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Burns v. St. Clair County Housing Authority

October 2, 2009

MICHAEL BURNS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ST. CLAIR COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

I. Introduction and Background

Now before the Court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment (Doc. 34). Defendant moves for summary judgment arguing that Plaintiff has failed to provide any evidence of discrimination or of constructive discharge. Plaintiff opposes the motion (Doc. 40). Based on the pleadings, the applicable law and the following, the Court denies the motion.

On April 4, 2008, Michael Burns and Debra Kenton filed suit against their former employer, St. Clair County Housing Authority ("Housing Authority"), alleging race discrimination pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Doc. 1).*fn1 Specifically, Burns alleges that the Housing Authority failed and refused to promote Burns to several director positions because of his race, African American. Burns also alleges that he was constructively discharged because of his race.

II. Facts

The Housing Authority is a municipal corporation that administers housing assistance programs in St. Clair County, Illinois. The Housing Authority is controlled by a five-member Board of Commissioners. An Executive Director, who is appointed by the Board, is responsible for the day to day management of the Housing Authority. The current Executive Director is David Wagner. Wagner has held that position since November 1989. Wagner is caucasian.

Burns began working as a Property Manager for the Housing Authority in 1988. At that time, Burns reported directly to Perce Dace, the Director of Property Management. Sometime in 1990, Dace resigned as Director of Property Management. At that time, Burns informed Wagner that he had an interest in the position of Director of Property Management. Wagner selected Larry McLean for the position. Thereafter, Burns was promoted to Operations Supervisor. As Operations Supervisor, Burns supervised three to four Property Managers and developed screening criteria for public housing applicants. He reported directly to McLean.

In 1993, Burns title changed to Resident Programs Coordinator. As Resident Programs Coordinator, Burns was responsible for working with groups to develop their interests in seeking employment or business opportunities. His duties included writing grants, administering contracts, and assisting residents with the development of business plans. Burns still reported to McLean.

From March 2001 to September 2006, Burns held the position of Area Supervisor. His responsibilities included overseeing the management of four different apartment complexes and supervising at least four individuals. Again in this position, he reported to McLean.

During 2005 and 2006, the Housing Authority faced some financial struggles, so it offered an early retirement program to many of its employees. As a result of the early retirement program, the following positions became available: the Administrative Director; the Director of Development and Maintenance; Director of Finance; and the Director of Programs and Leasing.

In February 2006, the Director of Finance position became available when Jim Blackman retired. The Housing Authority did not post an opening for this position. Wagner recommended Nancy Schmidt, a Caucasian woman, for the Director of Finance. She received the promotion. Schmidt's previous position was an accountant. She was the only person considered for the job.

In 2006, the Administrative Director's position opened when Michael Morris retired.*fn2 At some point in 2005 or 2006, Burns informed Wagner the he was interested in Administrative Director's position. Wagner told Burns that he would take his interest into consideration. In March 2006, Morris had emergency heart surgery and did not return to work on a full-time basis. Maureen Richter, then the Purchasing Officer, voluntarily filled in for Morris temporarily while he was on medical leave. When Morris's retirement became official, Wagner recommend Richter for the Administrative Director position. The Housing Authority did not post an opening for the Administrative Director position. Wagner did not have any discussions with Burns about the position. Wagner did not consider anyone other than Richter for the position because he thought that she was the most logical choice. Richter is a Caucasian woman.

In May 2006, the Director of Development and Maintenance position became open with the retirement of Tony Vecera. After, Vecera decided to retire, the Housing Authority separated his job into two positions: Director of Maintenance and Director of Technical Services. The Housing Authority did not post openings for these positions. These positions were filled by two Caucasian employees: David Wright, Director of Technical Services and Keith Hausman as Director of Maintenance. No one else was considered for these positions.

In April 2006, the Director of Programs and Leasing, Effie Smith, retired. Prior to Smith's retirement, Wagner decided to allow McLean to take over the responsibilities of the Programs and Leasing Department in addition to his responsibilities as the Director of Property Management. Further, the Housing Authority gave McLean secondary responsibilities for all of the other departments and his title was changed to Deputy Director. The Deputy Director was a newly created ...


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