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Town's attorney: Minahan's lawsuit has 'no legal basis'

Feb. 7, 2013

By Chris Maza


EAST LONGMEADOW — Patricia Rapinchuk, the attorney representing East Longmeadow in the federal lawsuit filed by former employee Rosalind Minahan against the town, filed a motion to dismiss the suit on Jan. 28.

Minahan, who was a payroll administrator until she was fired on April 1, 2012, accused Town Administrator Nick Breault, the Board of Selectmen — then consisting of Paul Federici, James Driscoll and Enrico "Jack" Villamaino — Kathleen Tranghese of K&D Human Resources — with whom the town contracted its human resources services — Town Accountant Thomas Caliento and Planning Director Robyn Macdonald of 14 charges, including wrongful termination, age and disability discrimination, discriminatory retaliation, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Rapinchuk, however, asserted in her 44-page motion that the claims made by the plaintiff were unsubstantiated and provide an inaccurate account of the events in the years prior to her termination and that "the counts are substantively deficient."

Rapinchuk told Reminder Publications that it was her policy not to comment on pending litigation or the merits of a case, but explained that the motion was her assertion that there is "no legal basis for these claims."

She added that the lawsuit and resulting motion to dismiss are extremely complex.

"It is a very large case and therefore it has a lot of issues involved with it," she said. "To summarize it in a few paragraphs would be extremely difficult."

Rapinchuk stated in the motion, "Rather than providing a short and plain statement of claim, [the] plaintiff's complaint relies on a scatter-shot approach that combines unrelated and confused terms and concepts and conclusory allegations that to not aggregate cognizable claims. Town defendants have been left to speculate as to 'who did what to whom, when where and why.'"

Rapinchuk also stated in the motion that Minahan has failed to present any factual evidence of age discrimination.

"[The] plaintiff has presented no set of facts that support her conclusion that [the] town defendants failed to investigate or unfairly investigated her grievances, retaliated against her, accused her of violating privacy rights of an employee, or disciplined and terminated her because of her age," the motion reads. "Nowhere in her complaint does [the] plaintiff provide facts that would 'allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable' for age discrimination related to these acts."

The motion goes onto say that even the verifiable evidence in Minahan's suit does not suggest that she should receive compensation.

"Each of the plaintiff's counts should be dismissed because her factual allegations do not plausibly give rise to an entitlement or relief," the motion reads.

Rapinchuk also stated that it is her understanding that counts related to discrimination have surpassed their statute of limitations.

Among those issues, according to the motion, is the fact that Minahan brought her claims to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and "any claims based on alleged discriminatory events occurring prior to June 25, 2010 were time-barred at the MCAD and [the] plaintiff cannot resurrect those claims by filing them in this court."

Minahan had filed a charge of discrimination with the MCAD on April 20, 2011, but withdrew it in October 2012 before any finding was made, according to the motion.

The motion also states that Minahan's claim that she received an anonymous sexually harassing letter on April 22, 2010 that she believed originated from Macdonald is barred by the 300-day statute of limitations contained in Massachusetts General Law because she did not file a charge of discrimination with the MCAD within that timeframe.

Rapinchuk went on to say that any discrimination claims should not be allowed because Minahan did not receive a right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Even if the letter of dismissal from the MCAD Minahan received qualifies as a right-to-sue document, the case should be dismissed because she did not file the suit within 90 days of receiving the letter.

Rapinchuk added that the Board of Selectmen cannot be sued because it "is not a 'body politic and corporate' that is independently subject to suit.

Rapinchuk said that she did not expect a resolution to her motion in the near future.

"There will be hearing to discuss the motion, but the plaintiffs are given a chance to respond to the motion to dismiss," she said. "That hearing won't happen until the plaintiffs have responded. After the hearing, the judge will rule on the motion and that could happen that day or at some time afterward. I don't think that will happen for at least a month."

A message left for Minahan's attorney, David Ashworth, was not returned.

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