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Monds v. City of Quitman

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division

March 28, 2018

DAVID W. MONDS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF QUITMAN, GEORGIA, Defendant.

          ORDER

          HUGH LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE

         Plaintiff David Monds initiated this action on July 18, 2016. (Doc. 1). He asserts a single cause of action for race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (Title VII), the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Id. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant engaged in unlawful employment discrimination by failing to hire Plaintiff because of his race. Id. Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 11). After reviewing the pleadings, briefs, depositions, and other evidentiary materials presented, and determining that there is no genuine dispute of material facts, the Court finds that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and grants Defendant's motion.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         In May 2014, Plaintiff David Monds, a black man, applied for the position of City Clerk and Treasurer for the City of Quitman, Georgia. (Doc. 1, ¶ 16). Danny Herring, the City Manager at the time, prepared the job announcement with the assistance of Janice Jarvis, the retiring City Clerk and Treasurer. (Doc. 11-2, p. 3). The announcement listed specific duties of the job, including the following:

. . . develops internal controls and financial policies to promote effective governance and accurate receipts, disbursements and investments; coordinates external audit activities and audit preparation; researches technical accounting issues, ensures compliance with GAAP and prepares financial reports; prepares and delivers monthly internal management reports to communicate case flow, receipts, disbursements, investments and debt management activity. . .

(Doc. 11-10). The minimum requirements listed in the job announcement were “Bachelor Degree in Business or Public Administration, Accounting, Finance or related field. At least five (5) years experience in local government accounting and management preferred. Comparable combinations of education and experience will be considered.” Id.

         Plaintiff's resume indicated that he held a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Fort Valley State University and a Master of Science degree in Administration. (Doc. 11-10, p. 112). Plaintiff's application further demonstrated that he had a significant background in human resources management and that he was previously employed as a Human Resources Manager for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for four years. (Doc. 11-10, pp. 113-15).

         The City of Quitman received numerous applications for the position. (Doc. 11-1, ¶ 24). Plaintiff was one of five candidates selected for an interview. (Doc. 11-2, p. 4). The other four candidates included Ms. Brunhilde Hudson (white female), Lee Carmichael (white male), Faye Walker (white female), and Mark DeVane (white male). Id. Plaintiff's interview took place on December 11, 2014, and was scheduled to be conducted by Herring, Virgil Walker (white councilman), Annie Bowers (white councilwoman), and Kendall Blankumsee (black councilman). Mr. Blankumsee, however, recused himself from Plaintiff's interview due to a conflict of interest resulting from Plaintiff's ongoing business relationship with Mr. Blankumsee's funeral home at the time of the interview. Id. Consequently, Plaintiff was interviewed by a three-person panel consisting of Herring, Bowers, and Walker.

         During the interview, Virgil Walker inquired whether Plaintiff was familiar with GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). (Doc. 11-10, p. 59). Plaintiff responded that he was unfamiliar with the term. Plaintiff was then asked about his prior experience with the Department of Justice. Id. Plaintiff asserts that no one specifically discussed the City Clerk and Treasurer job during his interview. Id.

         On February 12, 2015, the City Council called a meeting. During the meeting, City Manager Herring recommended that the Council hire Ms. Brunhilde Hudson for the position of City Clerk and Treasurer. After some minimal discussion regarding Ms. Hudson's qualifications, the City Council unanimously voted in favor of hiring Hudson as the City Clerk and Treasurer.

         The next day, February 13, 2015, Plaintiff drove from Quitman to Atlanta to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The complaint asserts that in failing to hire Plaintiff, “City of Quitman (Employer) engaged in practice that discriminated against complainant (job applicant) on the basis of his race (African-American), sex (Male) and age (52).”[1] (Doc. 11-10, p. 153). On March 23, 2015, Herring wrote a letter in response to Plaintiff's EEOC charge to Ralph Cooper in which he explained why Hudson was hired for the position of City Clerk and Treasurer. (Doc. 11-11, p. 126). On March 1, 2016, Plaintiff requested a notice of right to sue from the EEOC, which was issued to him on May 18, 2016. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 32-33). Plaintiff then filed his Complaint (Doc. 1) in this Court on July 18, 2016.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact arises only when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court must evaluate all of the evidence, together with any logical inferences, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. at 254-55. The court may not, however, make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Id. at 255; see also Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         The party seeking summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of a material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (internal quotation omitted). If the movant meets this burden, the burden shifts to the party opposing summary judgment to go beyond the pleadings and present specific evidence showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact, or that the movant is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 324-26. This evidence must consist of more than conclusory allegations. See Avirgan v. Hull, 932 F.2d 1572, 1577 (11th Cir. 1991). In sum, summary judgment must be entered “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his race in violation of Title VII and § 1981. These statutes both “have the same requirements of proof and use the same analytical framework.” Standard v. A.B.E.I. Servs., 161 F.3d 1318, 1330 (11th Cir. 1998). Accordingly, the Court will address Plaintiff's Title VII claims with the understanding that the analysis also applies to the § 1981 claims.

         Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). A plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of discrimination through either direct or circumstantial evidence. Wilson v. B/E Aerospace, Inc., 376 F.3d 1079, 1085 (11th Cir. 2004). Claims of discrimination premised on circumstantial evidence, as is the present case, are evaluated under the burden-shifting framework developed in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Under this framework, the plaintiff first must set forth “facts adequate to permit an inference of discrimination.” Holifield v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1562 (11th Cir. 1997). If the plaintiff is able to do so, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions. Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 256 (1981). “If the employer satisfies its burden of articulating one or more reasons, then the presumption of discrimination is rebutted, and the burden of production shifts to the plaintiff to offer evidence that the alleged reason of the employer is a pretext for illegal discrimination.” Wilson, 376 F.3d at 1087. The focused inquiry in the last step requires the plaintiff to demonstrate ‚Äúsuch weaknesses, implausibilities, inconsistencies, incoherencies, or contradictions in the employer's proffered legitimate reasons for its ...


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