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Altman v. Benigno

February 28, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on cross motions for summary judgment. Defendant Benigno's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 56) (Defendant's Motion); Plaintiff's Second Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 90) (Plaintiff's Motion). Plaintiff Sue Altman has filed the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming a violation of her due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Altman complains that her personnel file showed that she received a general salary increase in both December 2002 and December 2003, but both increases were taken away without Altman's knowledge. She received no notice or hearing, formal or informal, before such personnel actions occurred. Altman relies on the Secretary of State's Pay Plan as the basis from which she derives her property interest in the December 2002 and December 2003 salary increases. Defendant Thomas Benigno is the Chief of Staff of the Illinois Secretary of State's Office. Altman contends that Defendant Thomas Benigno's failure to abide by the terms of the Pay Plan with respect to the December 2002 and December 2003 salary increases violated her property interests. She further argues that Defendant Benigno initiated a conspiracy with other employees to deprive her of the benefits of such increases.

Defendant Benigno contends that Altman had no property interest in either the December 2002 or December 2003 salary increase because he specifically did not authorize such an increase for Altman.*fn1 In the alternative, Defendant argues that, even if Altman has such an interest, she has not exhausted her administrative remedies and her claim is barred by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Benigno further contends that he was not personally involved in the alleged constitutional violations against Altman. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED, but Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is ALLOWED. Because the undisputed facts show that the Due Process Clause is not implicated in this case, judgment is entered in favor of Defendant Benigno.


On February 18, 2000, Altman was hired as the manager of the Organ/Tissue Donor Program with a personnel title of Executive II at the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State (Secretary's Office). The terms of the offer specified that Altman was to be promoted to Executive III, with a corresponding increase in pay, after six months of employment. Both the Executive II and III classifications are merit compensation positions. All merit compensation positions are governed by the Pay Plan of the Secretary of State, which is part of the Administrative Code of the State of Illinois. The Pay Plan provides, in part, as follows:


The Department of Personnel shall determine the proper interpretation and application of each provision of the Pay Plan. The decision of the Director of Personnel as to the proper interpretation or application of any such provision shall be final and binding upon all departments and employees affected thereby, and all departments and employees shall comply with the Director's decision, unless or until modified or reversed by the Attorney General or a written directive of the Merit Commission or a court order declaring the Director's decision to be unlawful.



Section 10a(2) of the Secretary of State Merit Employment Code. Section 420.220(a) of the Rules of the Department of Personnel.


It is the policy of the Office of the Secretary of State to provide fair and reasonable compensation to employees for services rendered.

A. The policy and procedures expressed herein are controlling in matters of employee pay administration. It shall be the responsibility of each department director:

1. To cause, within the department, full compliance with all provisions of this Pay Plan, and

2. To promptly submit all proper and required personnel actions with justifications and other notices of changes affecting employee pay or pay status.

B. It shall be the responsibility of the Department of Personnel:

1. To develop procedures and techniques as required for the implementation and standardization of the Pay Plan.

2. To develop and maintain classification standards and salary rankings for all positions subject to the Pay Plan.

Subject to the appropriations approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor, the salary rates shall be established and may be adjusted annually to reflect changes in the economy. The Department of Personnel, in conjunction with the Department of Budget and Fiscal, shall issue tentative guidelines to cover the next Fiscal Year not later than July 1, and final guidelines shall be issued not more than 90 days after the appropriations are signed by the Governor.

3. To review and approve employees' rates of pay and personnel changes for compliance with established policy and procedures.



After the effective date of this Plan, or as hereafter amended, increases granted to employees occupying positions in classes that are paid in conformance with this Pay Plan, shall become effective the first date of the pay period occurring after the date of approval:

A. General Increases - Upon granting of a general increase, the base salary of each employee shall be advanced by the flat dollar amount or the percentage of the base salary as approved by the Secretary of State. In no event is the resulting salary to be lower than the minimum rate or greater than the maximum of ...

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