United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court in this employment discrimination action is
the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants City of
Rockville, Maryland (the “City”) and Terry N.
Treschuk (“Treschuk”), the City's former
Chief of Police. (ECF No. 28.) The matter has been fully
briefed and no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Loc.
R. 105.6. Upon consideration of the parties' arguments
and the evidence in the record, the Court GRANTS
Christopher Louis (“Louis”) was hired by
Defendants as a sworn police officer in 1996. ECF No. 28-2 at
4, 10-11 (Louis Dep. 14:8-11, 40:20-41:7). In 2001, Louis was
promoted to corporal. ECF No. 28-2 at 6 (Louis Dep.
21:15-23:12). Treschuk was the Chief of Police at the time
Louis was hired, and remained Chief until June of 2016. ECF
No. 28-3 at (Treschuk Dep. 7:13; 6:19-20); ECF No. 28-2 at 5
(Louis Dep. 18:1-12). This case arises from Treschuk's
decision in August 2014 not to promote Louis from corporal to
sergeant. The facts that follow are taken from the record and
construed in the light most favorable to Louis.
process for promotion from corporal to sergeant in the
Rockville Police Department (the “Department”)
involves a written and an oral exam. The written exam is
administered and scored by the Rockville Human Resources
Department (“HR”). See ECF No. 33-11 at
8 (Merritt Dep. 24:3-11). The oral exam is evaluated by a
board of outside individuals with law enforcement experience
who orally pose predetermined questions to the applicants.
Each board member evaluates the applicants' oral
responses using the following criteria: “surface
impression” (including appearance, maturity, and ease
of manner), “mental effectiveness” (including
alertness and expression of ideas), knowledge of
administrative and operating procedure, skill at handling
interpersonal relationships, and knowledge and interest in
the field. ECF No. 33-11 at 8 (Merritt Dep. 24:12-18); ECF
No. 28-3 at 3-5 (Treschuk Dep. 11:16- 17:17); ECF No. 33-36
at 2-3 (reflecting notes from Louis' oral examination).
The scores for the oral and written examinations are combined
and used to generate a promotion eligibility list that ranks
the candidates based on their overall scores. ECF No. 28-3 at
6 (Treschuk Dep. 22:1- 23:20); ECF No. 28-8 at 4. The
promotion eligibility list is valid for one year, with an
option for the Chief of Police to extend the list for an
additional six months. ECF No. 28-8 at 4.
filling a vacancy, Rockville Police General Orders allow the
Chief of Police to promote any of the three top-ranked
candidates on the eligibility list, considering “the
needs of the community, the City, the Department, and the
applicant's overall qualification, past performance, and
potential for future development.” ECF No. 28-8 at 3.
This discretion of the Chief in promoting any of the top
three candidates is known as the “Rule of Three.”
Although the Rule of Three exists, it is rarely used.
Typically, the Chief promotes based on the order in which the
candidates are ranked. Chief Treschuk invoked the Rule of
Three on two occasions: once, to pass over Corporal George
Day, a Caucasian man, because Day lacked adequate supervisory
experience; the second time was to pass over Louis. ECF No.
28-3 at 11-12 (Treschuk Dep. 44:5-45:14); ECF No. 3-10 at 7,
8 (Rawlins Dep. 19:17-20:20, 22:14-23:7). Both times, the
passed-over candidates were informed that they would be
promoted at the next vacancy. See ECF No. 29-8; ECF
No. 28-3 at 16-17 (Treschuk Dep. 63:15-65:5). Louis was
eventually promoted to sergeant in April of 2017.
2014 decision to pass over Louis for promotion to sergeant
was based in part on two previous Internal Affairs
(“IA”) investigations involving Louis'
billing practices for his overtime work at the Regal Theaters
in Rockville Town Center (“Regal”). The first, in
2011, concerned allegations that Louis submitted inflated
payroll invoices for his Regal overtime work. ECF No. 29-1 at
1. Lieutenant Alan Rawlins, an African American employee of
the Department and friend and mentor to Louis, see
ECF No. 28-2 at 21 (Louis Dep. 83:21-84:18), investigated the
2011 complaint and determined that on several occasions,
Louis had claimed overtime wages in his payroll submissions
for hours he had not worked and for which he was not entitled
to request payment. As a result, Rawlins submitted to
Treschuk three allegations that Rawlins' investigation
had “sustained.” ECF No. 29-1 at
in his review of Rawlins' findings, ultimately pursued
only two charges, Performance of Duty and Conduct Unbecoming
of an Officer. ECF No. 29-1 at 16-17. Treschuk dropped the
third allegation, False Reports and Entries, because it would
have rendered Louis ineligible to serve as a sworn police
officer in Maryland. ECF No. 28-3 at 17 (Treschuk Dep.
68:17-21). Louis did not contest the underlying facts of
these charges and accepted punishment without a further
hearing. ECF No. 29-1 at 19.
2013, Louis again was accused of improperly billing for his
overtime work at Regal. In summary, this dispute appeared to
involve Louis claiming he would be delayed arriving to the
Regal by a few minutes due to inclement weather, but then
actually using that time to pick up his police vehicle from a
repair shop. Louis arrived to Regal approximately an hour and
a half late, and then left before the end of his scheduled
shift to pick up his personal vehicle. Then-Sergeant Brian
Paul had assisted Louis in picking up his police vehicle, and
Sergeant Andy Crawford assisted Louis in retrieving his
personal vehicle later that night. The two sergeants were
concerned that Louis had not worked his full hours at Regal,
so Paul contacted Regal management, who investigated the
matter further, determined that Louis had not worked his full
shift, and requested to make a complaint against
Louis. ECF No. 29-2 at 1, 8, 11; see ECF
No. 33-7 at 23 (Paul Dep. 85:18-21); ECF No. 29-2 at 2, 3-5.
Paul reported this incident to Lieutenant Eric Over.
See ECF No. 33-7 at 23 (Paul Dep. 84:15-85:17). Over
then informed Paul that if Regal management wished to
initiate a complaint against Louis, Regal would have to
submit a complaint in writing. Regal employee Liz Columber
did so. See ECF No. 29-2 at 1.
Robert Rappoport investigated the 2013 complaint, initially
sustaining three allegations: “Reporting to Duty,
” “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer, ” and
“False Reports and Entries.” See ECF No.
29-2 at 6-7. During this investigation, Rappoport added a
fourth allegation for “Untruthful Responses”
because Rappoport believed that Louis was not candid during a
related interview. ECF No. 29-2 at 20. Chief Treschuk did not
pursue the Untruthful Responses allegation, but did formally
charge Louis with the other violations. ECF No. 29-2 at 24.
Louis, through counsel, negotiated admissions to the
violations of Reporting to Duty and Conduct Unbecoming an
Officer, and accepted punishment without contesting the
underlying facts. See ECF No. 29-2 at 28; ECF No.
28-3 at 18-19 (Treschuk Dep. 72:9-73:9).
the 2013 Regal IA investigation was ongoing, Louis learned
about a comment left in an informal “suggestion box,
” which read as follows:
DON'T MAKE CHRIS LOUIS A SGT THAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE
THIS DEPARTMENT CAN MAKE. HE IS AN AWFUL POLICE. A REALLY BAD
OIC AND A BAD FTO. LOOK AT THE PEOPLE THAT HE HAS PASSED.
NONE CAN DO POLICE WORK OR HAVE ANY OFFICER SAFETY. HOW CAN
YOU PROMOTE SOMEONE THAT STEALS FROM THE DEPARTMENT AND BRAGS
ECF No. 34-7 at 2. Because of this note and other verbal
comments that Louis had received, Louis filed an internal
complaint of harassment and race discrimination on April 1,
2013. See generally ECF No. 34-6. Major
Michael England investigated Louis' complaint, but did
not substantiate the allegations. ECF No. 34-18 at 2. The
investigation closed on September 18, 2013. ECF No. 34-18 at
September 28, 2013, Louis applied for promotion to sergeant.
See ECF No. 33-34 at 2. After completion of both the
written and oral portions of the exam, Louis was ranked
second on the promotion eligibility list. ECF 33-35 at 2.
When the first vacancy arose, Treschuk promoted the
highest-ranked candidate, leaving Louis at the top of the
list. In July 2014, when Treschuk was deciding who to promote
for the next vacancy, he requested feedback from England,
Over, and then-Lieutenant Paul on Louis' candidacy. Each
expressed varying degrees of concern with Louis'
supervisory and communication skills. See generally
ECF No. 33-30.
exercised his discretion under the Rule of Three and promoted
the second-ranked candidate, Jan Seilhamer, a Caucasian
woman, over Louis. Treschuk and England then met with Louis
to discuss Treschuk's decision. Treschuk explained that
Louis' “history and performance left some concern
and questions as to whether or not this [was] the right time
to promote [him] to Sergeant.” ECF No. 33-38 at 2. They
discussed particularly Louis' supposed failure to respond
to a serious service call in favor of writing traffic
citations, a concern England had previously raised to
Treschuk. See ECF No. 33-38 at 2-3; ECF No. 33-30 at
2-3. Treschuk also mentioned issues Louis had at the
“Town Center.” ECF No. 28-2 at 54 (Louis Dep.
214:4- 16). Treschuk informed Louis that if he continued to
perform well, he would be promoted next. ECF No. 28-2 at 53
(Louis Dep. 210:20-211:4). Louis was in fact promoted to
sergeant in April of 2017 by then-Acting Chief Rappoport. ECF
No. 33-13 at 2.
Louis was passed over for promotion in 2014, he formally
complained to HR, alleging that Treschuk's decision was
motivated by race and by retaliation for Louis' 2013
harassment complaint. ECF No. 33-37. HR concluded that
Treschuk had not discriminated against Louis, but recommended
that Louis be provided with written feedback identifying
deficiencies with his supervisory performance. HR also
recommended that the Department extend the 2013 promotion
eligibility list until July 2015. ECF No. 33-37 at 4. Neither
remedial action was taken. ECF No. 33-43 at 8.
thereafter filed suit in this Court,  alleging race discrimination
in violation of the Maryland Human Relations Commission Act,
MD State Government, Code § 20-601 et seq.; the
Rockville City Code 11-1 et seq. via the Maryland
Human Relations Commission Act, MD State Government, Code
§ 20-1202; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq.; and the Civil Rights Act of
1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Counts I, III, V, and VII).
Louis also brings claims of retaliation under the Maryland
Human Relations Commission Act, the Rockville City Code, and
Title VII (Counts II, IV, and VI); and a claim under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his rights under the
Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution
(Count VIII). ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 84-143. Defendants moved