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HUDSON v. BURKE

September 24, 1985

HENRY HUDSON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
EDWARD BURKE AND THE CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANTS.



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

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Lafayette Blackmon, Gwen Flowers, Henry Hudson, Ruby Thomas, John Laschiava and Whitney Valentine*fn1 brought this civil rights' action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for injunctive relief and damages claiming that the defendants Alderman Burke ("Burke") and the City of Chicago (the "City") violated plaintiffs' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by terminating their employment as investigators for the City Council's Finance Committee. The terminations allegedly resulted because plaintiffs were supporters of Mayor Washington and Alderman Frost, who are purportedly political "enemies" of Alderman Burke. All of the parties have filed motions for summary judgment.

Summary judgment is a drastic remedy which should be granted only when it is clear that the requirements of Rule 56, F.R.Civ.P., have been met. As the Supreme Court in Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting, 368 U.S. 464, 467, 82 S.Ct. 486, 488, 7 L.Ed.2d 458 (1961) admonished:

  Summary judgment should be entered only when the
  pleadings, depositions, affidavits and admissions
  filed in the case show that . . . there is no genuine
  issue as to any material fact and that the moving
  party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
  law . . . [summary judgment is appropriate
  only] . . . where it is quite clear what the truth
  is, . . . [and where] no genuine issue remains for
  trial. . . .

All allegations and inferences are to be construed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. However, "to create a question of fact, an adverse party responding to a properly made and supported summary judgment motion must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Posey v. Skyline Corp., 702 F.2d 102, 105 (7th Cir. 1983). A party may not rest on mere allegations or denials of his pleadings; similarly, a bare allegation that an issue of fact exists is insufficient. Shacket v. Philko Aviation, Inc., 681 F.2d 506, 513 n. 8 (7th Cir. 1982).

For the reasons set forth below, the City's motion for summary judgment is granted. Alderman Burke's motion is granted in part and denied in part, and the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is denied.

BACKGROUND FACTS*fn2

The plaintiffs were hired as investigators on the Finance Committee staff by Frost, except for plaintiff Hudson who was hired based on Frost's letter of sponsorship to the prior chairman. (Blackman Dep., pp. 32, 37-38; LaSchiava Dep., p. 69; Hudson Dep., pp. 24-25, 29; Thomas Dep., pp. 55-56.) During Frost's tenure as Chairman, investigators acted principally as claims adjusters, conducting field investigations of three kinds: (a) small property damage claims brought against the City; (b) claims brought by police and firemen for work-related personal injuries and (c) workers' compensation claims filed by city employees. (Bell Dep., pp. 18-20.) Plaintiffs conducted interviews, took witness statements and processed documents. (Flowers Dep., pp. 29-39.) Plaintiffs, most of whom were precinct captains, also performed political work for Alderman Frost and his 34th Ward Organization. (Blackman Dep. pp. 5-6; LaSchiava Dep., pp. 14-15; Hudson Dep., pp. 38-42; Flowers Dep. pp. 24-25; Valentine Dep., p. 30; Thomas Dep., pp. 41-42.)

On May 2, 1983, during a now legendary session of the City Council, Mayor Washington unsuccessfully attempted to adjourn the Council meeting to prevent the majority block of alderman (referred to in the media as the "Vrdolyak 29") from realigning committee chairmanships and altering Council rules. Alderman Frost and a minority faction of the Council walked out of the Council chambers after the Mayor's "adjournment"; however, a majority of the council members remained and continued to conduct Council business. During this post-"adjournment" session, Alderman Burke was elected Chairman of the Council Finance. (Complaint, ¶ 9-10; Burke Dep., pp. 15, 38, 131, 162, 168.)

The Illinois Appellate Court upheld the legality of the City Council meeting at which Alderman Burke was elected Finance Committee Chairman. Roti v. Washington and Rush v. Kozubowski, 114 Ill. App.3d 958, 71 Ill.Dec. 30, 450 N.E.2d 465. However, Alderman Frost refused to vacate the Finance Committee office or to allow Alderman Burke access for approximately two months. (Burke Affidavit, ¶ 7.) Alderman Frost finally relinquished the Chairman's office after the Illinois Supreme Court refused to review the Appellate Court's decision. (Burke Dep., pp. 109-110.)

After Alderman Burke was elected Chairman of the Finance Committee, he determined that the Committee should take a more aggressive and active role than before to monitor City government activities and financial affairs. (Burke Dep., pp. 26, 61, 62, 67, 72, 75.) Burke therefore allegedly decided to change the duties of the Finance Committee investigators. In addition to investigations of workmen's compensation claims and injured-on-duty claims of police and firefighters, the investigators were to gather factual information concerning needs for and delivery of City services. Burke claims that under his leadership, the upgraded responsibilities of the investigators' work have included:

  Discovery that City departments had cars in excess of
  those provided in the City budget, which led to
  passage of an ordinance limiting the number of City
  vehicles. (Burke Dep. at 73-74, 91; Kubasiak
  affidavit at 4a.)
  Discovery that an ex-City employee was being
  chaufferred around the City by a City employee using
  a City car. This information helped lead to a
  requirement in the 1984 ordinance that each City
  agency report its utilization of each vehicle to the
  Finance Committee. In addition, there is a current
  investigation of the excessive use of City employee

  chauffers and City vehicles by City administrators
  after normal working hours. (Kubasiak affidavit at
  4b; Burke Dep. at 74, 83-85, 88, 91.)
  Investigation and evaluation of actual and potential
  recipients of community block grant funds including
  site visits, interviews, examinations of records,
  after which a community development grant budget was
  created with line items which track annual
  appropriations ordinance and demonstrate the specific
  use of funds. (Burke Dep. at 77-78, 114-15, 117;
  Kubasiak Dep. at 70.)
  On-site inspections of work by persons under
  contract, to perform City functions (Burke Dep. at
  111, 123), as well as proposed contracts (Kubasiak
  Dep. at 101-102) and gathering of factual information
  to determine whether those persons are capable of
  performing properly (Kubasiak affidavit at 4c.)
  Investigations of complaints regarding the efficiency
  of City departments' operations, including use of
  motor fuels tax revenue, since the City Department of
  Public Works must receive specific allocations from
  the City Council, as well as because the Finance
  Committee is mandated by ordinance to determine
  whether all appropriations are being used efficiently
  and in accord with the appropriations. (Burke Dep. at
  111, 119-20.)
  Examination of the delivery of services by various
  City departments to provide information concerning
  whether they are efficient and for use in
  establishing priorities and needs in the budget and
  appropriations process. (Kubasiak affidavit at 4d.)
  A survey and analysis of abandonded buildings, which
  was used in determining needs and priorities for
  various City services and appropriations. (Kubasiak
  affidavit at 4e.)
  Factual research regarding other legislative issues,
  including the use of motor fuels tax revenue since
  the Finance Committee is mandated by ordinance to
  determine whether such funds are being used
  efficiently and in accord with City Council
  appropriations. (Kubasiak affidavit at 4f.)

These duties, it is contended, include investigations of matters which are politically sensitive, because the results could reflect well or poorly on various elected officials and politicians. (Kubasiak Dep., pp. 98-99.)

Upon assuming the Chairmanship of the Finance Committee, Alderman Burke met with Edward Bell, who was then serving as the committee's Chief Administrative Officer. Among the topics discussed were the nature of the job responsibilities performed by the employees of the Finance Committee, and the identities of the employees of political sponsors. (Bell Dep., pp. 44-46, 49-54, 78-79.) Burke learned that plaintiffs were politically affiliated with Alderman Frost. (Burke Dep., 249-250.)

During July, 1983, plaintiffs were fired from their positions as investigators for the Finance Committee by Alderman Burke. Plaintiffs allege that the "sole motive, purpose and reason" for their firings was their political beliefs and associations — namely, their association with Frost and Washington. (Complaint, ¶ 11.)

Mr. Burke explained his reasons for terminating the plaintiffs' employment as follows:

    Q. You felt that you were better off if those
  appointees were out of the office for confidentiality
  and security reasons, is that correct?
    A. Well, I think that it is reasonable to assume if
  they were tied to Alderman Frost, and their loyalty
  was to Alderman Frost, that we could expect that we
  would not receive from them the confidentiality and
  dedication that would be required of employees to the
  new chairman.
    Q. In fact, you did anticipate that problem, is
  that correct?

A. That was one of the reasons they were dismissed.

Q. What other reasons?

    A. It would appear from our examination of what was
  going on that many of them were incompetent. The
  police and fire claims were in a total mess. There
  were claims dating back for years

  that hadn't been acted on. Some were buried in
  drawers someplace.
    The unions were complaining about the treatment
  that the police and fire members were getting from
  the committee. Bills would go unpaid. Firemen and
  policemen were being sued for nonpayment of bills.
  There was a lack of recovery from third party payers
  in cases that were pending in court, and that's been
  rectified. The record speaks for itself. There is an
  increase in tens of thousands of ...

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