The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge
This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to All Counts of Plaintiffs' Complaint (d/e 48) and accompanying Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 54) (Defendants' Memorandum). Plaintiffs Janice Draper, Brad Clearwater, and Julie Neposchlan are former employees of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). They filed the instant two-count Complaint (d/e 1) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated Plaintiffs' Constitutional rights in terminating their employment with IDOT. Count I alleges that Plaintiffs' employment with IDOT was terminated based on political considerations in violation of the First Amendment. Count II alleges that Plaintiffs were denied their property interest in their positions without due process of law. Defendants assert that they are entitled to summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and therefore, summary judgment in favor of the Defendants is appropriate.
In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court may not weigh the evidence, but must determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact that warrants trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). In making this determination, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, here the Plaintiffs, and must draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. See id. at 255. Because this case is resolved on statute of limitations grounds, the Court limits its recitation of facts to those pertinent to this issue.
In November 2002, Democrat Rod Blagojevich was elected Governor of Illinois. The preceding three Governors of Illinois had been affiliated with the Republican party. Blagojevich took office in January 2003, and appointed Defendant Timothy Martin as the Secretary of IDOT.
Defendant Martin served as the Secretary of IDOT from February 2003, through January 2007.*fn1
Defendant Michael Stout worked for IDOT from 1979 until 1986, at which point he left IDOT to take a job with the Teamsters union, which he held until 1997. In February 2003, Stout was hired by IDOT on a contract basis. Stout's primary responsibility was to gather facts to aid IDOT in determining whether personnel rules were broken when eleven IDOT employees took voluntary reductions from Rutan-exempt positions to Rutan-covered positions immediately before or immediately after the November 2002, gubernatorial election.*fn2 Stout's contract ended in June 2003. From June 16, 2003, until November 1, 2004, Stout was employed with IDOT as the Deputy Director of the Bureau of Finance and Administration. Stout is currently the Director of Traffic Safety for IDOT, a position he has held since December 1, 2004.
Defendant Scott Doubet began working for IDOT on February 1, 2004. He was the Bureau Chief of Personnel Management at IDOT from February 2004, through April 24, 2009. Defendant Robert Millette worked for IDOT from February 2003, until September 2005. At all relevant times, Millette was IDOT's Director of Finance and Administration. Defendant Robin Black was Martin's Chief of Staff at all relevant times.
Defendants contend that, as the end of fiscal year 2004 approached, the State of Illinois was confronted with serious budgetary challenges. Defendants' Memorandum, p. 7, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact No. 17. Plaintiffs dispute this statement; however, Plaintiffs' response focuses only on IDOT and does not establish that the State of Illinois was not faced with serious budgetary challenges at the relevant time period. Plaintiffs' Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 66) (Plaintiffs' Response), p. 29-30. According to Plaintiffs, because of IDOT's reliance on the Road Fund, the actions in question in the instant case were not budget-driven.
Plaintiffs do not dispute, but rather deem immaterial, the following facts. In early 2004, the Illinois Office of Management and Budget (OMB) proposed a budget for fiscal year 2005 that focused on fiscal discipline. The 2005 budget included widespread reductions in administrative costs and government bureaucracy. A key component of the 2005 budget was a significant reduction in the State's workforce. OMB budgeted for 61,000 full-time equivalent positions for 2005 in agencies under the Governor. This represented a decrease of 2,300 funded positions across numerous state agencies. The 2005 budget instructed IDOT to streamline operations and improve efficiency by consolidating functions and reorganizing operations. "OMB directed IDOT to reduce its headcount by 190 personnel compared to the authorization for Fiscal Year 2004," although an anticipated merger involving 24 employees of the Illinois Commerce Commission rail staff resulted in an actual need to reduce 166 IDOT positions. Defendants' Memorandum, p. 8, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact No. 21 & n. 5. Plaintiffs concede that IDOT's authorized headcount for Fiscal Year 2004 was 6,319, and, pursuant to OMB directive, the recommended headcount for Fiscal Year 2005 was 6,149, a difference of 170 positions.
According to Defendant Martin, in response to OMB's directive, IDOT implemented a Material Reorganization. Plaintiffs respond that IDOT had not developed a financial analysis of savings to be gained from a material reorganization and the actual purpose of the reorganization was to create vacancies to be filled by a common scheme to control state employment by the Office of the Governor. Plaintiffs argue that the Material Reorganization was a cover-up or pretext for an over-arching scheme to reward loyalists of the newly elected Blagojevich administration and eliminate non-supporters. Defendants assert that a total of 104 positions, including those of the Plaintiffs, were abolished at IDOT pursuant to the Material Reorganization. Plaintiffs again respond that the reorganization was pretextual, but they do not identify evidence to contradict the assertion that a total of 104 positions, including those of the Plaintiffs, were abolished at IDOT.
The parties agree that Defendant Martin had the ultimate decision-making authority to approve or disapprove the positions chosen for elimination. Defendants' Memorandum, p. 10, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact No. 27; Plaintiffs' Response, p. 13. The parties further agree that OMB did not provide any specific instruction regarding the way in which IDOT should accomplish the headcount reduction. However, the headcount reduction was not to affect the efficiency and functioning of the agency negatively. Defendants' Memorandum, p. 18, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact No. 54; Plaintiffs' Response, p. 13-14. Defendant Martin directed Defendant Millette to plan and implement the headcount reduction. Defendants' Memorandum, Ex. 45, Affidavit of Robert Millette, ¶ 4. Defendants Stout and Doubet reported to Millette and assisted him in developing a proposal for reduction. Id., ¶ 8. According to Defendants, Stout and Doubet, in concert with certain organizational leaders and Defendant Martin, "were responsible for making suggestions regarding which positions could be abolished without having a detrimental effect on the agency's ability to provide services." Defendants' Memorandum, p. 22, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact No.69. While Plaintiffs characterize this fact as disputed, they fail to identify evidence to contradict the scope of Stout and Doubet's responsibilities in this regard. See Plaintiffs' Response, p. 61-62. Accordingly, the Court views Defendants' Statement of Material Fact No. 69 as undisputed.
Defendants assert that "[t]he decision-making process was fluid, involving numerous proposals, suggestions, and revisions up until the final written notices of abolished positions were mailed" and that "the final written notices were mailed between May 24, 2004 and June 1, 2004." Defendants' Memorandum, p. 18, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact No. 55. Plaintiffs characterize these facts as disputed; however, neither their response nor the evidence cited to support the response contradicts that the decision-making process was fluid up until the final written notices were mailed or that these notices were mailed between May 24, 2004, and June 1, 2004. Plaintiffs' Response, p. 49-50.
Defendants assert that, on February 6, 2004, Defendant Millette provided Martin with a memorandum outlining two alternative plans for responding to OMB's directive, Plan A and Plan B. Defendants' Memorandum, p. 23, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact No. 71. While Plaintiffs characterize this fact as disputed, they concede that Plan A and Plan B existed and they fail to identify evidence disputing the date the plans were presented. The parties agree that, ultimately Plan A, which proposed eliminating 202 incumbent positions, and Plan B, which proposed the elimination of 160 incumbent positions, were not adopted.
Plaintiff Julie Neposchlan worked in IDOT's Office of Public Affairs' Bureau of Local Agency & Safety Programs. Defendants' Memorandum, p. 46, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact No. 160.*fn3 The Office of Public Affairs was abolished in its entirety in the headcount reduction, and the decision to abolish this department was made early in the process. Defendants' Memorandum, p. 45, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact Nos. 157 & 158.*fn4 A proposed layoff plan dated April 1, 2004, includes elimination of six incumbent positions within the Office of Public Affairs, including Neposchlan's. Defendants' Memorandum, p. 55, Defendants' Undisputed Material Fact No. 199 & Ex. 22, p. WH 004846.*fn5 As of June 2, ...