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Egonmwan v. Cook County Sheriff's Dep't

April 27, 2009


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


On June 27, 2007, Plaintiff Iyare Egonmwan filed a four-count First Amended Complaint alleging a claim of race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Count I), an equal protection claim based on race and gender discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count II), a retaliation claim in violation of Section 1981 (Count III),*fn1 and a retaliation claim in violation of the First Amendment under Section 1983 (Count IV) against his former employer, the Cook County Sheriff's Department, along with certain employees of the Cook County Sheriff's Department. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendants' motion in its entirety.


I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

Because Defendants move to strike Egonmwan's Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Additional Facts and his Response to Defendants' Local Rule 56.1 Statements, the Court starts with a review of the Local Rules as they relate to summary judgment motions. 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). In addition, Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) requires the nonmoving party to present a separate statement of additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment. See Ciomber v. Cooperative Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008). Pursuant to the Local Rules, the Court will not consider any additional facts proposed in the nonmoving party's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3) response, but instead must rely on the nonmoving party's Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) Statement of Additional Facts. See id. at 643 ("court does not abuse its discretion when it opts to disregard facts presented in a manner that does follow the Rule's instructions").

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 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. Moreover, 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); see also Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 604 (7th Cir. 2006) ("district courts are entitled to expect strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1"). Finally, "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); see, e.g., Keri v. Board of Tr. of Purdue Univ., 458 F.3d 620, 630 (7th Cir. 2006).

With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the relevant facts of this case.

II. Relevant Facts

A. Parties

Plaintiff Iyare Egonmwan, a former correctional officer for the Cook County Sheriff's Department, is an African-American male residing in the Northern District of Illinois. (R. 233-1, Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 1, 10.) The Cook County Sheriff's Department operates the Cook County Department of Corrections ("CCDOC") and the Cook County Sheriff's Police. (Id. ¶ 2.) During the relevant time period, Defendant Michael F. Sheahan was the elected Sheriff of Cook County, a position Sheahan held until December 2006. (Id. ¶ 3.) Defendant Callie Baird was the Executive Director of the CCDOC from July 2003 until November 2004. (Id. ¶ 4.) As of November 2002, Defendant Katie Harrison was the Superintendent of Division 4, a division of the CCDOC that housed female detainees. (Id. ¶ 5.) During the relevant time period, Defendant Scott Kurtovich was the CCDOC's Assistance Executive Director. (Id. ¶ 6.) Defendant Timothy Kaufman, deceased, was the Chief of the Internal Affairs Division ("IAD") for the CCDOC at all relevant times. (Id. ¶ 7.) Also during the relevant time period, Defendant Miriam Rentas was an IAD investigator. (Id. ¶ 9.)

B. Egonmwan's Sexual Harassment Allegations

During the summer of 2001, Egonmwan was transferred from Division 9 to Division 4 of the CCDOC -- an all female division -- where Katie Harrison was the Superintendent. (Id. ¶¶ 5, 11.) On September 11, 2002, Egonmwan filed an internal sexual harassment complaint against Harrison. (Id. ¶ 16; R. 278-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. Add'l Facts ¶ 11.) During this same time period, Egonmwan was suspended for violating the CCDOC's Ethics and Standard of Conduct for an incident that occurred on April 17, 2001. (Id. ¶ 14; Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶ 18.)

C. Egonmwan's Criminal Investigation and Prosecution

In March 2003, a female detainee gave Harrison a letter in which the detainee stated that certain correctional officers were engaging in sexual intercourse with her and other women detainees in Division 4. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶ 20.) After Harrison received the letter, she forwarded it to Kurtovich, the CCDOC's Assistance Executive Director, and Kaufmann in IAD. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 7, 21.) Thereafter, the IAD forwarded these allegations to the Cook County Sheriff's Police to investigate. (Id. ¶ 22.)

Detectives from the Cook County Sheriff's Police conducted interviews of the female detainees. (Id. ¶ 25.) During the criminal investigation, many correctional officers were considered "suspects of interests." (Id. ¶ 27.) Also during the course of the investigation, Detectives for the Cook County Sheriff's Police submitted their investigation to the Felony Review Unit at the Cook County State's Attorney. (Id. ¶ 28.) Assistant State's Attorneys then began overseeing the investigation and conducted interviews of the female detainees in Division 4. (Id. ¶ 29.)

On August 13, 2003, Egonmwan was arrested for the criminal offense of custodial sexual misconduct. (Id. ¶ 39.) On August 25, 2003, Sheriff Sheahan filed an administrative complaint seeking Egonmwan's separation from the CCDOC. (Id. ¶ 42.) Meanwhile, Egonmwan was indicted on September 15, 2003, by a grand jury and following a bench trial, was acquitted on August 3, 2004. (Id. ¶¶ 43, 52; Pl.'s Stmt. Facts ¶ 51.)

D. Merit Board Hearing and Determination

On July 27, 2004, the Merit Board held a hearing concerning the termination of Egonmwan's employment and continued the hearing until August 31, 2004, and September 29, 2004. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶¶ 54, 55, 56.) The Merit Board resumed the hearing on December 1, 2004. (Id. ¶ 57.) On January 13, 2005, the Merit Board issued an order -- finding by a preponderance of the evidence -- that Egonmwan violated General Orders 3.8 and 4.1 and terminated his employment effective August 25, 2003. (Id. ¶ 62.) General Order 3.8 prohibits a CCDOC employee from engaging in sexual conduct with a person in custody. (Id. ¶ 70.) General Order 4.1 prohibits CCDOC employees from engaging in ...

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