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Wireless Telecom Cooperative, Inc. v. Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

June 3, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 44). The motion is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons provided below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Wireless Telecom Cooperative Inc. is a business known as theWirelessFreeway (“tWF”) and was founded Joseph McNealy (“McNealy”). (Pls.' Resp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 1, DN 45 [hereinafter Pl.'s Resp.]). McNealy is an African-American man who sought to provide free basic wireless internet to a predominately African-American portion of Louisville, Kentucky. (Pl.'s Resp. 2). McNealy entered into conversations with Defendant Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government (“Defendant”) around September 2014 and discussed obtaining a loan through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and its Community Development Block Grants Program to fund tWF's endeavors to provide wireless internet to underserved communities. (Pl.'s Resp. 2). Plaintiff contends that the project was eligible for HUD's Section 108 loan guarantee program, which is administered by HUD to assist projects believed to contribute to the development of low-income neighborhoods. (Pl.'s Resp. 2).

         Plaintiff says that Mayor Greg Fischer showed great enthusiasm for tWF and referred the project to then-Deputy Mayor, Sadiqa Reynolds. (Pl.'s Resp. 2). From there, McNealy and members of the metro government's administration had email conversations over the course of two years. They allegedly assured McNealy that the metro government would assist with financing and encouraged him to make tWF his full-time job. (Pl.'s Resp. 2-3). McNealy also obtained input from professionals and consultants at various telecommunications companies. (Pl.'s Resp. 3). tWF made significant process by launching a wi-fi hotspot with support from a member of the Louisville Metro Council and overseen by the metro government's technology department. (Pl.'s Resp. 3). Plaintiff credits this success to McNealy's acquired expertise and personal professional network. (Pl.'s Resp. 3).

         In September 2016, it became clear that Defendant would not proceed with the project. (Pl.'s Resp. 3). Instead, Defendant decided to support the Louisville Food Port, a group which is described by Plaintiff as “mostly white, ” by “generously provid[ing] [metro government] resources to clear the way for the project.” (Pl.'s Resp. 3). Plaintiff alleges this involved a land grant and hours of metro government employee time researching financing through a HUD Section 108 loan. (Pl.'s Resp. 3). Ultimately, no HUD money was available to fund either project. (Pl.'s Resp. 4). Despite this, Plaintiff argues that “[t]he comparison in the treatment [between it and the Louisville Food Port] is shocking. A prestigious, white group was given comparatively instant access to financing, [while] the working-class black-owned business wasn't even afforded fair dealing after being in negotiations for over two years and [after] laying substantial ground work.” (Pl.'s Resp. 4). As a result of this, McNealy and tWF together brought claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983. (Compl. ¶ 15). McNealy was subsequently dismissed as a party to this action on August 30, 2017 for lacking standing. (Order 3, DN 23).

         In its present motion, Defendant argues that there is no evidence a contract existed between itself and tWF, and there is no evidence of discrimination. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 5, DN 44-1 [hereinafter Def.'s Mem.]). Defendant argues this dooms Plaintiff's Section 1981 claim. (Def.'s Mem. 6). Regarding Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim, Defendants contend it must fail because there is no evidence supporting any due process violations in its relationship with McNealy and tWF. (Def.'s Mem. 6).


         The Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over this matter based upon federal question jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.


         Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         The Court does not weigh the evidence and all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the Court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In addition, the non- moving party must do more than merely show that there is some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Id. at 586. Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the non-moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.


         A. ...

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