The opinion of the court was delivered by: MATHEW KENNELLY, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs Aleksandar Mihailovic and Soccer Made in America have
filed suit against Carmen Soldato; the Mayor of Darien; Nancy Compagnolo,
a member of the Darien Park District Board; the Darien Dynamo Soccer
Club; Kurt Mach, president of the club; Al Cimaglia, a club board member;
and Maggie Kroniek, a Darien resident. Plaintiffs allege that the
defendants conspired to violate their due process and equal protection
rights in relation to their employment contract with the Darien Park
District. Plaintiffs also assert several state law claims, including
defamation, intentional interference with business, conspiracy, and
breach of contract. Plaintiffs settled with Campagnolo, and she has been
dismissed from the case. Soldato, Mach, Cimaglia, and Kroniek have moved
to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the
motions are granted except as to Count 2, which remains as to defendant
The following facts are taken from plaintiff's amended complaint, which
the Court accepts as true for the purposes of defendants' motions to
In the year 2000, Mihailovic and SMIA (which we will collectively refer
to as Mihailovic) entered into a contract with the Darien Park District
to act as the director of soccer operations and marketing director for
the Darien Sportsplex. Mihailovic also entered into a contract with the
Darien Dynamo Soccer Club, a private not for profit entity which sponsors
youth soccer teams, to provide services as the director of coaching.
Starting in 2002, Mach and Cimaglia began to publicly criticize
Mihailovic for "bringing in Mexicans" to the soccer club. In March 2003,
Kroniek and Cimaglia made statements to the Darien Park District Board
and to the public that Mihailovic was engaging in a "conflict of
interest" and claiming that he had engaged in other inappropriate or
unlawful acts. Shortly thereafter, Kroniek expressed concerns publicly
and to the Park District Board about the financial future and community
reputation of the Sportsplex. In doing so, Kroniek made several negative
statements regarding Mihailovic, including allegations that he had been
banned from the NCAA for foul play and bringing in players from other
countries; was kicked out of another park district for "cheating them out
of money"; was not playing by the rules; was engaging in a "conflict of
interest;" and doing things that "were not proper."
Soldato made negative statements about Mihailovic at the April 2003
Park District Board meeting, specifically that the payments Mihailovic
had received were "in question" and that he should be "looked into," that
"we all know about his background," "that there was all kinds of double
dipping going on," that Mihailovic was violating the rules, and that "we
people dealing with kids that have any question about his background."
In May 2003, Soldato made statements to the Park District Board to the
effect that Mihailovic was "feathering his nest." Shortly thereafter,
Soldato made statements to the Board and the public that the Park
District "had hired a guy that was thrown out of college for violations"
and "has conflicts all over the place." Soldato told the Board that he
was going to keep coming to the meetings until they "let the
professionals run [the Sportsplex]" and that "you will think I am
harassing you." Around June 2003, Soldato began airing videotapes on the
local cable television channel from the Park District Board meetings in
which he and the other defendants made the previously referenced
statements regarding Mihailovic.
Mihailovic alleges that because of Soldato's position with the City of
Darien, and due to the defendants' statements (all of which Mihailovic
says were false), the Park District decided to terminate plaintiffs'
contract. Plaintiffs also allege that the Park District acted as it did
due to Mihailovic's national origin (Yugoslavian) and his attempt to
diversify the club by bringing in minorities. Plaintiffs filed the
instant suit alleging that because of defendants' actions they have
essentially been blackballed from the community, and have been unable to
pursue their chosen occupation.
Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is appropriate only if it appears beyond
doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his
claim that would entitle him to relief. Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Kennedy v. Nat'l Juvenile Del. Ass'n,
187 F.3d 690, 695 (7th Cir. 1999). In considering the motion, the court
accepts as true all well pleaded facts alleged in the complaint and draws
reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the plaintiff.
Jackson v. E. J. Brach Corp., 176 F.3d 971, 977 (7th Cir. 1999);
Zemke v. City of Chicago, 100 F.3d 511, 513 (7th Cir. 1996).
Count 1 (procedural due process)
Mihailovic claims that the defendants deprived him of both liberty and
property without due process of law. The former claim is that the
allegedly defamatory statements by Soldato, Mach, Cimaglia, and Kroniek,
combined with the Park District Board's termination of his contract,
deprived him of a liberty interest by stigmatizing him in a way that
prevents him from obtaining future employment in his chosen field.
A person does not have a protectible liberty interest in his
reputation, see Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 701 (1976), and
thus simple defamation by the government does not deprive a person of
liberty within the meaning of the Due Process Clause, even when it
impairs one's future employment prospects. See, e.g., Siegert v.
Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 234 (1991); Paul, 424 U.S. at 697.
Rather, the constitution's procedural safeguards in this context,
the right to a name-clearing hearing are invoked only when the
injury resulting from the defamation is combined with the alteration of
the person's legal status, such as the termination of public employment.
Paul, 424 U.S. at 708-09, 710; see also, e.g., Hojnacki v.
Klein-Acosta, 285 F.3d 544, 548 (7th Cir. 2002).
Conversely, a termination of employment is actionable under the
Fourteenth Amendment as a deprivation of liberty only "if it is
accompanied by a publicly announced reason that impugns the employee's
moral character or implies dishonesty or other job-related moral
turpitude." Omosegbon v. Wells, 335 F.3d 668, 675 (7th Cir.
2003) (quoting Hedrich v. Bd. of Regents of Univ. of Wis. Sys.,
274 F.3d 1174, 1184 (7th Cir. 2001)). In other words, the
defamation must be "incident to the termination of [the plaintiff's]
employment." Siegert v. Gilley, 500 U.S. 226, 234 ...