The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOAN GOTTSCHALL, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Rodney J. Watt ("Watt") sues the City of Highland
Park, Illinois ("Highland Park" or the "City") and four
individual defendants, Deputy Police Chiefs Timothy Benton and
Michael Caskey, Police Sergeant Gerald Halley (now retired) and
Police Chief Daniel Dahlberg (now retired), under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois state law in a four-count amended complaint.
Watt's counts are entitled: (i) Retaliation, Harassment &
Intimidation Against City of Highland Park (42 U.S.C. § 1983)
(count I); (ii) Retaliation, Harassment & Intimidation Against
Individual Defendants (42 U.S.C. § 1983) (count II); (iii)
Retaliatory Discharge Against City of Highland Park
(42 U.S.C. § 1983) (count III); and (iv) Retaliatory Discharge (Illinois Tort
Claim) (count IV). The City has moved for summary judgment on all
counts.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, the City's
motion is granted as to all counts, except count II. As to count
II, the City's motion is granted with respect to Benton, Caskey
and Halley, and denied with respect to Dahlberg.
In its September 30, 2002 order, Watt v. City of Highland
Park, No. 01 C 6230, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18847 (N.D. Ill.
Sept. 30, 2002) ("2002 Order"), the court agreed with defendants'
argument that factual findings made by the Civil Service
Commission of Highland Park ("Commission") in ordering Watt's
termination "are entitled to issue-preclusive effect," meaning
that the court accepts the factual findings contained in the
Commission's "Findings, Final Decision and Order" ("Commission
Order") as to Watt's dismissal, which was entered November 1,
2001. Id. at *11. The Commission Order resulted from a
Statement of Charges, filed July 31, 2001, which statement was
filed by Dahlberg for the purpose of requesting that the
Commission terminate Watt's employment.
The Commission Order mentions thirty-seven disciplinary charges
against Watt, and after five days of hearings in which Watt participated, with the aid of
counsel, Watt was found guilty on twenty-one of these charges.
These charges were brought in the department's disciplinary
complaints CR 00-16, CR 00-029, CR 00-030, CR 00-056, and CR
00-068. These complaints resulted from five incidents occurring
between February 15, 2000 and December 17, 2000. The charges and
complaints are detailed with specificity in the Commission Order
(and the Statement of Charges, which the Commission Order
incorporates by reference), and include Watt's acts of
insubordination, lying to his superiors at the Highland Park
police department when questioned about his activities, failure
to respond to calls, and false testimony to the Commission.
Watt maintains that the department's disciplinary actions and
his termination proceedings were brought in retaliation for
certain statements he made to the news media and during city
council meetings regarding corruption and racial profiling in the
Highland Park police department, as well as public statements he
made with respect to Watt's opinion that Dahlberg should be
removed from his position as chief of police.
Counts III and IV Retaliatory Discharge
Watt claims that the City and Dahlberg discharged him in
retaliation for Watt's exercise of his First Amendment rights in
publicly criticizing the Highland Park police department and
Dahlberg. He brings his retaliatory discharge claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City and Dahlberg (count III), and his
retaliatory discharge claim under state law against the City
alone (count IV).
As an initial matter, citing DeGuiseppe v. Village of
Bellwood, 68 F.3d 187, 190 (7th Cir. 1995), defendants argue that the City cannot be liable for Watt's
termination because the Commission was the final decisionmaker as
to Watt's dismissal, and Watt has no evidence that the
Commission's decision to terminate him was motivated in any part
by his First Amendment-protected speech. Defendants are correct.
In their respective L.R. 56.1 statements, the parties agree that
the Commission has final decisionmaking authority with respect to
the termination of Highland Park police officers.*fn3 See
also 65 ILCS 5/10-1-18(b); Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati,
475 U.S. 469, 482-84 (1986) (Whether an officer has final policy
making authority is a question of state law.) As the plaintiffs
did in DeGuiseppe, Watt has sued Highland Park as well as its
(now former) chief of police for alleged retaliation for Watt's
protected speech. As discussed above, the Commission Order's
factual findings leading it to dismiss Watt for cause are
presumptively true, and Watt has not made any attempt to present
evidence (or even allegations) that the Commission itself had any
retaliatory motive. Instead, Watt's attempts at proof of
retaliatory motive are directed at Dahlberg and the other
officers. Even though Dahlberg was the one who requested that the
Commission hold a hearing and terminate Watt, DeGuiseppe holds
(in a factually analogous situation) that "[b]ecause [the police
chief] was not the final decision-maker with respect to [the
discipline directed at plaintiff] his conduct cannot serve as the
predicate to municipal liability . . .". DeGuiseppe,
68 F.3d at 190. Accordingly, summary judgment is granted for the City on count III.
Watt also attempts to bring count III against Dahlberg
personally. Citing Conner v. Reinhard, 847 F.2d 384 (7th
Cir. 1988), Watt argues that Dahlberg acted with a retaliatory
motive when he "set in motion a series of events" that caused
Watt's termination, namely recommending Watt for termination to
the Commission. Dahlberg responds that he cannot be liable for
Watt's discharge because he did not terminate Watt, the
Commission did, and, because the Commission did not act out of
retaliatory motive, there was no constitutional violation in
which Dahlberg could have participated. Dahlberg is correct.
Personal liability under § 1983 must be based on a defendant's
personal involvement in a constitutional violation. Conner v.
Reinhard, 847 F.2d at 396; Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555,
561 (7th Cir. 1995). The constitutional violation allegedly at
issue in count III was Watt's discharge in retaliation for
speaking his mind. The court has already held that Watt has not
shown any evidence suggesting that the Commission was motivated
by retaliatory animus in terminating him. Thus, the Commission
did not deprive Watt of any constitutional rights, i.e., there
was no retaliatory termination to create a basis for Dahlberg's
"setting in motion" liability. Watt implicitly acknowledges this
as he only briefly argues that Dahlberg should be liable for his
termination, and spends many pages and much ...