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Williams v. Cook County

February 5, 2008

TOBI WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COOK COUNTY, JOHN STROGER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; MARK KILGALLON, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND JAMES WHIGHAM, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Tobi Williams filed an Amended Complaint against Defendants Cook County, Former Cook County Board President John Stroger, Jr.,*fn1 Cook County Director of Human Resources Mark Kilgallon, and Cook County Inspector General James Whigham alleging equal protection discrimination based on her gender and disability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and conspiracy to commit the same pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3). In a previous order, the Court dismissed Williams' conspiracy claim brought pursuant to Section 1985(3). Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

Because Williams moves to strike certain statements of facts and Defendants contest the majority of Williams' facts, the Court first turns to Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1. When determining summary judgment motions, the Court derives the background facts from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements. Local Rule 56.1 assists the Court by "organizing the evidence, identifying undisputed facts, and demonstrating precisely how each side propose[s] to prove a disputed fact with admissible evidence." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000). Specifically, Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the moving party to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue." Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004). Local Rule 56.1(b)(3) requires the nonmoving party to admit or deny every factual statement proffered by the moving party and to concisely designate any material facts that establish a genuine dispute for trial. See Schrott v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 403 F.3d 940, 944 (7th Cir. 2005). The parties' statements must contain short numbered paragraphs including references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials. See id.; see also Ammons, 368 F.3d at 817.

The purpose of Rule 56.1 statements is to identify the relevant evidence supporting the material facts, not to make factual or legal arguments. See Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006). The types of evidentiary material available to support Local Rule 56.1 statements are numerous, but the most common materials include affidavits, deposition transcripts, and business documents. Malec v. Sanford, 191 F.R.D. 581, 584 (N.D. Ill. 2000). Moreover, "hearsay is inadmissible in summary judgment proceedings to the same extent that it is inadmissible in a trial." Eisenstadt v. Centel Corp., 113 F.3d 738, 742 (7th Cir. 1997).

A litigant's failure to respond to a Local Rule 56.1 statement results in the Court admitting the uncontroverted statement as true. Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006). In addition, the requirements for responses under Local Rule 56.1 are "not satisfied by evasive denials that do not fairly meet the substance of the material facts asserted." Bordelon, 233 F.3d at 528. Finally, the Court may disregard statements and responses that do not properly cite to the record. See Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., L.L.C. 401 F.3d 803, 809-10 (7th Cir. 2005); Brasic v. Heinemann's Inc., 121 F.3d 281, 284 (7th Cir. 1997). With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the relevant facts of this case.

II. Relevant Facts

In 1994, the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, John Stroger, Jr., hired Plaintiff Tobi Williams as Director of Special Events. (R. 94-1, Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶ 1.) Williams was a "Shakman exempt" employee who served at the will of President Stroger. (Id. ¶ 7.) During all times relevant to the claims in this lawsuit, Defendant Mark Kilgallon was the Director of Human Resources at Cook County and Defendant James Whigham was the Inspector General for Cook County. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5.)

In January 2004, while Williams was on disability leave, Jean Albritton, an investigator with the Inspector General's Office, informed Williams that she was investigating an allegation that Williams had improperly spent Cook County funds. (Id. ¶ 9.) Albritton's investigation specifically concerned improper expenditures, including $102.00 used to purchase table linens for a non-County function. (Id. ¶ 16; Ex. 8, IG Report; R. 113-1, Pl.s' Stmt. Facts ¶ 75.) In the investigative report, Albritton sustained charges against Williams for theft, falsifying county records, engaging in non-County business while on duty, and failing to follow Cook County rules and procedures. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶ 16.)

In a letter dated February 18, 2004, Williams was notified that her employment with Cook County was being terminated although Williams remained on disability leave until the end of February 2006. (Id. ¶ 11.) On December 19, 2005, Williams informed President Stroger that she was prepared to return to work from her medical disability leave in February 2006. (Pl.s' Stmt. Facts ¶ 93.) In a letter dated January 3, 2006, Kilgallon reminded Williams that her employment had been terminated in February 2004. (Id.) Accordingly, the County did not allow Williams to return to her position as Director of Special Events when she concluded her disability leave in February 2006. (Id. ¶ 95.)

SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper when "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). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed. 2d 202 (1986). In determining summary judgment motions, "facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a 'genuine' dispute as to those facts." Scott v. Harris, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, ...


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