United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
ANTHONY A. COOPER, Plaintiff,
RICHLAND COUNTY RECREATION COMMISSION, JAMES BROWN, III, DAVID STRINGER, and TARA DICKERSON, in their individual capacities, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
E. Rogers, III United States Magistrate Judge
action arises out of Plaintiff's employment with the
Richland County Recreation Commission. Plaintiff alleges race
discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. §
2000(e) et seq., and state law causes of action for
defamation, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of
emotional distress, and public policy discharge. Presently
before the court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
(Document # 5) Plaintiff's claims for defamation, civil
conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
public policy discharge. All pretrial proceedings in this
case were referred to the undersigned pursuant to the
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local
Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g), DSC. This report and recommendation is
entered for review by the district judge.
times relevant to the allegations set forth in the amended
complaint, Plaintiff was employed as the Director of
Procurement for the Richland County Recreation Commission
(RCRC). Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiff began his employment
with RCRC in 1996 and was terminated on June 29, 2016. Am.
Compl. ¶ 11. Plaintiff reported to Ronnie Kinnett,
Division Head of Property Management, until Kinnett retired
in late 2015. Am. Compl. ¶ 13.
Brown is the Executive Director of the RCRC, Defendant
Stringer is the Division Head of Human Resources for the
RCRC, and Defendant Dickerson is the Chief of Staff of the
RCRC. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3-5.
2008, Richland County Council approved $50 million in
recreation bonds (“the Bond”) to be administered
by RCRC. Plaintiff's duties included overseeing the Bond
and purchasing and procurement for the same. Plaintiff
participated in the Ad-Hoc committee for the Bond, which made
a decision not to take action on a request made by a
construction management company to extend its services.
Defendant Brown as well as two members of the RCRC Board,
Marie Green and Barbara Mickens, were aware of this decision
and were not pleased because they favored the company. Am.
Compl. ¶ 12.
alleges that Brown has threatened Plaintiff with termination
and exhibited animosity towards Plaintiff on several
occasions. As an example, Plaintiff alleges that Brown made
sexual advances toward Plaintiff's wife and then accused
Plaintiff of spreading rumors about the incident. Plaintiff
alleges that, on another occasion, Plaintiff's son was
hurt by an RCRC staff member while participating in an RCRC
event and Brown failed to take appropriate action against the
staff member yet suspended Plaintiff's son. Am. Compl.
of his job responsibilities, with the guidance of the RCRC
Procurement Policy and the South Carolina Consolidated
Procurement Code, Plaintiff worked towards getting the best
price that is fair and reasonable when procuring goods and
services for the Bond. He alleges that Brown made it apparent
that he did not appreciate that Plaintiff worked diligently
to follow policies and often would want Plaintiff to deviate
from the accepted standards. Am. Compl. ¶ 15.
alleges that in November or December of 2015, Brown made
comments to other RCRC personnel and others that he was going
to terminate Plaintiff's employment as soon as the Bond
projects were completed and that Plaintiff does not favor
black people and is an “undercover white boy” and
a “house n****r.” Am. Compl. ¶ 18.
anticipation of Kinnett's retirement, the Division Head
of Property Management position was posted and Plaintiff
applied in early 2015. Plaintiff received a letter dated
February 11, 2016, from Defendant Stringer informing him that
the position was offered to an “incumbent
employee.” Bryan Crider, a Caucasian male, was awarded
the position. Am. Compl. ¶ 19.
January 16, 2016, Brown called an unscheduled staff meeting,
during which, Plaintiff alleges, he acted hostile and made
threats and inappropriate statements. Plaintiff alleges that
during the meeting Brown announced that the RCRC
Board wanted there to be a buffer between him
and the staff and that Tara Dickerson was promoted to a newly
created position of Chief of Staff. Among other threats and
inappropriate statements, Plaintiff alleges that Brown stated
that he was too good to the staff and they made too much
money, specifically referring to Plaintiff, but that was
going to change. Brown also allegedly stated that if the
staff did not like the way things were around RCRC, they
could just quit, reminding them that South Carolina is an
at-will state. Am. Compl. ¶ 20. Plaintiff alleges Brown
said a board member, Marie Green, told him that “black
people don't listen to black people” and that he
needs a white face, i.e., Dickerson, to “crack the
whip” on the black people. Am. Compl. ¶ 21.
alleges that Brown, Stringer, and Dickerson have continued
efforts to target Plaintiff. He alleges that since Dickerson
was appointed as Chief of Staff in January of 2016, Plaintiff
has been excluded from certain functions and isolated. He
alleges that his job duties have been taken away and
disbursed to other employees. After being denied the Division
Head of Property Management position in February of 2016,
Plaintiff alleges that he has been excluded from several
Bond-related bid processes of which he should have been
included as Director of Procurement. Plaintiff alleges that
he has been overly scrutinized and monitored in an effort to
find a basis to terminate his employment. Am. Compl. ¶
April 18, 2016, Plaintiff was given a verbal counseling for
what he alleges was an unfounded complaint concerning
Plaintiff's driving of an RCRC vehicle, which Plaintiff
denies. He alleges that other employees have received
complaints in the past and were not formally disciplined. He
alleges that RCRC employees outside Plaintiff's chain of
command or Human Resources were told about the disciplinary
action before Plaintiff. Am. Compl. ¶ 23.
alleges that law enforcement began an investigation of Brown
and others related to RCRC, and Plaintiff complied with the
investigators. He was told to report any additional
information to them. At one point Plaintiff went to the
dumpster to empty his office trash can where he noticed
shredded documents that appeared to include purchase orders
and other out-of-place documents. Plaintiff reported this to
the investigators, who he believes took the shredded
documents from the trash that same day. Am. Compl. ¶ 24.
In early June of 2016, the Richland County Council advised
that they would withhold from RCRC the funding over what was
required by law for the upcoming fiscal year until an audit
was conducted. Am. Compl. ¶ 25.
the allegations of misconduct and investigation, Brown
remained in his position as Executive Director instead of
being placed on leave during the pendency of the
investigation. On June 21, 2016, the Richland County
Legislative Delegation voted to recommend to the RCRC Board
that Brown be placed on suspension ...