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NEWKIRK v. VILLAGE OF STEGER

September 24, 2004.

ELANA M. NEWKIRK, MICHAEL SAUTER, SCOTT OSANTOWSKI, JOHN PRESLEY, CHARLES TIERI, TERRY LAMASTUS and PAUL PALCEK, Plaintiffs,
v.
VILLAGE OF STEGER, LOUIS SHERMAN, in his individual and official capacity as the Village President, STEGER POLICE DEPARTMENT, CHIEF RICHARD STULTZ, in his individual and official capacity, GREGORY RAMBO, MARY JO SEEHAUSEN, in their individual capacities, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: REBECCA PALLMEYER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

If Plaintiffs' allegations in this action are true, the Village of Steger police chief and two officers have essentially waged a vendetta against seven fellow officers either for personal or political reasons. Plaintiffs are seven current and former employees of the Village of Steger Police Department ("SPD"). They charge Defendants Village of Steger (the "Village"), Village President Louis Sherman, the SPD, Village Police Chief Richard Stultz, police officer Gregory Rambo, and program supervisor Mary Jo Seehausen with violating Plaintiffs' rights through a variety of acts, including testifying falsely before a federal grand jury and intimidating or conspiring with Village residents to lodge false complaints against Plaintiffs. Specifically, Plaintiffs Elana Newkirk, a former Telecommunications Officer ("TCO") (i.e., dispatcher) with the SPD; Michael Sauter, Scott Osantowski, John Presley, Terry Lamastus, and Paul Palcek, current and former police officers; and Charles Tieri, former Chief of Police for the Village and a current Village trustee, bring claims of racketeering (Count I), violations of free speech and political association rights (Counts II and III), and discrimination and retaliation based on race, gender, and disability (Counts IV-IX) against Defendants.

Defendants move to dismiss Counts I, III, and VII against all Defendants, Count II as to all Plaintiffs except Newkirk, the punitive damages claims in Counts II and IV against the Village, and all claims against the SPD, pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). In addition, Defendants move to strike allegations in the Complaint that they deem immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous. For the reasons set forth here, Defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and Defendants' motion to strike is denied.

  FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  I. Procedural History

  Plaintiff Newkirk filed the original complaint in this matter on December 13, 2002, alleging discrimination based on race, gender, and disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq., against Defendants the Village, the SPD, and Village Police Chief Richard Stultz. On July 21, 2003, all Plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint against all Defendants, adding claims of racketeering, violations of free speech and association rights, and retaliation. On August 18, 2003, Plaintiffs filed a Second Amended Complaint ("Complaint"), making corrections to Defendants' names.*fn1

  II. Parties

  According to the Complaint, Plaintiff Charles Tieri served as Chief of Police for the Village from 1963 to 1995, when he was succeeded by Defendant Richard Stultz. (Cmplt. ¶ 15.) In 1999, Tieri was elected as a Village trustee and served in that position until 2003. (Id.) Plaintiff Michael Sauter was employed by the SPD in an unidentified capacity prior to 1980. (Id. ¶ 12.) At the request of an unidentified Village trustee, in or about April 1987, Sauter returned to the SPD and currently serves as a police officer. (Id.)

  Plaintiff Terry Lamastus was a Sergeant in the SPD from in or about January 1980 through late 2000. (Id. ¶ 16.)*fn2 Plaintiff Scott Osantowski became a police officer with the SPD on or about January 11, 1989. (Id. ¶ 14.) In or about 2002, Osantowski was promoted to Sergeant and continues to hold that position. (Id.) Plaintiff John Presley became a police officer with the SPD on or about May 1, 1990 and continues to hold that position. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff Paul Palcek was a Sergeant in the SPD from 1998 through in or about early 2000, when, according to Plaintiffs, he was "forced to resign" as a result of false complaints against him instigated by Defendants Stultz and Rambo. (Id. ¶ 17, 86.) Plaintiff Elena Newkirk was a TCO with the SPD from in or about April 10, 2000 until January 2002, when "Defendants unlawfully forced [her] resignation and constructive discharge." (Id. ¶ 11.)

  Defendant Louis Sherman has served as Village President for more than 30 years. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiffs allege that, throughout his tenure as Village President, Sherman has used his position

 
for his own political and personal advantage and benefit, including using, soliciting, recruiting, and otherwise obtaining services of Village of Steger employees to give their time, talent, and money to election efforts of his campaign and [for] other candidates he endorsed for office; retaliating against those who oppose him politically; using Village of Steger employees to conduct work for him personally on Village time and at the expense of tax-payer dollars.
(Id. ¶¶ 20, 101(f).) Defendant Richard Stultz has been Village Chief of Police since 1995. (Id. ¶ 21.) According to Plaintiffs, on several unspecified dates since 1999, the Village Board has voted to terminate Stultz "as a result of the problems with the Police Department, mismanagement and corruption. However, despite these attempts, [Sherman has] repeatedly reappointed [Stultz] to the position of Chief of Police until the Village Board gave up trying to terminate him." (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiffs also contend that Sherman and Stultz "are close political allies." (Id. ¶ 23.)

  Defendant Gregory Rambo is a Lieutenant with the SPD. (Id. ¶ 24.) Plaintiffs urge that Sherman and Stultz "unlawfully promoted Rambo to the position of `Commander.'" (Id. ¶ 24.) On unspecified dates, Lamastus filed suit in state court "seeking to enjoin the unlawful promotion" and Stultz returned Rambo to the position of Sergeant. The Complaint does not state whether Stultz did so as a result of the lawsuit, nor does the Complaint explain why Lamastus believed Rambo's promotion was unlawful. Plaintiffs assert that on subsequent unspecified dates, Stultz "again attempted to unlawfully promote Rambo to `Assistant Chief,' [but] later retracted the appointment with the threat of litigation." (Id.) Defendant Mary Jo Seehausen supervises the TCO program; the Complaint does not state when she assumed that position. (Id. ¶ 25.)

  III. Purported Adverse Actions

  The Complaint alleges a series of adverse actions dating from 1996.

  A. 1996-1997

  According to the Complaint, in or about 1996, Stultz "conspired [with] or directed Seehausen" to file "false and frivolous charges" that Lamastus had sexually harassed her. (Id. ¶ 72.) The purpose of these false charges was "`to get' Plaintiff Lamastus." (Id.) As a result of these allegations, on an unspecified date, Lamastus was placed on administrative leave for more than 14 months. (Id.)

  Also in or about 1996, Rambo "encouraged, directed, and/or conspired with former radio operators and citizens . . . to solicit false complaints against [Lamastus] to bring him up on charges of sexual harassment." (Id. ¶ 73.) In or about 1996 or 1997, an unidentified former Village employee informed Lamastus that Rambo "had approached her and attempted to coerce her into filing false charges against" Lamastus. (Id. ¶ 74.)

  In 1997, Stultz "encouraged, directed, and/or conspired with" unidentified individuals to file suit in federal court falsely accusing Lamastus of "stalking" an unidentified female complainant. (Id. ¶ 76.) On an unspecified date, the case was dismissed for "want of prosecution, failure to cooperate with her attorney, and failure to comply with the Court's order." (Id.) In or about 1997, an unidentified individual informed Sauter that an unnamed trustee who had a services contract with the Village had walked into Stultz's office and had seen Stultz and Seehausen "in a state of undress." (Id. ¶ 75.) On unspecified dates, other unidentified employees had also seen Stultz and Seehausen "in various states of undress and precarious situations." (Id.) Sauter "reported this information up the chain of command" (Id.) When he learned that Sauter had reported these allegations, Stultz told Sauter that he had "ruined his [Stultz's] chances of using Seehausen `to get' [Lamastus]." (Id.)

  Also in or about 1997, Stultz accused Palcek of "conspiring with a female employee to make false allegations of sexual harassment against [Seehausen's] brother," who was then employed as a TCO with the SPD. (Id. ¶ 81.) According to Plaintiffs, Palcek had merely assisted the woman with her complaint in his capacity as Union President. (Id.) On an unspecified date, the SPD terminated the unidentified female's employment. (Id.) On an unspecified date, Seehausen's brother resigned, but "a short time later, [he] was hired as a police officer and promoted with[in] the Department." (Id.)

  In or about 1997 or 1998, Rambo ordered Lamastus to "write up" Osantowski on unspecified charges "without cause or justification." (Id. ¶ 77.)*fn3 Also in or about 1997 or 1998, Stultz and Rambo "encouraged, directed, and/or conspired with another to file false charges against" Sauter, and Stultz himself "brought [Sauter] up on false charges[,] for leaving town and transporting a suspect without authorization." (Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiffs allege that Sauter had received authorization from his superior officer to transport the suspect and had acted in accordance with Departmental policy. (Id.) On or around the date when these charges were filed against Sauter, an unidentified individual removed Palcek from his position as acting Watch Commander "without notice, justification, or explanation." (Id. ¶ 82.) Subsequently, unspecified individuals investigated Sauter, subjected him to "a formal departmental interrogation without being provided his right to counsel" in violation of the Uniform Peace Officers Disciplinary Act ("UPODA"), 50 ILCS 725/1 et seq., and suspended him for 12 weeks "pending termination." (Id. ¶ 38.) On an unspecified date, the charges relating to the transportation of the suspect were dropped. (Id.)

  B. 1998-1999

  In or about 1998 or 1999, an unidentified Village resident who had been involved in an unspecified accident "handled by" Lamastus, Osantowski, and Presley, told Lamastus that Defendants Rambo and Officer Gerald Ruff had asked him to file false charges against Lamastus and Osantowski and to lie about how Plaintiffs had handled the incident. (Id. ¶¶ 59, 78.) On an unspecified date, Officer Ruff again contacted the accident victim and told him that if he did not file a false complaint against Plaintiffs claiming that they had mishandled the call, then the individual's "employer would be contacted and there would `be trouble.'" (Id.) Stultz "was also involved in and conspired or directed the intimidation and extortionist tactics" against the Village resident. (Id.)*fn4

  In or about March 1998, Rambo and Stultz "directed, encouraged, and/or conspired with another to make false allegations against [Osantowski] for `conduct unbecoming a police officer,'" based on photographs Osantowski had taken in 1996 or 1997 of a woman who had been beaten in a domestic violence incident. (Id. ¶ 56.) Plaintiffs claim that Osantowski took these photographs "pursuant to proper policy and procedure" in order to document the bruises on her body. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that as a result of these false charges, Osantowski "was subjected to unwarranted disciplinary action and suspended without probable cause [or] his right to due process." (Id.)

  On April 12, 1999, Rambo, "with the knowledge, direction, consent, and/or by agreement with" Stultz and Sherman, claimed in a letter to Village residents that Tieri was running for Village trustee "because the Village would not provide him with `free gas' and a `vehicle'" and because he wanted to obtain "more time at the `Cash Flow' window." The letter suggested that Tieri had committed unspecified illegal acts and stolen public funds. (Id. ¶ 63.) Plaintiffs claim that these allegations were "false and committed with the intent of discrediting [Tieri and to defame] his character, and to prevent his election to the Village Board." (Id.)

  C. 2000

  In 2000, Stultz "consulted, directed, and/or conspired with the Village of Steger Police Association and other individuals" to claim falsely that Tieri "had improperly pocketed money from a vending machine he owned and operated." (Id. ¶ 64.)*fn5 Stultz told an unidentified individual or individuals that he had asked the Cook County State's Attorney's Office to investigate this claim. (Id.)*fn6 Plaintiffs allege that Stultz took these actions "in retaliation for [Tieri's] political appointment to the Village Board and opposition to [Village President Sherman] and to defame and destroy his character and deprive him of his liberty and property rights." (Id.)

  In or about 2000, with Sherman's knowledge and consent, Stultz and Rambo attempted to "put the squeeze on" an unidentified Village employee to persuade him to testify falsely that, on an unspecified date, Tieri was involved in an unspecified manner in an arson. (Id. ¶ 65.) On an unspecified date, Stultz "met with the employee and defamed [Tieri's] character in an attempt to coerce the employee to provide false statements against [Tieri]." (Id.) When the employee refused to implicate Tieri, Stultz stood up and exclaimed, "you are a f____ing liar." (Id.) Plaintiffs claim that the employee "felt intimidated and threatened as a result of the incident." (Id.)

  At some point between 2000 and 2002, an unidentified employee (presumably of the SPD) placed an unspecified amount of bond money into her pocket, forgot to return the money to its proper unspecified location, and took the money home. (Id. ¶ 27.) When another unidentified SPD employee discovered that the money was missing, Seehausen told yet another unidentified employee (presumably of the SPD) that "Osantowski was in the radio room and `therefore must have taken it.'" (Id. ¶¶ 27, 58.) Seehausen also accused Newkirk of stealing the money, and she told an unidentified individual or individuals that Osantowski and Newkirk were "thieves." (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiffs claim that Seehausen's accusation was "without probable cause, investigation, . . . evidence" or "justification." (Id. ¶¶ 27, 58.)

  In or about January 2000, Rambo, "with the consent, knowledge, or by agreement with Stultz and Sherman," falsely reported to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms ("ATF") that Sauter and Tieri had stolen guns from the SPD. (Id. ¶¶ 41, 66.) Plaintiffs maintain that Sauter did not in fact steal the guns; rather, he had received permission from Stultz and his commanding officers (who are not named) to store the guns for the SPD because Sauter was the Range Officer and because the SPD's evidence room "was `a disaster.'" (Id.) On an unspecified date, the ATF began an investigation of the incident, during the course of which an unidentified individual or individuals observed Rambo meeting with an unidentified ATF agent in an unspecified forest preserve. (Id. ¶¶ 43, 67.)

  On March 6, 2000, Osantowski filed a lawsuit against the Village in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleging discrimination on an unspecified basis, Osantowski v. Village of Steger, No. 00 C 1353. (Id. ¶ 48.) In or about April 2000, Rambo and Stultz directed an unidentified TCO to approach Sauter and Presley and to "attempt to have them `restore' an illegal sawed off shotgun in hopes to set them up for criminal and departmental charges"; Sauter and Presley did not do so. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 51.) Within a few months after this incident, an unidentified individual or individuals offered this unidentified TCO a full-time position as a police officer. (Id.)

  During the Spring of 2000, an unspecified individual or individuals warned Newkirk to "watch out how things would change for her if she became friends with" Osantowski, Presley, and Sauter. (Id. ¶ 29.) On May 10, 2000, Seehausen told Newkirk to document problems with Sauter and to submit weekly reports on his activity, "expecting that she would make false complaints against him." (Id. ¶ 28.) Newkirk was subject to unspecified retaliation because she refused to make such false complaints. (Id.)

  On May 19, 2000, Rambo sent a memorandum to Sauter, Osantowski, Presley, and other employees (presumably of the SPD), in which he stated that an unspecified individual or individuals had told him that unidentified employees were "having problems" with Newkirk and requested that complaints about Newkirk be forwarded to him. (Id. ¶ 30.) On an unspecified date, while Newkirk was not at the station, an unidentified Village resident made a telephone call to the SPD. (Id. ¶ 31.) On an unspecified date, Rambo and Sergeant Rossi*fn7 approached the Village resident, told her that the SPD wanted to "get rid" of a TCO, and asked her to sign a false complaint against Newkirk. (Id.) The resident filed ...


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