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Norris v. City of Chicago

September 17, 2008

THOMAS NORRIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Ronald A. Guzman United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Judge Ronald A. Guzmán

Plaintiff has sued the City of Chicago ("the City") for its alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment, the consent decree entered in Shakman v. Democratic Organization of Cook County, 69 C 2145 (N.D. Ill. 1972) and the Illinois Whistleblower Act. The case is before the Court on the City's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the motion.

Facts

Plaintiff was hired by the City's Department of Aviation ("DOA") in 1997 as a Safety Specialist III. (First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17-18.) He held this position for six years, receiving excellent employment reviews. (Id. ¶¶ 19- 20.)

In 2003, plaintiff's supervisor, the Safety Director at Midway Airport, left the City. (Id. ¶ 25.) As a result, DOA posted the vacant position and plaintiff applied for it. (Id. ¶¶ 23-24, 26.) At about the same time, plaintiff was told by DOA's Deputy Commissioner of Safety that he should perform both his own job duties and those of the Safety Director until the job was filled. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.)

Ultimately, plaintiff and one other applicant were found by the City to be qualified for the Safety Director position. (Id. ¶ 30.) The other applicant was Mark McInerny, a DOA police officer with no previous safety experience. (Id.) McInerny, however, was a life-long resident of the City's 11th Ward, as was John Townsend, the man responsible for filling the Safety Director position. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.)

Townsend "openly stated that he favored" McInerny, though at least one DOA employee told him that plaintiff was more qualified. (Id. ¶ 31.) Moreover, Townsend told two DOA employees that he would leave the position vacant rather than hire plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 31.) No one was hired as Safety Director at that time, and plaintiff continued to perform the duties of both the Safety Specialist III and Safety Director positions. (Id. ¶ 32.)

DOA again posted the Safety Director position in 2005. (Id. ¶ 35.) Because McInerny had recently been promoted within the DOA's police department, plaintiff's was the only name on the list of qualified candidates. (Id.) Instead of getting the job, however, plaintiff was told by his supervisors that, because of the dearth of candidates, the position would remain open. (Id. ¶ 36.)

The job was posted once more in July 2006, and plaintiff again submitted an application. (Id. ¶ 39.) Around the same time, however, plaintiff was told by his supervisor, William Lonergan, that he would not get the Safety Director job because he "did not have the right people behind [him.]" (Id. ¶ 40.)

On August 18, 2006, McInerny told plaintiff that plaintiff's name was not on the list of applicants to be interviewed for the Safety Director job. (Id. ¶¶ 41-42.) Afterwards, plaintiff asked Lonergan why his name was not on the list (Id. ¶ 43.) Lonergan said he would investigate but told plaintiff not to mention the investigation to Jan Arnold, DOA's Chief Administrative Officer, because Lonergan did not want to get into trouble with her. (Id. ¶ 44.)

At about the same time, Arnold made a number of disparaging comments to or about plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 56.) She referred to him as a "Neanderthal," made disparaging remarks about his work to other DOA employees, and refused to discuss safety issues with him. (Id.)

On August 22, 2006, plaintiff called the offices of the Shakman Decree Hiring Monitor and the Inspector General to complain about the omission of his name from the list of applicants to be interviewed. (Id. ¶ 45.) Sometime thereafter, Lonergan told plaintiff that, according to Arnold, the interview candidates were chosen by lot and plaintiff had not been "lucky enough" to be selected. (Id. ¶¶ 46-47.)

Plaintiff then filed a written complaint with the Shakman Decree Monitor and was interviewed by William Rimkus, a member of that office. (Id. ΒΆ 48.) Rimkus told plaintiff that he was qualified for the Safety Director position and should have been the leading candidate for it but was not because his "file had been marked in such a way to show that ...


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