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LAUTH v. McCOLLUM

September 29, 2004.

CHESTER A. LAUTH, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL L. McCOLLUM, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SAMUEL DER-YEGHIAYAN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants Village of LaGrange Park's ("Village") and Daniel McCollum's ("McCollum") motion for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, we grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff Chester Lauth ("Lauth") has worked as a police officer with the Village since January 2, 1989 and became Officer in Charge in August or September 2002. The Village is a municipal corporation located west of the city of Chicago. Since January 2, 1996, McCollum has been Chief of Police and reports to Steven Jones, who is the Manager of the Village. McCollum has the authority to bring charges against an officer and recommend an officer's termination, subject to approval by Steven Jones. The Board of Police Commissioners ("Board") has the final authority, subject to administrative review, to terminate sworn officers in the Village. McCollum has an obligation to ensure that the laws are enforced and that police department's rules and regulations are followed.

  In February 2000, the officers of the Village approached and gained information from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Union about forming a union. During a FOP meeting, Lauth alleges that he complained about McCollum's unfair discipline procedures. During a meeting held on February 17, 2000, Lauth claims that McCollum stated that he knew what Lauth had said at the FOP meeting and that McCollum threatened to fire him. Subsequently, McCollum assigned Lauth to perform some legal research in the law library, which McCollum claims was in response to Lauth questioning McCollum's ability to discipline officers and send them for fitness for duty evaluations. However, Lauth argues that his assignment to do legal research was because of his union involvement.

  Based on the FOP's recommendation, the officers formed a social lodge of the FOP, Lodge No. 243, on April 3, 2000. The lodge was a social organization open to any member of the police department. During the Village's annual Party in the Park in July 2000, Deputy Chief Breckinridge ("Breckinridge") instructed Lauth that he could not be present at the FOP booth while on duty. McCollum later advised Breckinridge that officers working at the Party in the Park could visit the FOP booth during their lunch and breaks. As a result, officers were allowed to take their breaks at the FOP booth the following day.

  On October 19, 2000, the non-supervisory police officers voted to recognize the FOP as their bargaining agent. The FOP filed an unfair labor practice charge against the Village on behalf of Lauth on January 14, 2002. The charge resulted from Lt. Thomas Dreffein ("Dreffein") instructing Lauth that he could not consult a union representative before answering a questionnaire regarding condoms found in a door compartment of a police squad car. McCollum told Lauth that he did not personally care if Lauth consulted with a union representative before he signed the questionnaire. Under advisement from the Village's labor attorney, McCollum posted a notice to police officers acknowledging that the Village denied Lauth's request to call his union representative prior to answering a written questionnaire.

  Later in 2002, after reviewing an incident where a recovered stolen vehicle was improperly sealed on December 20, 2002, McCollum concluded that the officers needed better training on how to store recovered evidence properly. Lauth claims that at the end of his shift, he turned the stolen vehicle over to Hernandez, the officer in charge for the next shift. None of the officers involved were disciplined, and Lauth does not claim that he was singled out because of his union involvement.

  On or about May 22, 2003, Lauth was the officer in charge when Officer Ricky Lee Jones ("Jones") reported a missing child to him. During an interrogation by McCollum on June 6, 2003, Lauth admitted that he should have asked more questions of Jones when Jones reported his conversation with the child's mother to Lauth. Lauth does not dispute that he violated rules and regulations requiring supervisors to inspect and ask questions of subordinates and be responsible or accountable for their acts or omissions. Moreover, Lauth alleges that he notified McCollum on February 29, 2004 that other officers failed to document a missing child that had been missing since February 5, 2004.

  On May 23, 2003, Lauth hired an officer for four hours of overtime without receiving approval from the deputy chief contrary to staffing policy. The staffing policy requires that the staffing shift shortages be approved on a case by case basis by the Deputy Chief prior to authorizing any overtime expenditures. Lauth claims that he asked for clarification about the new staffing policy because it seemed to violate the required policy of three officers on the street during each shift. Additionally, Lauth contends that Officer Wade ("Wade") violated the policy in January 2004, but he was never disciplined. When Lauth was asked to draft a memorandum explaining his actions in filling the staffing shortage, Lauth contends that Breckinridge told him that Breckinridge would have authorized Lauth's hiring of the overtime anyway. Lauth does not dispute that he violated the policy, and he was disciplined as a result of the violation. Lauth claims McCollum's motive for including this violation in the charges presented before the Board was not due to the violation itself, but due to his union activities.

  On November 4, 2003, McCollum filed charges of misconduct with the Board against Lauth's violation of departmental policy for failing to properly supervise Jones in the missing child incident. The Board conducted a disciplinary hearing on the charges against Lauth on December 4th and 5th, 2003. Lauth claims that McCollum did not file charges against him for solely failing to properly supervise Jones, but that McCollum filed charges for failing to forward a written report on Jones' misconduct, violating the staffing policy on May 23, 2003, and failing to maintain a working knowledge of the Intergovernmental Missing Child Recovery Act of 1984. Further, prior to the hearing before the Board, Lauth was made an offer to accept the 60 day suspension without pay. Lauth contends that the 60-day suspension offer was motivated by McCollum's animus against Lauth due to his union activities and unrelated to the missing child incident.

  On December 5, 2003, the Board found that: (1) Lauth violated the rules, regulations, and policies of the Village with respect to his supervision of the missing child incident; (2) he failed to forward a report of Jones' misconduct when he learned of it; (3) he failed to follow the lawful written instructions of a superior in filling an overtime vacancy; and (4) his testimony demonstrated that he failed to establish and maintain a working knowledge of the Intergovernmental Missing Child Recovery Act of 1984. The Board ordered Lauth to be suspended without pay for thirty days on December 18, 2003. Lauth filed a one count complaint in the instant action alleging a denial of equal protection of the law as a class of one under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 ("Section 1983").

  LEGAL STANDARD

  Summary judgment is appropriate when the record reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(c). In seeking a grant of summary judgment, the moving party must identify "those portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986) (quoting Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(c)). This initial burden may be satisfied by presenting specific evidence on a particular issue or by pointing out "an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case." Id. at 325. Once the movant has met this burden, the non-moving party cannot simply rest on the allegations in the pleadings, but, "affidavits or as otherwise provided for in [Rule 56], must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(e). A "genuine issue" in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed. 2d 538 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 ...


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