16 school systems within The Diocese. There are approximately 1, 600 children enrolled in BHCS, in grades pre-K through 12, at five locations throughout Sioux City. BHCS has a Board of Education of 9 to 11 unpaid members. The BHCS Board of Education has primary financial responsibility for BHCS, reviews the school system's budget, and approves the budget. BHCS also has a finance committee comprised of individuals with finance expertise, which advises the Board on financial matters, including recommendations to the Board for a specific action. BHCS has a president who is the lead administrator of the BHCS school system, and is responsible for monitoring and overseeing the budget, making budget recommendations to the Board of Education, working with the Board's committees, overseeing human resource issues, and other administrative duties. The President of BHCS has the authority to fire employees under his or her supervision, including persons in Newbrough's position of Director of Finance.

Defendant Dan Ryan has been the Superintendent of Schools for The Diocese since June 2009, and is in that position at the present time. As the Superintendent of Schools for The Diocese, Ryan is the lead person for the Diocesan Office of Education, and works with all of the 16 school systems within The Diocese.

B. Background Leading Up to Termination

On October 12, 2012, the BHCS Board of Education received the annual audit report for fiscal year 2011-2012.[1] The audit report showed an operations loss of $149, 313 for fiscal year 2011-2012.[2] At a finance committee meeting on November 15, 2012, Timm Funk, the Board of Education Treasurer, recommended that Superintendent Ryan implement a budget reduction plan over the next two budget years, 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, to make up the operating loss from fiscal year 2011-2012. On November 19, 2012, at a BHCS Board of Education meeting, Funk presented the Treasurer's Report and recommendation to implement a budget reduction plan to address the operating loss from fiscal year 2011-2012. The Board accepted the Treasurer's recommendation and passed the following motion:

Whereas, the President shall take necessary steps to recover [] approximately 50% of the FY 2012 deficit by the end of 6-30-13. Finance committee has determined this to be approximately $75, 000. The other $75, 000 would need to be recovered in FY 2014. Whereas, the President shall take necessary steps to address the forecasted deficit for FY 2014 and report to the Board with those actions or recommendations at the January 2013 meeting.

Defendants' Statement of Material Facts in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (docket number 17-1) at 7-8, ¶ 42; Exhibit A, Defendant's Appendix (docket number 17-3) at 229.

In order to meet the Board's directive, Ryan decided to restructure BHCS's administrative office. Specifically, Ryan proposed the elimination of two positions in the administrative office, the Director of Finance and the Director of Marketing. Ryan further proposed that a new controller position be created to replace the Director of Finance position. The new controller position would have a significantly lower salary compared to the Director of Finance position, but would also have fewer duties; i.e., running the day-to-day financial activities of BHCS, while Ryan would take over the duties of overseeing and monitoring BHCS's long-term financial needs.[3] Ryan also intended to reallocate the duties of the Director of Marketing position to the Director of Advancement and Director of Annual Giving positions. Prior to implementing the restructuring of the administrative office, Ryan explained his plan to both Bishop Nickless and the Board of Education officers.

C. Newbrough's Termination

On January 11, 2013, Newbrough was informed by Ryan that the position of Director of Finance was being eliminated and Newbrough was being terminated. The position was downgraded to that of Financial Controller, to perform some of the same work previously assigned to Newbrough. Katie Firestine, a 30-year-old Catholic, was hired by BHCS to fill the new position. On January 11, 2013, Newbrough was 50 years old and not Catholic. Newbrough continued to work through January 25.

On the same date, Angie Heller, the Director of Marketing, was also informed that her position was being eliminated and she was being terminated. At the time of her termination, Heller was 45 years old and Catholic.

D. Alleged Retaliation

Newbrough was the BHCS varsity boys basketball official scorekeeper for multiple seasons, including the 2012-2013 season. The official scorekeeper for varsity boys basketball games is a volunteer position. Newbrough did not receive any compensation for being the official scorekeeper, and it was not part of his employment or duties as the Director of Finance at BHCS. Newbrough was terminated as the official scorekeeper on November 13, 2013, prior to the start of the 2013-2014 boys basketball season. Newbrough filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission ("ICRC") in May 2013. Newbrough alleges that his termination as the varsity boys basketball official scorekeeper was in retaliation for his filing a complaint with the ICRC.

IV. LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party shows that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). A genuine dispute as to a material fact "exists if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the party opposing the motion.'" Anderson v. Durham D & M, L.L.C., 606 F.3d 513, 518 (8th Cir. 2010) (quoting Humphries v. Pulaski County Special School District, 580 F.3d 688, 692 (8th Cir. 2009)). A fact is a "material fact" when it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law...." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In order to establish the existence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact, the non-moving party "may not merely point to unsupported self-serving allegations.'" Anda v. Wickes Furniture Co., 517 F.3d 526, 531 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting Bass v. SBC Communications, Inc., 418 F.3d 870, 872 (8th Cir. 2005)). Instead, the non-moving party "must substantiate [its] allegations with sufficient probative evidence that would permit a finding in [its] favor.'" Anda, 517 F.3d at 531 (quoting Bass, 418 F.3d at 873); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (A nonmoving party must offer proof "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."). "Evidence, not contentions, avoids summary judgment.'" Reasonover v. St. Louis County, Mo., 447 F.3d 569, 578 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Mayer v. Nextel W. Corp., 318 F.3d 803, 809 (8th Cir. 2003)). The court must view the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and afford it all reasonable inferences. Baer Gallery, Inc. v. Citizen's Scholarship Foundation of America, Inc., 450 F.3d 816, 820 (8th Cir. 2006) (citing Drake ex rel. Cotton v. Koss, 445 F.3d 1038, 1042 (8th Cir. 2006)).

V. DISCUSSION

In his complaint, Newbrough alleges discrimination based on religion in violation of Title VII and the ICRA (Counts I and II), age discrimination in violation of the ADEA and the ICRA (Counts III and IV), and retaliation in violation of Title VII and the ADEA (Count V). For a variety of reasons, Defendants ask that all of Newbrough's claims be summarily dismissed. Newbrough also filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that he is entitled to summary ...


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