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BLANK v. SWAN

March 25, 1980

PHILOMENA BLANK, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DONALD G. SWAN; BARRY SHERMAN; DANIEL W. BURKE; ARTHUR FOURNIER; RONALD LUNDIN; AND YORK TOWNSHIP, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Flaum, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court upon defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is denied.

Plaintiff, Philomena Blank (Blank) was hired by defendant Donald G. Swan (Swan) as an employee of defendant York Township (York) on March 15, 1970.*fn1 In 1973 Swan made her chief welfare caseworker and office manager. Swan, who remained her supervisor, gave Malci Agnic (Agnic) a job in their office in March 1976. On April 21, 1976, Swan sent Blank a letter which reads as follows:

Dear Mrs. Blank,

  I am attaching a photostatic copy of a felony,
  which is known as intimidation. Effective Friday,
  April 22, 1977, I am suspending you as an
  employee of York Township.
  Your case will be reviewed if you will secure
  competent professional help.
  Upon a review of a medical report concerning your
  physical and emotional well being a final
  decision will be made concerning your employment.
  Yours very truly,
  York Township
  Don Swan
  Supervisor, York Township.

There is evidence that Swan publicized the charges that Blank was emotionally or mentally disturbed and that she had tried to blackmail him both before and after he sent Blank this letter.

Blank informally requested a hearing before the York Township Board of Trustees, but received none. She never requested a hearing before Swan. Since her suspension*fn2 became effective, Blank has received no further salary from York, no payments have been made on her behalf to the municipal retirement fund, and she has neither received nor been eligible for any benefits associated with employment with York.

After looking for a job for over a year, Blank obtained a clerical job with the Veterans Administration in Hines, Illinois. She held this position from September, 1978, until later in the year, when she moved to New York with her husband.

In Count I of her two-count Complaint, Blank alleges that defendants' actions during the course of this episode violated her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. In Count II she seeks recovery from Swan for libel and slander under Illinois law.

The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that no State shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law". Blank contends that defendants have unconstitutionally deprived her of a liberty interest by defaming her in connection with the change in her employment status.*fn3

In Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed.2d 548 (1972), the Supreme Court announced that a constitutionally protected liberty interest of a teacher whose employment contract was not renewed by the State might be implicated if said non-renewal was based on a charge against him that "might seriously damage his standing and associations in his community," 408 U.S. at 573, 92 S.Ct. at 2707, or if "the State, in declining to reemploy [him], imposed on him a stigma or other ...


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