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Posey v. Champaign Park Dist.

August 17, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Bernthal U.S. Magistrate Judge


In June 2006, Plaintiff Joseph E. Posey, Sr., acting pro se, filed his Complaint (#1) against Defendant Champaign Park District (hereinafter "CPD"), alleging a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-5). Federal jurisdiction is based on federal question (26 U.S.C. § 1332).

In April 2007, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment(#16). After reviewing Defendant's motion and the parties' memoranda, this Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (#16).

I. Background

The undisputed facts are as follows: Plaintiff is an African American. (Posey dep., #17-6, p. 8.) He worked for the CPD as a member of the trash collection crew from July 2001 to August 2004. (Posey dep., #17-6, p. 6.) The CPD is a local governmental unit charged with providing recreation opportunities to the public. (McGrew aff., #17-3, p. 2.) The trash collection crew is responsible for "ensuring the effective maintenance and appearance of the Park District parks by performing litter pickup and custodial care." (#17-3, p. 2.)

On August 24, 2004, Plaintiff began his shift at 7:30 a.m. with colleague Clinton Andrews, also African American. (#17-6, pp. 6, 8.) At 8:30 that morning, the CPD received a phone call from a woman who said that she saw an individual wearing a CPD uniform purchase alcohol at the Circle K convenience store about two blocks from the facilities where Plaintiff and Andrews were scheduled to work. (#17-3, pp. 2-3.) Plaintiff was then radioed to come in and meet David Schneider, Maintenance Supervisor and acting department head; Mary McGrew, CPD's Human Resources Manager; and Dennis Shiley, Plaintiff's supervisor. (#17-3, p. 3.) At this meeting, Ms. McGrew asked Plaintiff if he had stopped his CPD truck at Circle K that morning. (#17-6, p. 8.) Plaintiff admitted this, saying that he went there to use the restroom and buy a newspaper. (#17-6, p. 8.) Plaintiff denied several times that he had purchased alcohol, and then, upon being questioned further, he admitted it. (#17-6, p. 7). He told Ms. McGrew that he had been approached by someone outside the store who gave him money to buy alcohol. (#17-6, p. 7.)

When Plaintiff began working for the CPD, he received a copy of the CPD's Safety Policy and Rules and he received training on CPD policies and vehicle use. (#17-6, p. 11.) CPD's policies require that "employees act and conduct themselves in the best interest of the Park District" (#17-9, p. 2), not possess alcohol while acting on behalf of the CPD (#17-12, p. 2), and not leave the job during work hours without permission (#17-13, p. 3). The policy manual also notes that an employee may be dismissed for violating any of these policies or in any instance where it is in the best interest of the CPD to do so. (#17-13, pp. 2-3.)

Plaintiff was terminated by the CPD on August 24, 2004, purportedly for a violation of the aforementioned policies. (#17-14, p. 2.) On August 24, 2005, David Schneider wrote a letter to Plaintiff stating as follows:

At 10 a.m. today with Dennis Shiley, Mary McGrew, and myself as witnesses you admitted that you stopped at the Circle K . . . at approximately 8:30 a.m. to buy a Chicago Tribune. You admit you were approached outside the store by an acquaintance that was "barred out" from the store. The acquaintance gave you some money to purchase alcohol for him. You agree that you purchased the alcohol and gave it directly [(sic)] the person as you left the store. You do not deny that you were in District uniform, on District time, and driving a District vehicle when this incident occurred.

Your actions put you in direct violation of District policy. . . . Therefore, effective today, your employment with the District is terminated. (#2-2, p. 4.)

In January 2005, the CPD terminated Bill Staley, who is white, for failing to perform his job properly and casting the CPD in a negative light. (#17-3, p. 5.) Staley had displayed negative attitude towards his co-workers and the public. (#17-3, p. 5.)

Plaintiff filed a complaint before the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) in March 2006. He subsequently filed a complaint in this Court in June 2006 alleging that he was terminated because of his race. In April 2007, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (#16). In May 2007, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (#20). Defendant then moved to strike Plaintiff's motion because it was filed after the deadline for dispositive motions. (See Defendant CPD's Motion To Strike Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, #22.) In July 2007, the Court granted the motion to strike, noting that, despite its title, it appeared that Plaintiff intended the document he titled a motion to be a response to Defendant's motion for summary judgment, and that the Court would treat it as a such a response. (See Order, #30.)

II. Standard of Review

The Court will grant summary judgment "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 a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial. Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th ...

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