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CHICAGO MIRACLE TEMPLE CHURCH, INC. v. FOX

September 25, 1995

CHICAGO MIRACLE TEMPLE CHURCH, INC.; PASTOR WILLIAM P. ANDERSON; MR. LARRY WILSON; MR. JAMES M. BRIGGS; MR. ADDISON BELL; MS. LOLA PARKER; MR. ROBERT SCOGGINS; AND MS. CHERYL E. ANDERSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
REVEREND J. MICHAEL FOX; WALTER KRUGER; DUANE FRITZ; THE LANSING BIBLE CHURCH; THE VILLAGE OF LANSING, ILLINOIS; ROBERT WEST, as Mayor of the Village of Lansing, Illinois and in his individual capacity; JAMES MCCOLLUM, PATTI LEACH, THOMAS EISHA, THOMAS CREMONESI, MARVIN LYZENGA and JOHN MARCZEWSKI, in their official capacity as Trustees of the Village of Lansing, Illinois and in their individual capacities, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CASTILLO

 The Chicago Miracle Temple Church ("the church"), the church's pastor, and the church's board of directors (collectively "plaintiffs") sue the Village of Lansing ("the village"), the village's mayor, and the village's board of trustees (collectively "defendants") under 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 1983, 1985(3) and 1986 (Counts III, IV and V, respectively). *fn1" The mayor and board members are sued both in their official and individual capacities. This suit arises out of the church's thwarted attempt to purchase real property in the village-the site of the Lansing Bible Church ("the property"). All of the Chicago Miracle Temple Church members are African-American. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants deprived them (and conspired-amongst themselves and with the private defendants-to deprive them) of the equal protection of the laws by acting to prevent the church from purchasing the property because of the racial composition of the church's membership. The plaintiffs further allege that the defendants had knowledge of such a conspiracy and neglected to prevent its commission despite their power to do so. The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief as well as $ 10 million in actual and punitive damages. The defendants' motion for summary judgment on counts III, IV, and V of the complaint is presently before the court.

 BACKGROUND

 The following undisputed facts are gleaned from the parties' respective Local General Rule 12 statements of material facts and accompanying exhibits. *fn2" These facts are deemed without substantial controversy and shall be considered as established pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d).

 From June 1992 through August 1993, the Lansing Bible Church listed for sale property located at 18123 Burnham Avenue, which includes a building formerly used by the Lansing Bible Church. Defs.' Facts P 5. The property was initially listed for $ 290,000; however, in May 1993, the Lansing Bible Church changed real estate agents and lowered the asking price to $ 260,000. Id.

 In the spring of 1993, the village held an election for various members of the board of trustees and for the village president. Robert West ("West"), the successful candidate for president, and James McCollum ("McCollum"), an unsuccessful candidate for president but a sitting trustee, both publicly commented during their campaigns on the need to provide programs for the village's youth and the possibility of purchasing a building for a youth center. Id. P 6.

 In July, 1993, plaintiff Cheryl Anderson, the wife of William Anderson, the church pastor, became aware that the property at 18123 Burnham Avenue was for sale. Id. P 8. On July 18, 1993, Cheryl and William Anderson inspected the property. On August 1, 1993, the board of directors of the church voted to make an offer to purchase the property. Id. P 9. On or about August 8, 1993, the church tendered a written communication, which it termed an offer, to purchase the property for $ 230,000. *fn3"

 On or about August 13, 1993, Duane Fritz ("Fritz"), an Elder of the Lansing Bible Church, met with West at the Lansing Village Hall. Id. P 11. Fritz did not have an appointment to meet with West. Fritz stated that he was aware that the Village might be interested in acquiring the Lansing Bible Church property for a youth center and he then informed West that the property was listed for sale at a price of $ 260,000 and that a bid of $ 230,000 had been received from a black church located in the City of Chicago. Id. P 11; Pls.' Facts P 10; Fritz Aff. P 4; West Dep. at 100, 103, 104, 106, 110. Fritz attests that he did not discuss with West whether the Village should or would offer to purchase the property to prevent the church from purchasing the property. Fritz Aff. P 5. Nor did West recall any such conversation. West Dep. at 100-09.

 On or about August 16, 1993, West contacted Kenneth Johnson ("Johnson"), a real estate sales agent, who worked in the same office as the listing agent for the Lansing Bible Church property. Defs.' Facts P 13; West Dep. at 121-126. West made an appointment with Johnson to view the property later that day. West notified other village trustees and asked if they could view the property. Defs.' Facts P 13. Johnson and West viewed the property that day, along with Kenneth Stratka ("Stratka"), the village building commissioner and president of the Lansing Park District, Jim Garrison ("Garrison"), the village code enforcement officer, and Norman Abbott ("Abbott"), chairman of the village plan commission. Id. P 14.

 After viewing the property, West contacted Jeffrey Besse ("Besse"), an elder at the Lansing Bible Church, and indicated that the village was interested in purchasing the property for a youth center. Id. P 15. West indicated that the village would probably offer the asking price of $ 260,000 for the property. Id.4 Besse attests that although West indicated to him that he (West) was aware that another offer had been made, West did not indicate that he knew that the other offeror was a church with an African American congregation. Besse Aff. P 4. Besse further attests that at no time prior to the village's offer to purchase the property did he discuss with West the race of the other offeror. Id. P 5. Nor did Besse discuss with West whether the Village should or would offer to purchase the property to prevent the Chicago Miracle Temple Church or any other party from purchasing the property because of their race. Id. P 6.

 The village board voted to make an offer to purchase the property for $ 260,000 at the August 17, 1993 village board meeting. Id. P 16. The offer was contingent on the property having a certified appraisal that supported a value of $ 260,000, and on an opinion from bond counsel that tax increment financing bonds could be used to finance the purchase. Id. P 16. On August 19 or 20, 1993, the village attorney contacted Johnson and informed him that the village's offer had been prepared. Johnson delivered the offer to the Lansing Bible Church the following day. Id. P 17. The church then raised its offer from $ 230,000 to $ 260,000 to match the village's offer. Id. P 18. On August 29, 1993, the members of the Lansing Bible Church voted to accept the village's offer. Id. P 19.

 It is undisputed that none of the plaintiffs have had any contact with any official, employee or agent of the village. Id. P 29. The village contends that West's only conversations with Fritz were at the meeting on August 13, 1993 and a single telephone call by Fritz to West sometime between August 22 and August 29, 1993, in which Fritz informed West that the Lansing Bible Church would vote on the village's pending offer on August 29, 1993. Id. P 26. The village also contends that at no time did West and Fritz discuss whether the village should or would offer to purchase the property to prevent the church from moving to Lansing. Id. P 12. The village further contends that at no time prior to August 29, 1993 did West and Besse discuss the race of the other offeror or agree that the village should or would offer to purchase the property to prevent the church from purchasing the property because of the race of its members. Id. P 27. The church disputes these facts, but does not reference parts of the record to support a factual dispute. *fn5" Pls.' Facts P 17. Because the plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the requirements of Local Rule 12(N)(3)(a), requiring the nonmoving party to provide specific references to supporting materials, these facts set forth in the defendants' statement, and properly supported, are deemed admitted. Local Rule 12(M) and 12(N)(3)(b); see also Bell v. Tapy, 896 F.2d 1101, 1102 (7th Cir. 1990).

 The record reflects that trustees McCollum, Leach, Eisha, Cremonesi, Lyzenga, Marczewski never met or spoke with any member of the Lansing Bible Church to discuss the purchase of the property, or any other matter, prior to the village's vote to make an offer, or prior to the Lansing Bible Church's vote on August 29, 1993. Defs.' Facts PP 20-25. Although the plaintiffs purport to dispute this fact, once again, they have not even attempted to identify evidence in the record to support the existence of a factual dispute. Accordingly, these facts are deemed admitted.

 Notwithstanding their failure to properly controvert many of the factual averments offered by the defendants, the plaintiffs submit the following facts in their response to defendants' 12(M) statement. *fn6" Plaintiffs contend that, after the citizen's comment at the June 8, 1993 meeting regarding two potential buildings for a village youth center, the only initial response of the village was that West asked the village economic development director to check into the two proposed buildings. Pls.' Facts P 5. Further, at the meetings of the village board on July 13, 20, and 23, at which the board discussed and approved budget appropriations for fiscal year 1993-1994 (July 13 and 23 meetings) and approved the final plans of an Ordinance that included phases of the Ridge Road TIF plan (July 20 meeting), there was no discussion, or appropriation, of funds for the purchase of a village youth center. Id. PP 6, 7, 8.

 The plaintiffs further contend, and the record corroborates, that on August 17, 1993, prior to the village's vote to make an offer to purchase the property, West communicated to Trustees Cremonesi and Lyzenga that an offer had been made on the property by a black church from Chicago and that West also informed Trustee Eisha that an offer by a church from Chicago had been made on the property. Id. PP 12, 13.

 Finally, as part of the church's settlement with the private defendants, the church contracted to purchase the property for $ 200,000. Defs.' Facts P 31. The village contends that the church never obtained financing to purchase the property because an underground storage tank was found on the property. Defs.' Facts P 31. The village also maintains that the church has indicated that it would not purchase the property until the issue of the underground storage tank is resolved by the Lansing Bible Church. Defs.' Facts P 31; Anderson Dep. at 82-83, 140-144. The church responds by stating that it has reserved a decision on whether to purchase the property until the underground storage tank has been investigated and also because of continued harassment and threats from unknown parties. Pls.' Facts P 16; Bell Aff. P 5.

 ANALYSIS

 Summary Judgment Standards

 Summary judgment is proper only if the record shows 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. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue for trial exists only when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). The court must view all evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Valley Liquors, Inc. v. Renfield Importers, Ltd., 822 F.2d 656, 659 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 977, 98 L. Ed. 2d 486, 108 S. Ct. 488 (1987), and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Santiago v. Lane, 894 F.2d 218, 221 (7th Cir. 1990). However, if the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50; Flip Side Productions, Inc. v. Jam Productions, Ltd., 843 F.2d 1024, 1032 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 909, 102 L. Ed. 2d 249, 109 S. Ct. 261, (1988). In making its determination, the court's sole function is to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to support a verdict in the ...


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