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Scott E. Mollen

Developer’s Claims Against the City of Buffalo Based on RICO, Violation of the Equal Protection Clause, Breach of Contract and Promissory Estoppel Dismissed—Developer had Allegedly Refused to Hire Political Ally of the Mayor

A developer had made “preliminary arrangements from 2007 through 2009 with the city of Buffalo to build affordable housing on city owned land and to finance the project in part with public funds.” The project allegedly “died,” because the developer “refused to hire a political ally of the mayor.” The developer sued the city, the city’s Urban Renewal Agency, the mayor, and other city officials. A U.S. District Court had dismissed all of the developer’s claims, either based on Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(c) or by summary judgment. The developer appealed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (court) affirmed.

The court held that the developers “civil RICO claim against the city officials is barred by common law legislative immunity because the mayor’s refusal to take the final steps needed to approve the project was discretionary legislative conduct, and (developer’s) prima facie case would require a factfinder to inquire into the motives behind that protected conduct.” The court further held that the developer’s “class of one” equal protection claim “was properly dismissed because (developer) failed to allege in sufficient detail the similarities between (developer’s) proposed development and other projects that previously received the city’s approval.”

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