requirements; and to assure that Lincolnwood would not assume responsibility for water mains on private property without proper protection, authorization, and indemnification.
Nevertheless, the court does not believe that Diamond's speech possesses First Amendment protection in this context. As Chulay points out, Lincolnwood's interest in providing the efficient operation of its Public Works Department by requiring some level of patronage outweighs Diamond's interest in making these statements to others involved in the same projects. See Breuer v. Hart, 909 F.2d 1035, 1037 (7th Cir. 1990) (right to free speech is balanced against interest in running efficient Department). Diamond directed his statements to Lincolnwood employees or officials, the Towncenter developers, and Lincolnwood's consulting engineers. The defendants could appropriately feel that Diamond had a duty to assist in the project's completion without frustrating its progress, regardless of his apparent disagreement with certain aspects of the project. Chulay wanted to make his administration accessible to the residents, and to provide more personalized services by satisfying residents' complaints. He favored a regional mall in order to bring more business into Lincolnwood and in fact actually cast the deciding vote in favor of the development of the mall. Diamond's actions were arguably perceived as threatening or hampering the progress or development of the mall. Therefore, defendants properly justified Diamond's discharge by pointing to the important need for loyalty and confidence which defendants have demonstrated is required for Diamond's position as Superintendent of Public Works and Acting Director of Public Works. See id. at 1040 (special emphasis is placed on need to encourage close and personal relationship between employee and superiors).
Moreover, there exists no connection between Diamond's memos and letters on these issues and his discharge. The statements regarding the water distribution system were made twenty-five months prior to Diamond's discharge; the statements regarding the Bryn Mawr Country Club storm sewer line were made twenty months prior to Diamond's discharge; the statements regarding the townhouse water meters were made about one year prior to the discharge; and the correspondence regarding the water main at the Towncenter mall began eight months before he was fired. The time between the statements and the firing decision is far too attenuated. Diamond has not produced any evidence that these statements were connected in any way to the firing decision, and Chulay denies these statements played any role in the decision to fire Diamond. Also, Diamond's comments did not directly implicate Chulay in any wrongdoing himself, only that some projects were being accomplished inefficiently. Therefore, there exists no evidence from which to infer that Chulay was motivated to terminate Diamond because he spoke on these matters, as is required to establish liability. See Vukadinovich, 853 F.2d at 1389-90.
In sum, summary judgment in favor of defendants is proper on Count II. Diamond's speech does not possess First Amendment protection in this case. The interests of Diamond as a citizen in commenting upon matters of public concern are outweighed by the interests of Lincolnwood and Chulay. Furthermore, there exists no connection between Diamond's termination and Diamond's statements.
IV. Interference With Prospective Economic Interest (Count V):
The court next finds that Chulay is entitled to summary judgment on Count V. The termination decision was justified and not contrary to the interests of Lincolnwood.
Chulay possesses a qualified privileged under the Illinois Municipal Code to discharge any person he has appointed. ILL. REV. STAT. ch. 24, PP 3-12-2 and 3-11-1. Therefore, to recover for an interference with prospective economic advantage, Diamond must demonstrate that (1) he possesses a reasonable expectancy of continuing his business relationship with Lincolnwood, (2) Chulay knew of the expectancy, (3) Chulay purposely and unjustifiably (or maliciously) interfered with and defeated this legitimate expectancy, and (4) the interference caused harm to Diamond. Fellhauer v. City of Geneva, 142 Ill. 2d 495, 568 N.E.2d 870, 878, 154 Ill. Dec. 649 (1991); HPI Health Care Servs. Inc. v. Mt. Vernon Hosp., Inc., 131 Ill. 2d 145, 545 N.E.2d 672, 678, 137 Ill. Dec. 19 (1989). Illinois law recognizes that an at-will employee may possess a legitimate expectation of future economic advantage if he or she can establish that there existed a presumption that his or her employment would continue indefinitely. Fellhauer, 568 N.E.2d at 878. There exists enough evidence, though contradicted, to allow a jury to determine whether Diamond legitimately presumed his employment would continue indefinitely. And Chulay was certainly aware of Diamond's relationship with Lincolnwood.
On the third requirement, however, that Chulay purposely and unjustifiably interfered with Diamond's legitimate expectancy, the court finds that the termination was justified. The tort of interference usually lies against third-parties who cause an employer/employee relationship to terminate. See Belden Corp. v. Internorth, Inc., 45 Ill. Dec. 765, 413 N.E.2d 98, 90 Ill. App. 3d 547 (1980) (discharge was result of intentional and unjustified action of another); see also Fellhauer, 568 N.E.2d at 878-79 (one who induces another to breach his contract with a third party will be liable). Nonetheless, a municipal officer can conceivably be held liable for intentionally misusing his or her powers of office to cause a discharge. See Fellhauer, 546 N.E.2d at 800 (noting that plaintiff failed to support allegation that mayor caused set of false charges to be filed with city council). Therefore, the court will find Diamond's termination unjustified only if Chulay acted for his own personal interests and totally unrelated to, or even antagonistic to, the interest which gave rise to his privilege. HPI Health Care, 545 N.E.2d at 678.
Diamond fails on this standard. Diamond claims Chulay's motives were entirely political. In light of the discussion in Part II, however, Chulay's action was not totally unrelated or antagonistic to the best interests of the municipality. On the contrary, patronage was essential to the proper functioning of the Public Works Department and is therefore not an improper factor upon which to rely in this case. Notwithstanding that Chulay may have fallen short when presenting his reasons for terminating Diamond to the Village Trustees, Chulay's motive for discharging Diamond -- political it may have been -- was not malicious or entirely self-motivated. The evidence does not indicate that Chulay was vindictively out to get Diamond or that he misused his office. Furthermore, as the Illinois Supreme Court noted in Fellhauer, this situation "does not present an instance of 'outsiders intermeddling maliciously in the contracts or affairs of other parties." Fellhauer, 568 N.E.2d at 879 (citing Loewenthal Securities Co. White Paving Co., 351 Ill. 285, 300, 184 N.E. 310 (1932)). "It instead involves the discharge of an appointed public official by the officer authorized . . . to both initiate and terminate employment for that position." Id.
In sum, summary judgment is appropriate in favor of Chulay and against Diamond on Count V because Chulay's action was not unjustified.
V. Federal Labor Standards Act Overtime Requirements (Count VI):
Finally, the court finds that summary judgment in favor of defendants is appropriate on Count VI.
Diamond seeks payment for (1) overtime wages while serving as Superintendent and Acting Director of Public Works, (2) a retroactive clothing allowance for the 1988-89 year in the amount of $ 450, (3) unused accumulated sick days, and (4) unused vacation pay. Except for the claim under the Federal Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., Diamond advances no theory of liability. Defendants, on the other hand, assert that Diamond occupied a position which was exempt from federal overtime requirements; that Lincolnwood did not have a policy of purchasing unused sick days from management employees upon their leaving its employment; and that no compensation is due for Diamond's unused vacation days because Lincolnwood's policy required employees to use their vacation days in the year in which they were earned without accumulation.
Diamond does not counter the defendants' argument that Diamond occupied an exempt position from the overtime requirements. Employees working in an executive or administrative capacity are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act's overtime provisions. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1); 29 C.F.R. §§ 541.1, 541.2. To establish an exemption, the employer must prove (1) that the employee is compensated on a salary basis of not less than $ 250 per week, (2) that the employee is primarily responsible for management duties, and (3) that the employee customarily and regularly directed the work of two or more other employees. 29 C.F.R. § 541.1; York v. City of Wichita Falls, 944 F.2d 236, 242 (5th Cir. 1991). Defendants have established the exemption. Defendants have sufficiently established that Lincolnwood compensated Diamond on a salary basis amounting to more than $ 250 per week. Diamond admits his salary ranged from $ 34,500 to $ 41,800 a year, making his weekly income between $ 660 to $ 800. The duties of Superintendent of Public Works and Director of Public Works encompass primarily management functions, collectively including the establishment of policy and long-term goals, the implementation of policy, the preparation of the budget, promotion and termination of department personnel, as well as managing resources and personnel. Last, the Superintendent of Public Works and the Director of Public Works both oversee approximately thirty-five to forty-five employees.
On the other claims, both sides have demonstrated that there are factual issues regarding Lincolnwood's responsibilities and policies in regard to the clothing allowance, unused sick days, and unused vacation time. Nevertheless, neither side has supported their position with any authority. Diamond's briefs do not even identify the theory of liability with which he is pursuing these claims beyond that it was Lincolnwood's "policy or practice" to grant these benefits. Is he claiming these additional benefits under the Fair Labor Standards Act, local statute or ordinance, or some theory of contract law? Diamond does not provide the court with an argument to establish the enforceability in law of a "policy or practice" under these circumstances. A "skeletal argument," unsupported by relevant authority or reasoning, is merely an assertion which does not sufficiently raise the issue to merit the court's consideration. United States v. Giovannetti, 919 F.2d 1223, 1230 (7th Cir. 1990) ("A litigant who fails to press a point by supporting it with pertinent authority or by showing why it is a good point despite a lack of authority . . . forfeits the point. We will not do his research for him") (emphasis in original; citations omitted); United States v. Dunkel, 927 F.2d 955, 956 (7th Cir. 1991) ("Judges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs"); see also Hanrahan v. Thieret, 933 F.2d 1328, 1335 n.13 (7th Cir.) (quoting Dunkel), cert. denied, 116 L. Ed. 2d 464, 112 S. Ct. 446 (1991). The court accordingly deems the remaining issues abandoned and concludes that Diamond has no remaining claims in Count IV.
For all of the reasons stated above, the defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in its entirety. Diamond's motion for summary judgment is denied.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
CHARLES RONALD NORGLE, SR., Judge
United States District Court