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KOKKINIS v. IVKOVICH

July 13, 1998

PETER A. KOKKINIS, Plaintiff,
v.
VLADIMIR IVKOVICH, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ALESIA

Before the court is defendants Village of Bridgeview and Vladimir Ivkovich's motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the court grants defendants' motion.

 I. BACKGROUND1

 Plaintiff Peter Kokkinis ("Kokkinis") is a patrol officer with defendant Village of Bridgeview ("the Village"). Defendant Vladimir Ivkovich ("the Chief") is the Chief of Police of the Village's police department ("the department"). Kokkinis brought this suit against defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that defendants violated his First Amendment rights by retaliating against him because of statements he made about the Chief during a news report aired on Channel Five News at 5:00. This court has subject matter jurisdiction over the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

 Before detailing the relevant facts, the court must make one comment on an evidentiary issue. In support of their motion for summary judgment, defendants submitted excerpts from diaries kept by Kokkinis. *fn2" Defendants have submitted these excerpts not as evidence of the truth of the matter asserted therein but, rather, as evidence of Kokkinis' state of mind; thus, the diary excerpts do not constitute inadmissible hearsay. Kokkinis has not disputed the authenticity of these diary entries. Accordingly, the court will consider the statements contained in those diary excerpts as evidence of Kokkinis' state of mind.

 In order to understand this court's opinion, one must be aware of a number of facts. For the sake of clarity, a recitation of these facts is in three parts. Part A discusses events that occurred with respect to Kokkinis' employment in the department prior to Kokkinis' appearance on Channel Five News at 5:00. Part B discusses the facts related to Kokkinis' appearance on the news program, including the statements Kokkinis made which are the subject of this § 1983 First Amendment retaliation suit. Part C discusses events that occurred after Kokkinis' appearance on the news program.

 A. Events occurring before Kokkinis' television appearance

 Kokkinis began working with the department in 1987. In May of 1990, Kokkinis applied for the position of tactical officer. Kokkinis was not made a tactical officer. In 1994, Kokkinis applied for a promotion to detective. Kokkinis did not get that promotion, which upset him.

 On January 20, 1995, Kokkinis filed two grievances complaining of discrimination: grievances Number 95-02 and 95-01. In Number 95-02, Kokkinis complained that the department discriminated against him by not promoting him to an investigative position. In Number 95-01, Kokkinis complained that the Chief discriminated against him by not reimbursing him for educational expenses.

 Sometime after these grievances were filed but before Kokkinis' television appearance, the Chief was informed that there was an armed robbery arrest made by a rookie officer, Officer Carroll. The Chief was told that Carroll had apprehended the suspect and disarmed him, after which Kokkinis arrived on the scene and "took credit for the collar." Based on that information, the Chief gave Carroll, not Kokkinis, a commendation. In a diary entry dated February 10, 1995, Kokkinis notes that the commendation was posted after he had filed the above grievances. He also questions why he was not mentioned in the commendation and states "it looks like the Chief's pimp games again."

 In a diary entry dated February 16, 1995, Kokkinis notes that a member of the department was fired on Valentine's Day. Kokkinis states that the firing was "quite cold but this is the Chief's style, what can you do." Kokkinis also notes that he had offered to assist a lieutenant without any compensation "because the Chief would not like me assisting."

 On February 24, 1995, Kokkinis had a conversation with the Chief, in which the Chief asked Kokkinis why the two grievances filed had gone straight to the Mayor's office and not to the Chief's office first. According to a February 24, 1995 diary entry, the Chief told Kokkinis that he had no knowledge about either grievance. About this conversation, Kokkinis noted: "I could not believe that the Chief looked me in the face and lyed [sic]. The goof gave me a letter on 6 Feb. and I gave him a reply on 10 Feb., and he said he had no knowledge, what bullshit."

 On March 3, 1995, a meeting was held with the Chief, union representatives, Kokkinis and attorneys for both sides. In this meeting, the Chief stated his reasons for not promoting Kokkinis to detective. In his diary, Kokkinis made the following notes about this meeting: "When the Chief spoke, the man lyed [sic] again but now made it personal. He stated that I don't work with administration or have the qualities to be a detective. He even said that Sgt. Brzinski does not even want me down there." According to the diary entry, Kokkinis ran into Brzinski later that day, at which point Brzinski told Kokkinis that he did not have a problem with Kokkinis working in the detective department. Kokkinis noted: "This reconfirmed that the Chief is lying again."

 In March of 1995, the Chief directed one of the officers to go to a used car business and move a Corvette that was parked on an easement. The Chief made the officer go back and issue a ticket. Kokkinis noted in his diary: "Some body [sic] made whistle sounds after the Chief's comment which signifies stupidity." Also in March of 1995, Kokkinis noted that a fight had occurred during a Board meeting and yet no police action was taken. This led Kokkinis to conclude that the Chief had "violated rules and regulations."

 On April 25, 1995, Kokkinis noted that he found out that the were written reprimands in his file. Kokkinis wrote that this "pissed him off" because the reprimands were over eighteen months old, he did not know about the reprimands, and the reprimands "were lies."

 As of mid-May of 1995, Kokkinis had not received any reply from the Chief as to the grievances that he filed in January of 1995. It is at that time that Kokkinis made his appearance on Channel Five News at 5:00 and made the statements about the Chief.

 B. Kokkinis' television appearance on Channel Five News

 In mid-May of 1995, Kokkinis appeared on a Channel Five News at 5:00 report covering an allegation of sexual discrimination in the Village's police department. (Videotape of the Channel Five News Report (hereinafter "The Videotape").) The report dealt with Officer Sharon Walsh's allegation that she was being forced to take a position in Springfield against her wishes because she was a woman.

 During the report, reporter Cindy Hernandez interviewed Kokkinis, who was not identified by name but was only identified as a Bridgeview police officer. Kokkinis was dressed in a black hood or ski cap and wore dark glasses. It was Kokkinis' idea to wear the dark hood and the dark glasses because he was afraid of retaliation even though he had never been the victim of any retaliatory acts. Hernandez reported that Kokkinis felt that Walsh was "unfairly being chosen" for the Springfield position. (The Videotape.) Kokkinis, who was behind some type of screen and whose voice was garbled, then commented: "If they really knew what was going on, I think they would be shocked." The reporter asked, "Why?" (Id.) Kokkinis then explained: "Because they ...


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