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September 22, 2004.

BRUCE HARDY, Plaintiff,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN NORDBERG, Senior District Judge


Plaintiff Bruce Hardy worked for the Housing Authority of Cook County (the "Authority") for almost 18 years. During his career, he generally received positive reviews, and eventually worked his way up to the position of Director of Management.*fn1 In this job, he reported only to the Executive Director, James Floyd. In May 2001, however, things began to change when the Authority created a new position of Deputy Executive Director and appointed Terry Corcoran to this position. Hardy now reported to Corcoran rather than Floyd.

This appointment led to conflict as Corcoran and Hardy disagreed fundamentally about how the Authority should be run and specifically about how Hardy should do his job. In December 2001, this conflict came to a head when Corcoran gave Hardy a strongly negative mid-year evaluation that faulted Hardy for not carrying through with a number of duties that Corcoran had assigned him. Hardy was upset and responded by criticizing the management of the Authority in several memos and in two meetings. His criticism focused entirely on Corcoran who Hardy believed was unqualified for the job and was trying "to sabotage and destroy public housing's high performance standards and to discredit its employees." Hardy claims that he made these accusations because he genuinely believed that Corcoran was instituting changes that were detrimental to the Authority and to the low-income tenants served by the Authority. The Authority believes that Hardy was merely raising these allegation to deflect attention from his poor performance. Eventually, Corcoran recommended to Floyd that Hardy be fired. On March 15, 2002, Floyd terminated Hardy's employment.

  Hardy filed a five-count complaint in this Court against the Authority, Corcoran, Floyd, and six individual members of the Board of Commissioners. Hardy alleges that his firing violated the due process because he did not receive any notice or a pre-discharge hearing and violated the First Amendment because he was fired for speaking out on matters of public concern. Hardy also asserts a claim for retaliatory discharge under state law. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment on all counts. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted.


  On May 1, 2001, Terry Corcoran was promoted to the position of Deputy Executive Director. Several weeks later, he met with Hardy for several hours. According to Corcoran, he discussed areas that Hardy needed to improve and identified areas in which Hardy required assistance. After this meeting, Corcoran communicated with Hardy on a regular basis and discussed with him various items that required Hardy's supervision.*fn2

  In December 2001, Corcoran conducted a mid-year review of all managers who reported to him (including Hardy). Corcoran gave Hardy his mid-year evaluation in a memo dated December 3, 2001. It is fair to say that this memo was critical of Hardy's work. The first paragraph states:
During the course of the past seven months we have identified many issues that are in need of attention within the Public Housing program. Some of the items have been sufficiently addressed and completed. However, a vast majority of them have had no significant progress to speak of. I am concerned that these items are not being given the priority that they require. For that reason, I will detail some of the items below along with the dates that they were discussed.
The memo contains 34 bullet points, summarizing specific tasks that Corcoran believed needed to be addressed. It concludes by stating that "there are several areas that have not been given adequate attention" and that Hardy's "follow-up and progress rate [] ha[d] not met [Corcoran's] expectations."
  The memo upset Hardy, and he became worried that this evaluation "might [be] the first step down the road leading to [his] termination." (Hardy Aff. ΒΆ 20.) During the next several weeks, he took several steps to try to keep his job. He consulted a lawyer. He also prepared two memos that he would later submit to Corcoran and Floyd: (i) a memo to Corcoran entitled "Rebuttal of Mid-Year Evaluation" dated December 26, 2001; and (ii) a memo to Floyd and Corcoran entitled "Time to Blow the Whistle" dated January 8, 2002. The December 26th rebuttal memo begins by pointing out that Corcoran's mid-year evaluation overlooked many duties performed by Hardy. It then states that Corcoran has instituted 36 new orders for the public housing staff. Although the memo contains a point-by-point rebuttal to each of Corcoran's many criticisms, the gist of the memo is that Hardy has not completed all the assigned tasks because he does not have enough time and because many of these tasks are not in his assigned job duties. For example, Hardy repeatedly states that he will begin working on a certain task only after "I complete jobs specific to my job description." One issue that Hardy was particularly upset about was Corcoran's decision to require monthly meetings. He called this decision a "disaster" and asserted that the group meetings he had been using previously were "far superior" to Corcoran's suggested approach. The memo ends with the following summary:
As Director of Management, I should not be given jobs outside of my job description. I should be allowed to direct this department as I have done in the past. Recent changes you've made have been a disaster for Public Housing.
As I said in the beginning, in this Mid-Year Evaluation, you missed most of the work we do as part of the job description, and you have assigned work that is not in our job descriptions.
(Memo at 4; emphasis in original.)*fn3
  The January 8th "whistle-blowing" memo is harshly critical of Corcoran as illustrated in the opening paragraph:
Terrance Corcoran set out right from the beginning to sabotage and destroy public housing's high performance standards and to discredit its employees. Why he is doing this, I don't know, it could be to place friends in our jobs, it could be political or maybe he just doesn't like older employers.
(Memo at 1.) The memo specifically complains that Corcoran negotiated a "horrible lock box deal" with LaSalle Bank regarding the collection of rent payments; that Corcoran fired the Authority's 30-year business association with the law firm of Brunswick, Keefe and Jacobson LLC and hired another law firm that submitted a higher per case bid; that Corcoran fired Barbara Harris, who worked in the computer department; and that Corcoran imposed too many job demands while at the same time requiring staff to attend unproductive meetings (which Hardy described as the "Sandbagging technique").

  Armed with this two memos, and a third memo describing his positive contributions to the Authority, Hardy sought to meet with Corcoran and Floyd. On January 9, 2002, Hardy came to the Authority along with his attorney.*fn4 But Corcoran told him that the mid-year review was an internal matter and that it was inappropriate for counsel to be present. Hardy states that Corcoran and Floyd specifically told him that "there was no disciplinary action pending." No meeting was held on this day, although Hardy apparently then submitted the three memos to Corcoran and Floyd.

  The Authority then ordered Hardy to appear at a meeting three days later on January 11th. Prior to the meeting, Hardy asked Floyd if his attorney could attend. Floyd said no and Hardy then asked if a court reporter could be present so that all exchanges of information would be recorded accurately. Floyd again said no. At the January 11th meeting, Corcoran discussed some of the criticisms listed in the mid-year review. During this meeting, Hardy raised a new issue. He stated that he had information regarding monetary improprieties at the Authority and that he and other unidentified individuals were looking into the issue.

  A second meeting was held on February 4, 2002. This time Floyd and Patricia Emanuel, who was the Authority's director of human resources, also attended. Hardy further elaborated on his earlier charge, stating that some of the monetary improprieties he alluded to could be criminal and might eventually go to court. However, he again provided no specific details.

  After this meeting, Floyd and Corcoran decided that they should follow-up and seek more information regarding Hardy's allegations of financial improprieties. Floyd and Hardy then exchanged e-mails over the next couple of weeks.*fn5

  On February 8, 2002, Floyd e-mailed Hardy asking for more information concerning the allegation about "the money." Floyd stated that he was "very concerned that you would make such an allegation insinuating that you had knowledge of some impropriety about money but refuse to disclose this information to me." On February 13, 2002, Hardy e-mailed back to Floyd:
The information uncovered thus far involves the inappropriate use, missing, and public funds being used to influence private business deals. This effort is part of an ongoing private investigation that I and others, who wish not be identified at this time, are conducting. When this investigation is complete, we will make all results known to individuals or organizations that we feel will best serve this Authority, the employees and its residents.
(Id.) Floyd was not satisfied with this response. On February 15, 2002, he again e-mailed Hardy. This e-mail was more forceful and "ordered" Hardy to disclose "every detail" of the allegation, including the names of the others involved in the investigation. On February 19, 2002, Hardy e-mailed the following (in full):
Regarding the misuse of money.
I believe that the Chicago Heights J.E.M. Company has double billed ...

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