Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Crandell v. Hardy County Rural Development Authority

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia

May 10, 2019

JOHN OSBORNE CRANDELL III., Plaintiff,
v.
HARDY COUNTY DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          MICHAEL JOHN ALOI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the undersigned pursuant to an Order of Case Referral (ECF No. 13) in conjunction with a Notice, Consent, and Reference of a Civil Action to a Magistrate Judge (ECF No. 27). On November 21, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, currently pending before the undersigned. Also, pending before the undersigned is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint filed on March 29, 2019. (ECF No. 58). For the foregoing reasons, the undersigned DENIES Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 16) as MOOT because an Amended Complaint was filed and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 58), as delineated below.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleged that the Economic Development Administration (hereinafter “EDA”), of the U.S. Department of Commerce, contracted with Hardy County Rural Development Association (hereinafter “HCRDA”) to diligently pursue development over an Industrial Park, Wardensville Industrial Park, located in Hardy County, West Virginia.[1] (ECF No. 56, at ¶ 1). As a part of the agreement, Hardy County was a recipient of $980, 000.00 Grant earmarked for land and industrial development. According to Plaintiff, the EDA Grant required that any land that received benefits of the funds needed to follow “Industrial Covenants and Restrictions” that were approved by the Assistant Secretary of the EDA. Id. at ¶ 2.

         Plaintiff alleged that since conferring the grant to HCRDA, HCRDA sold property that had covenants and restrictions which contained definitions that were inconsistent than those required by EDA; HCRDA “tolerated uses non-compliant to those Covenants and Restrictions on some properties”; HCRDA sold properties with unapproved, non-compliant covenants and Restrictions; HCRDA sold properties with deeds without covenants or restrictions; HCRDA sold property that was located in the Industrial Park but claimed to be adjoining to the Industrial Park; HCRDA developed properties to retain the profit of lease income; and, HCRDA did not report sales of properties to the EDA required. Id. at ¶ 4a-d.

         Plaintiff alleged that there is a “discord” between the defined location of the Industrial Park, the area described in the Covenants and Restrictions of the Industrial Park, and the actual areas that are subject to the Covenants and Restrictions. Id. at ¶ 9. Plaintiff also alleged that HCRDA wrongfully advertised the Industrial Park as a “business district” and allowed for the development of buildings designed for this purpose.

         Plaintiff further alleged that he listed Parcels 3 and 4 in the Industrial Park for sale. Plaintiff alleges that HCRDA told Plaintiff that his real estate agent that “real estate sales signage is not permitted.” Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff also alleged that HCRDA informs the real estate agent that the lots “were approved for electronic manufacturing.” Id. at ¶ 14. The advertised price of the property was $135, 000 and the Hardy County Tax Assessor valued the property at $129, 000.00. Id. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff alleges that HCRDA approved action to engage in a forced sale because Plaintiff had failed to abide by Clause 8 of the Covenants and Restrictions. Id. Plaintiff then alleged that he provided HCRDA with documentation regarding the permitting of an existing building, which had allegedly been completed within one-year allowed. Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff stated that HCRDA changed the reason for the forced repurchase, identifying that Plaintiff's approved project did not occur within the required time. Id. at ¶ 17.

         Plaintiff states that HCRDA's attorney discussed with Plaintiff's attorney the issue of real estate sales sign usage and a there was a negotiation of an offer price based on the professional appraisal. Id. at ¶ 18. Plaintiff alleges that approximately two weeks later, HCRDA's counsel denied the request for signage approval. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff alleges that his attorney then contacted HCRDA's attorney requesting confirmation that the request for signage is denied and the right to repurchase was still in effect, which prohibited a private sale. Id. at ¶ 20. Plaintiff alleged that HCRDA then evaded or denied access to documents contained in FOIA requests made by Plaintiff's counsel. Id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff alleged that HCRDA was told that certain documents, relating to the Special Conditions, were no longer kept, but then visited the officer a week later only to find the document but was further denied access to HCRDA's minutes. Id. at ¶ 22. Plaintiff then alleged that HCRDA then gave him one more day to access the documents and that would fulfill his right to access the record of a public entity. Id. at ¶ 25.

         Plaintiff alleged that following those incidents, Plaintiff was sent a letter by HCRDA's attorney stating that he has not been abiding by the landscape maintenance conditions as required by the covenants, and further alleged that other land owners who are required to similarly maintain their landscape were not approached. Id. at ¶27. Further communication was made to discuss whether Plaintiff had sufficiently remedied the landscape issue. Id. ¶ 30. Plaintiff alleged that he did not get confirmation from HCRDA's attorney. Id. ¶ 34.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On August 29, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging that Defendant has failed to provide documents to him under West Virginia's Freedom of Information Act and HCRDA has committed fraud, conspiracy, and possession of false papers against the United States. (ECF No. 1). On September 20, 2018, Defendant filed its Answer denying the allegations contained in the Complaint. (ECF No. 9). On November 21, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 16). On December 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 28). On January 7, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend the Complaint (ECF No. 33), which was granted on January 9, 2019. (ECF No. 38). On January 31, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion for Protective Order and Stay of Discovery until the final disposition of the pending Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 50), which was granted on February 5, 2019. (ECF No. 51). On May 29, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 58, 59). On April 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 63). On May 3, 2019, Defendant filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Response. (ECF No. 64).

         a. Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 1)

         On August 29, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint before this court. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff alleged that the above factual background constituted a violation of 13 C.F.R. § 314.4-Authorized Use of Project Property; 13 C.F.R. § 309.1-Redistributions under parts 303, 305, and 206; Major Fraud Against the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1031; Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; Possession of False Papers to Defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1002; Conspiracy Against Rights in Violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241; and Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242.

         b. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (hereinafter “Initial Motion”) (ECF No. 16)

         On November 21, 2018, Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss and argued that the Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 16). Defendant next argued that that Plaintiff's cause of action pursuant to 13 C.F.R. §§ 314.3 and 309.1 must be dismissed because Plaintiff does not have standing to recover damages pursuant to these regulations. (Def. Mot. at 2). Defendant further argued that 18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242, 371, 1031, and 1002 are criminal statutes that do not create a private cause of action. Id. 2-4.

         Furthermore, Defendant argued that as a political subdivision, HCRDA has immunity from suit arising from the alleged intentional actions of Defendant. Id. at 4. Finally, Defendant argued that the Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim and that Plaintiff's Complaint “contains nothing more than speculative legal conclusions that are unsupported by any applicable law to support his claims against Development Authority.” Id. at 5.

         c. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (hereinafter “Initial Response”)

         On December 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed his Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff argued that the facts supported in the Complaint and accompanying exhibits evidence that HCRDA's negative impact on the community. Plaintiff further states that West Virginia § 7-12-6 states the HCRDA can “sue and be sued” and that debts of this corporation is separate from the county commission. Plaintiff alleges that neither a Cort[2] analysis nor a similar implied rights analysis was not done in Defendant's Motion. Plaintiff also alleged that Defendant “violated the contractual agreements of plaintiff's deed of property and attached Covenants and Restrictions, particularly but not limited to the loss of acreage of surrounding land in like industrial use and industrial use buffer zone, which is vital to the uses allowed by the Covenants and Restrictions.”

         Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant's argument regarding immunity under West Virginia Code § 29-12-5 are based on “irrelevant case law citations, omission of disqualifying sections within the same statutes cited by the defendant, ludicrous assertions which contort basic logic and justice, and impression of jurisdictionally of West Virginia Code in this Federal Court.” Plaintiff further argues that the Economic Development Authority Requirements for Approve Projects 8th edition: General Conditions and the SPECIAL CONDITIONS for project #01-01-03226 extended powers and authorities of the Secretary of Commerce under 42 U.S.C. § 3211 to Plaintiff which allows Plaintiff to seek relief for a violation of said regulations.

         d. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 56)

         On January 9, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 56). In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant committed Major Fraud against the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1031; Conspiracy to Commit Offense or to Defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; Possession of false papers to Defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1002; Equal Rights under the law in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; Conspiracy to Interfere with Civil Rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985; Proceedings in Vindication of Civil Rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1988; and, Action for Neglect to Prevent in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986 as described in Paragraph's 4 through 7 of the Amended Complaint.

         Plaintiff also alleged that Defendant committed Conspiracy against rights in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241; Deprivation of Rights under Color of Law in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242; Property Rights of Citizens in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1982; Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Conspiracy to Interfere with Civil Rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985; Proceedings in Vindication of Civil Rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1988; Action for Neglect to Prevent in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1986, as delineated in Paragraphs 13, 14, 15, 17, 21, 24, 25, and 27 of the Amended Complaint. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant violated West Virginia Code 29B-1-C and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1985, 1988, and 1986 as delineated in Paragraphs 22, 24, and 25.

         e. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (hereinafter “Amended Motion”) (ECF No. 58)

         On March 29, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 58). In Defendant's Amended Motion, Defendant incorporates its arguments presented in the Initial Motion (ECF No. 16). Defendant next argued that the new claims, in general, do not state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendant stated that there were no additional facts or argument made, but rather Plaintiff simply cited the Federal and West Virginia Codes.

         Furthermore, Defendant argued that Plaintiff failed to state a claim for a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 because Defendant does not allege that he was discriminated against as a result of his race or ethnicity as required under the statute. Defendant also argued that the claim for a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985 does not state a claim because Plaintiff failed to allege specific facts that demonstrate that HCRDA conspired to discriminate against him nor that he is part of a certain class, which is required under the statute. Defendant also argued that 42 U.S.C. § 1988 claim does not create a cause of action, but is simply meant to compliment Sections 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, and 2000.

         Finally, Defendant argued that Plaintiff has failed to adequately state a claim under West Virginia Code Section 29B-1-1 et seq. because Plaintiff has failed to “provide information with respect to the nature of the Plaintiff's Freedom of Information Act request, what the Development Authority did, or did not do, in response to the Plaintiff's Freedom of Information Act request, and most importantly how the Development Authority violated the Plaintiff's rights under the Freedom of Information Act.” (ECF No. 59, at 12).

         f. Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (hereinafter “Amended Response”) (ECF No. 63)

         On April 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Response to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 63). Plaintiff argued in opposition of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss but stated that this Response incorporated any arguments that were contained in the Initial Response. Plaintiff further alleged that there are many viable courses of adjudication which Plaintiff believes can resolve this matter after review of the case. Plaintiff argued that Paragraph 6 of the Amended Motion “further highlights the depth and solidarity in contempt of law demonstrated by the defendant, its members and counsel.”

         g. Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Amended Response (ECF No. 64)

         On May 3, 2019, Defendant filed a Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendants Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 64). Defendant argued that after being thoroughly advised of his requirements to respond to survive a motion to dismiss, Plaintiff failed to provide any argument which was raised by Defendant. Defendant argues that Plaintiff “lists facts, and various Federal code sections, Federal regulations, and an incorrectly identified section of the West Virginia Code, in an attempt to assert claims against” Defendant, but “fails to draw any correlation as to how those facts create claims under the listed law that demonstrate” that Defendant is liable. (ECF No. 64, at 3). Further, Defendant argued that “plaintiff's response simply concludes, without any support or explanation, that his claims are valid an must be allowed to proceed.” Id.

         III. ANALYSIS

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all well-pleaded material factual allegations. Advanced Health-Care Servs., Inc. v. Radford Cmty. Hosp., 910 F.2d 139, 143 (4th Cir. 1990). Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “require[ ] only ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)).

         However, although a complaint need not assert “detailed factual allegations, ” it must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim, the complaint must raise a right to relief that is more than speculative. Id. In other words, the complaint must contain allegations that are “plausible” on their face, rather than merely “conceivable.” Id. at 555, 570. A “claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). “A document filed pro se is ‘to be liberally construed' and ‘a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         a. Subject ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.