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Velazquez v. Loren-Maltese

March 29, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall


Judith Velazquez ("Velazquez") sued Betty Loren-Maltese ("Loren-Maltese"), the Town of Cicero ("Town"), William Bacon ("Bacon"), Leonard Rutka ("Rutka"), and the Town of Cicero Board of Fire Police and Public Safety Commissioners ("Board") (collectively "defendants")*fn1 for retaliation against her for her protected speech in violation of the First Amendment (Count I) and for conspiracy (Count III).*fn2 Rutka and Bacon moved for summary judgment on both counts, as did the Town in a separate motion.*fn3 The motions for summary judgment are granted in part and denied in part.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A party opposing summary judgment must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). There is no genuine issue for trial unless there is "sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party." Id. The party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 321 (1986).

In this case, the parties have made deciphering which facts are undisputed somewhat challenging. Although defendants did not file a motion to strike, they have objected to a number of Velazquez's facts as relying on evidence that is inadmissible hearsay.

[H]earsay is inadmissible in summary judgment proceedings to the same extent that it is inadmissible in a trial, except that affidavits and depositions, which (especially affidavits) are not generally admissible at trial, are admissible in summary judgment proceedings to establish the truth of what is attested or deposed, provided, of course, that the affiant's or deponent's testimony would be admissible if he were testifying live.

Eisenstadt v. Centel Corp., 113 F.3d 738, 742 (7th Cir. 1997). As detailed more fully below, the court has considered hearsay testimony only when it would be admissible at trial, as the court must on summary judgment.

Additionally, on summary judgment, the parties are required to support their statements of fact or disputes as to those statements with citations to admissible evidence. Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 583 (N.D. Ill. 2000). As discussed more fully below, the court has not considered facts not supported by the record evidence cited, and has deemed facts admitted where the "dispute" as to the fact is not supported by the evidence cited.

II. Background*fn4

Velazquez worked as a police officer for the Town of Cicero from 1990 to 1997. The Town is a municipal corporation under the laws of the State of Illinois. Loren-Maltese was the Cicero Town President. Bacon worked for the Town as Director of Internal Affairs from October 1997 to September 1998. Rutka worked for the Cicero Police Department from 1974 until 1999. In the fall of 1996, Loren-Maltese appointed Rutka as Director of Internal Affairs, and in April 1997, Rutka became Deputy Superintendent of the Police Department. Merrick Scott Rayle ("Rayle") served as the Town prosecutor.

In 1997, there were primary and general elections for Town President of Cicero. Charles Hernandez ("Hernandez"), a police officer, and Emil Schullo ("Schullo"), a former police superintendent, ran against Loren-Maltese, the incumbent. Velazquez testified that she supported Charles Hernandez ("Hernandez"), a Town Police Lieutenant, in the primary and general elections. She acted as a Democratic precinct captain, signed Hernandez's nominating petition, requested a Democratic primary ballot, and distributed Hernandez literature door-to-door. Loren-Maltese knew that there were three political factions in the Cicero Police Department: one that supported her, one that supported Hernandez, and one that supported Schullo.

In April 1997, Loren-Maltese was re-elected as Town President. Following Loren-Maltese's re-election as Town President, at least 30 Cicero police officers, constituting about one-third of the department, were suspended and had charges filed against them seeking their discharge. Hernandez avers that these 30 officers were all either his or Schullo's supporters. Rayle testified that Loren-Maltese was the Town official who decided to lodge charges against every officer who had discharge proceedings initiated against him before the Board.*fn5 Velazquez testified that she supported Hernandez in the 1997 election for Town President.

On November 6, 1997, the Town filed charges against Velazquez seeking her suspension and termination for violating the Town's residency requirement. The Town argues that, under the Cicero Code of Ordinances, police officers were required to reside in Cicero within six months of their employment.*fn6 Rutka personally served Velazquez with the charges. Rutka did not conduct a residency investigation as to Velazquez and has no knowledge of how such residency investigations were conducted. Velazquez testified that, when she told Rutka that her suspension was wrong, Rutka replied, "I know. I know, but it's not my idea. It's from Betty."*fn7

The evidence upon which the Town relied in claiming that Velaquez violated the residency requirement is largely undisputed. In March 1996, Velazquez completed and signed a Residency Certification Form which stated that she maintained her domicile in Cicero but that she maintained her residence in Berwyn. Velazquez sold her Cicero house in May 1996. She argues that she then moved into the basement apartment of a two-flat in Cicero ...

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