SHAHID v. BOROUGH OF DARBY
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE J. WILLIAM DITTER, JR ON 9/18/2013. 9/19/2013 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE, E-MAILED.(kk, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
BOROUGH OF DARBY
September 18, 2013
This is a pro se civil rights action filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by plaintiff,
Abdus Shahid, a citizen of the United States who was born in Bangladesh. Shahid claims
the Borough of Darby discriminated against him based on his race, color and national
origin by refusing to grant the permits necessary for Shahid to rent units in his nonresidential warehouse. He claims Borough representatives made various statements to
him and others that the Borough would not allow Shahid to do business in the area
because he was from a foreign country and they only wanted African-Americans to do
business in the Borough. He claims this is evidence that the Borough had a policy and/or
custom of discrimination based on race, color and national origin.
A non-jury trial was held on Monday, September 16, 2013, during which testimony
was received from Shahid, Borough Council President Janice Davis, Borough Manager
Mark Possenti, and former Chief Code Officer Joseph Nerelli At the conclusion of the
trial, I took this matter under advisement. This memorandum sets forth my decision in
favor of the defendant and the specific findings of fact and conclusions of law that
support this decision.
A. Findings of Fact
1. Plaintiff Abdus Shahid is a naturalized citizen of the United States of America
and a native of Bangladesh.
2. Shahid’s case is entirely dependant on his credibility and I find him not
credible. I make this finding based on my observations of him during trial, the substance
of his testimony at trial, and my conclusion that the invoice he produced during discovery
in this case and the invoices he produced during discovery in Shahid v. Borough of
Eddystone, No. 11-CV-2501) are fraudulent. Where the testimony of Shahid differs from
the testimony of the defendant’s witnesses, I have credited the testimony of the
3. On January 26, 2006, Shahid purchased a non-residential warehouse located at
850 Summit Street, in the Borough of Darby, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The
property has ten separate rental units and is located across the street from the Borough
office. At the time of purchase, Shahid was a resident of New York and he remains a
resident of New York.
4. When Shahid purchased the warehouse one unit was occupied. Since Shahid
purchased the warehouse, three units have been occupied – but not always the same three
units and not always by the same tenants.
5. Borough Ordinance No. 118.5 provides as follows:
No building may be occupied for a nonresidential use by a person
unless the owner or tenant thereof shall first have applied for and received a
nonresidential occupancy permit application from the Code Official. The
application for such occupancy permit shall be submitted to the Department
of Code Enforcement with the appropriate fee not later than the Friday
before the regularly scheduled monthly committee meeting of Borough
Council, at which time the applicant is required to attend in order to discuss
the application with Council. Said application will then be voted on at the
next scheduled Council meeting.
6. Since purchasing the property, Shahid has, on several occasions, allowed
persons to conduct business in the warehouse without a non-residential occupancy
(“NRO”) certificate, in violation of Borough Ordinance No. 118.5.
7. Joseph Nerelli (a Caucasian) was the Borough’s Chief Code Enforcement
Officer and a member of the Borough Ordinance Committee from January, 2006, through
August, 2011. The Borough Ordinance Committee conducts an initial review of NRO
applications and then sends them to the Borough Council for further action.
8. Mark Possenti (a Caucasian) is the Borough Manager and served in that
capacity at all times relevant to this action. He supervises the Chief Code Enforcement
9. Janice Davis (an African-American) is the Borough Council President and
served in that capacity at all times relevant to this action.
10. In an “Official Notice” signed by Nerelli in his capacity as Chief Code
Enforcement Officer and dated February 28, 2008, Shahid was informed of safety
concerns the Borough had with his warehouse. Shahid was put on notice that vehicles
were parked on his property and looked as though they were in the process of having
bodywork done, that a large silver trailer on the lot needed to be removed, and that a
company was storing plastic food containers at the site. There were no NRO certificates
on file with the Borough that authorized these activities.
11. Nerelli issued five citations against Shahid for violations of Borough
sanitation ordinances existing at the warehouse in April and May, 2008. These citations
concerned the removal of the trailer from the lot and were issued for each day the trailer
remained on the lot after Shahid was notified to remove it. On September 17, 2008,
Shahid was convicted by a district justice of all violations.
12. Nerelli issued thirteen citations against Shahid for violations of Ordinance No.
118.5 that occurred at the warehouse in April 2009. These citations all concerned a
tenant at the warehouse that did not have an NRO certificate and was notified to vacate
the property. Shahid was cited for each day the tenant remained at the property. On
September 10, 2009, Shahid was convicted by a district justice of all violations.
13. Nerelli issued one citation to Shahid for failing to remove snow in February
2011. On July 19, 2011, he was convicted by a district justice of this violation.
14. Nerelli issued four citations against Shahid for violations for failing to remove
trash from the loading dock area of the warehouse in February and March, 2011. These
citations all involved dirt and debris left on the site after a tenant, Darrell Coleman, was
evicted from the property by Shahid. He was cited for each day the dirt and debris
remained on the property. On July 19, 2011, he was convicted by a district justice of all
15. Darrell Coleman was a tenant of Shahid who operated a model car race track
at the warehouse for some period of time in 2009 but was notified in 2010 that Shahid
intended to terminate his lease for non-payment of rent. Nonetheless, at some point after
the termination notice, Coleman’s NRO certificate was approved by the Borough
Council.1 Coleman was later evicted by order of a district justice. Coleman prevailed on
a counterclaim against Shahid resulting in his paying some amount of money to Coleman.
These vague facts constitute part of Shahid’s claim that the Borough discriminated
against him – this time not by denying a potential tenant an NRO certificate, but instead
by approving one for a bad tenant. There was no credible evidence to support any claim
16. Nerelli never made any discriminatory comments about Shahid’s race, color,
or national origin and never considered his race, color, or national origin when enforcing
Borough ordinances or making other decisions with respect to Shahid’s warehouse nor
did he know of any other Borough employee who did so.
17. Possenti never made any discriminatory comments about Shahid’s race, color,
There was no evidence that the Borough knew of Shahid’s intent to terminate the lease at the time the
NRO certificate was approved.
or national origin and never considered his race, color, or national origin when making
decisions with respect to Shahid’s warehouse, nor did he know of any other Borough
employee who did so.
18. Davis never made any discriminatory comments about Shahid’s race, color, or
national origin and never considered his race, color, or national origin when making
decisions with respect to Shahid’s warehouse nor did she know of any other Borough
employee who did so.
19. No Borough official or employee ever made any discriminatory comments
about Shahid’s race, color, or national origin and never considered his race, color, or
national origin when enforcing Borough ordinances or making other decisions with
respect to Shahid’s warehouse.
20. There was no credible evidence that Shahid or any of his potential tenants
were denied NRO certificates because of his race, color, or national origin.
21. The Borough of Darby never subjected Shahid to any type of unlawful
discrimination and did not and does not have any policy or custom of unlawful
discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.
22. The Borough of Darby did not and does not have any policy or custom of
allowing only African-Americans to do business and make a profit in the Borough.
23. Shahid’s allegations of discrimination are not supported by the evidence.
B. Conclusions of Law
1. This action is brought against a government entity for alleged constitutional
violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. I have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331 and 1343(a)(3).
2. Shahid claims the Borough of Darby violated his Fourteenth Amendment right
to equal protection by denying his non-residential occupancy permits because of his race,
color, and national origin. To prevail, Shahid must prove by a preponderance of the
evidence that the Borough itself, through the implementation of municipal policy or
custom, caused the underlying constitutional violation. See Monell v. Department of
Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 691-95 (1978).
3. When a §1983 claim is brought against a municipality, I must consider two
issues: 1) whether the plaintiff's harm was caused by a constitutional violation; and 2) if
so, whether the municipality is responsible for that violation. Collins v. City of Harker
Heights, Texas, 503 U.S. 115, 120 (1992). Because a municipality cannot be held liable
under a theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability, I must first determine
“whether there is a direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the
alleged constitutional deprivation.” City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989).
If there is no causal link, the municipality is not liable even if plaintiff’s constitutional
rights have been violated. Collins, 503 U.S. at 122.
4. Shahid has failed to present any credible evidence that he suffered harm as the
result of any constitutional violation, thus, there can be no municipal liability.
5. Judgment must be entered in favor of the Defendant, Borough of Darby and
against Plaintiff, Abdus Shahid.
An appropriate order follows.
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