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MCGREAL v. OSTROV

August 21, 2002

JAMES MCGREAL, PLAINTIFF,
V.
DR. ERIC OSTROV; VILLAGE OF ALSIP; KENNETH WOOD, ALISP POLICE CHIEF; AND DAVID SNOOKS, ALISP POLICE LIEUTENANT, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles R. Norgle, United States District Judge

  OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is (be renewed motion for summary judgment of the individual Defendants, Alsip Police Chief Kenneth Wood ("Chief Wood") and Alsip Police Lieutenant David Snooks ("Lt. Snooks). For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

James McGreal is a veteran patrol officer with the Village of Alsip, a south suburb of Chicago. MeGreal brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaining of alleged employment retaliation he claims to have suffered at the hands of Chief Wood and Lt. Snooks. MeGreal claims that the retaliation occurred after he made an unsuccessful election bid for mayor of Alsip, and spoke about a number of issues involving illegal gambling, liquor licenses, the incumbent mayor of Alsip, the Alsip Police Department, local prosecutors, and a State of Illinois judge. The court outlines the relevant facts below.

MeGreal's outspokenness revolved around a few central issues: (1) McGreal's official and unofficial inquiries about the liquor license of a local nightclub; (2) a complaint McGreal filed with the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board concerning what McGreal perceived to be the lenient prosecution of a D.U.I. charged against the son of a local prosecutor; (3) McGreal's election bid and public criticism of the incumbent mayor of Alsip; and (4) gambling at the local Elks Club.

In August 1994 McGreal encountered a man by the name of John Hernandez. During a conversation between McGREAL and Hernandez, Hernandez claimed to be a part owner of an Alsip nightclub called the Copacabana Lounge, or "the Copa." Later McGREAL ran a criminal history check on Hernandez, which showed drug arrests in 1991 and 1993. MeGreal could not, obtain (he dispositions of the cases, and never asked Hernandez. McGreal submitted a report about Hernandez's possible ownership interest in (he Copa, and informed Chief Wood that ownership of a bar by a felon violates Illinois statutes and local Alsip ordinances. MeGreal requested an official investigation into the situation.

Chief Wood reviewed McGreal's report, and assigned Sgt. Murray to do a follow-up investigation into Hernandez and the Copa. Hernandez repeated to Sgt. Murray the claim of an ownership interest in the Copa. Sgt. Murray prepared a two page report indicating that he agreed with MeGreal's recommendation that charges should be brought against the Copa before the Liquor Commission. Chief Wood was unsatisfied with the completeness of Sgt. Murray's report, and returned it to him with orders to obtain additional evidence or to reach a different conclusion. Sgt. Murray's response to Chief Wood was to resubmit his report with the same page one, but with a different page two. The new page two contained only a single sentence indicating that no further action would be taken.

Approximately nine months later, MeGreal inquired of Sgt. Murray and Chief Wood as to what had happened to Sgt. Murray's report. Not satisfied with whether work was still being done by his superior officers, McGreal pulled the case file from the Records Section.The file was incomplete, as it only included the two pages of MeGreal's report; neither the computer printouts nor Sgt. Murray's follow-up reports were in the file.

On June 17, 1995, MeGreal sent directly to Chief Wood a memo explaining that Sgt. Murray's reports were missing from the file. Approximately ten days after submitting this memo, McGreal received an envelope from Chief Wood, which contained MeGreal's initial two-page report and a new typewritten report from Sgt. Murray. The new typewritten report contained no date, but the case tile number contained a handwritten strikeover from '95 to '94. McGreal believed that the strikeover was evidence that the report might have been authored in response to his request for investigation. McGreal dropped the issue because he had no proof of any misconduct by his superior officers and nothing to support his suspicions.

In the Fall of 1996, MeGreal returned to the issue oF Hernandez's alleged ownership of the Copa. McGreal was directed to the Liquor Commission file, where he found photocopies of both versions of Sgt. Murray's report. At that time, MeGreal specifically brought Sgt. Murray's reports directly to Chief Wood's attention. Unsatished with Chief Wood's response, MeGreal commenced his own unofficial investigation into the matter by contacting Assistant Attorney General Feldmeier ("A.G. Feldmier"). During that conversation, McGreal said he was an Alsip police official, and A.G. Feldmeier came away with the impression that MeGreal was conducting an official investigation.

While still a patrol officer, in January of 1997 MeGreal announced his intention to run for mayor of Alsip. McGreal made statements to the local press about the incumbent mayor, Mayor Andrews. MeGreal was critical of Mayor Andrews' position as liquor commissioner, and Mayor Andrews' performance in that position. MeGreal also made public statements about the purportedly missing confidential police files, i.e., Sgt. Murray's report and the re-drafted report concerning the Copa and Hernandez's possible ownership interest therein. During the same month. MeGreal personally filed an appeal with the State of Illinois Liquor Control Commission protesting the Cupa's liquor license. MeGreal's appeal detailed several instances of problems at the Copa, and raised concerns that Mayor Andrews conducted himself improperly in his, dealings with the Copa.

In March 1997, A.G. Feldmeier faxed to the Alsip police station a report stating that Hernandez' s girlfriend believed that Hernandez had bought part ownership of the Copa. Chief Wood received the faxed report and then called A.G. Feldmeier for more information. KG. Feldmeier's fax caught Chief Wood by surprise because Chief Wood did not know, and was not informed by MeGreal, that McGreal was conducting his own unofficial investigation into the Copa. Chief Wood was concerned that MeGreal's unofficial investigation could have caused problems within the Alsip Police Department and with other law enforcement agencies. While this was going on, MeGreal was a candidate for public office and a patrol officer.

The Alsip mayoral election was held on April 1, 1997. Mayor Andrews defeated McGreal by several hundred votes.

On August 16, 1997, McGreal was summoned to the scene of a one car accident, where he arrested Sean Taylor for driving under the influence of alcohol. Taylor is the son of a local prosecutor. On September 17, 1997 MeGreal arrived at the initial court date for Sean Taylor's D.U.I. case. After checking the computer docketing system, MeGreal learned the case had been rescheduled to August 27, 1997, a date on which McGreal had not been subpoenaed to appear. MeGreal would later return to issues arising out of Taylor's D.U.I. case.

In early September 1997, MeGreal attended a little league baseball function at the local Elk's club, where he saw evidence of video poker gambling. Specifically. MeGreal noted the number of machines, their popularity, and the presence of "reset" switches on the machines, all of which are usually associated with gambling. MeGreal wrote a memorandum raising the possibility of gambling, and also mentioned a rumor that an unnamed Alsip Village official received a percentage of the revenue produced by the video poker machines. On September 22, 1997, Lt. Snooks sent MeGreal a memo stating that the allegations raised were very serious and McGreal needed to divulge the identity of the unnamed Alsip official before an investigation could commence. MeGreal responded that same day, informing Lt. Snooks that the official rumored to be involved in the Elk's Club gambling was Mayor Andrews. McGreal, however, had no personal knowledge of the alleged kickbacks to Mayor Andrews, nor did he have any evidence to support the rumor.

In early October 1997, Chief Wood contacted a Cook County law enforcement agency and requested them to investigate the Elk's club. By the end of October, the County completed their investigation and confirmed that gambling was indeed occurring. The County said that their investigation was closed, and that they would not investigate the rumors that Mayor Andrews was receiving illegal kickbacks from the gambling.

Also in early October 1997, MeGreal sent his supervisors a memo explaining the circumstances around the Sean Taylor D.U.I. case, and concluded that the disposition and handling of the case were deserving of inquiry. Lt. Snooks responded to McGreal's memo with a memo of his own, stating that he (Lt. Snooks) and Assistant State's Attorney Jim McCarter looked at the computerized records from the case. The records showed a plea of guilty to one charge, that Taylor had received 18 months supervision, and that the other charges were stricken as standard procedure. McCarter and Lt. Snooks both concluded that the actions of the involved parties were properly explained and the handling of the case was lawful and proper. In fact, the information that Lt. Snooks conveyed to MeGreal was ...


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