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RATAJACK v. BOARD OF FIRE & POLICE COMMRS. OF CALU

January 19, 1990

WAYNE RATAJACK, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE COMMISSIONERS OF CITY OF CALUMET CITY and CITY OF CALUMET CITY, Defendants


Ilana Diamond Rovner, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROVNER

ILANA DIAMOND ROVNER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 I. INTRODUCTION

 II. FACTS

 Accepting as true the facts alleged in the amended complaint, plaintiff has been employed by the Calumet City Police Department as a part-time police officer since January 2, 1985. The defendant Board of Fire and Police Commissioners ("Board") maintains a list of candidates qualified for employment as full-time police officers. Plaintiff was placed on this list on March 1, 1988, after passing written and oral examinations.

 During August, 1988, the Calumet City Chief of Police informed the Board that plaintiff had failed to pass a background check and that plaintiff was not qualified for employment as a full-time police officer. On August 30, plaintiff's name was removed from the eligibility list.

 During September, 1988, plaintiff demanded that the Board inform him of the reason for the removal of his name from the eligibility list or, alternatively, that the Board reinstate him on the list. On October 3, plaintiff demanded that the Board reinstate him or hold a hearing concerning the removal of his name from the list. These demands were rejected on October 12. On October 21, plaintiff renewed his demand for a hearing. The Board did not respond.

 Plaintiff alleges that the reason for his removal from the list was that he was sponsored in his part-time position by a Calumet City alderman who is a political opponent of the Chief of Police.

 III. DUE PROCESS

 Count I of the amended complaint alleges that plaintiff's removal from the eligibility list constitutes a violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In order to state a claim under the due process clause, plaintiff must allege the deprivation of a property or liberty interest. Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 569-70, 92 S. Ct. 2701, 2705, 33 L. Ed. 2d 548 (1972).

 A. Property Interest

 To determine whether plaintiff had a property interest in his place on the eligibility list, the Court must look to Illinois state law. Roth, 408 U.S. at 577, 92 S. Ct. at 2709. Defendants argue that Illinois law does not create a property interest in one's place on the eligibility list. They emphasize, and plaintiff does not dispute, that if plaintiff were to be hired as a full-time police officer from the eligibility list, he would become a probationary officer who could be discharged without cause and without notice or an opportunity to be heard. See Romanik v. Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of East St. Louis, 61 Ill.2d 422, 338 N.E.2d 397 (1975); Doyle v. Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the Village of Schaumburg, 48 Ill.App.3d 449, 363 N.E.2d 79, 6 Ill.Dec. 550 (1977), cert. denied, 436 U.S. 941, 98 S. Ct. 2839, 56 L. Ed. 2d 781 (1978). Because a probationary police officer serves at the will of his employer, he does not enjoy a property interest in that position. See Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341, 343-47, 96 S. Ct. 2074, 2077-78, 48 L. Ed. 2d 684 (1976). Defendants complete their argument by pointing out that an applicant for an employment position can have no greater interest than has an employee who holds that position. Because a probationary police officer does not have a property interest in retaining employment, an applicant on the eligibility list can have no property interest in achieving the position of probationary police officer.


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