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Fitzpatrick v. Reinhart

November 10, 2010

CHAD FITZPATRICK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES REINHART, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael P. McCUSKEY Chief U.S. District Judge

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on James Reinhart and Michael Randle's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 42).*fn1 The Plaintiffs are nine journeymen electricians who unsuccessfully sought a single journeyman electrician position at the Lincoln Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois. They claim that Defendant James Reinhart discriminated against them because of their political affiliation by hiring an unqualified person for the position, Dennis Wilson, based on political considerations. Defendant Randle is being sued in his official capacity as Director of the Illinois Department of Corrections (Department) only to seek prospective injunctive relief.*fn2 The Defendants seek summary judgment on the Plaintiffs' claims. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is allowed. The Plaintiffs fail to present evidence that Defendant Reinhart hired Wilson based on political considerations.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The political affiliation of an applicant for state employment is not an appropriate consideration for state jobs except under certain circumstances when political affiliation would be an appropriate consideration, such as when the employee would have access to confidential information or policymaking authority. See Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, 497 U.S. 62 (1990); Hall v. Babb, 389 F.3d 758, 762 (7th Cir. 2004). After the Rutan decision, the State of Illinois divided state jobs into "Rutan-covered" and "Rutan-exempt" positions. Rutan-covered positions were state jobs for which the state determined that political affiliation was not an appropriate consideration for any employment decision. See Whitlow v. Martin, __ F.Supp.2d.__, 2010 WL 2521443 at *2 (C.D. Ill., June 15, 2010).

Democrat Rod Blagojevich became Governor of Illinois in January 2003. Shortly after taking office in 2003, Governor Blagojevich instituted a new hiring procedure for all parts of Illinois government that were under his direct jurisdiction. The Department was covered by this new procedure. Under this procedure, all requests for new hires had to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) within the Governor's Office on a form known as an Electronic Personnel Action Request (ePAR). After the OMB in the Governor's Office approved the ePAR, the relevant agency or department posted the opening and went through the normal hiring process. After completing the hiring process, the relevant agency or department sent the Governor's Office a recommendation to hire the successful candidate on the ePAR. The OMB in the Governor's Office then had to approve the selection before the candidate could be hired. See Response to Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 47) (Response), attached Deposition of Laura Norton, at 26-27, and Exhibit 2, Schematic Diagram ePAR System.

Political supporters of Governor Blagojevich recommended individuals to the Governor for state jobs, both Rutan-covered and Rutan-exempt. From 2003 until December 2004, Laura Norton kept track of such recommendations within the Governor's Office. She would tell the recommended individuals of openings and give them instructions on how to apply for the openings through the regular hiring process. She would also notify the relevant agency or department if such a recommended individual had applied for an opening. Norton testified in her deposition that early in the Blagojevich administration, the Governor's Office did not give final approval to fill the position if the relevant agency or department did not select the recommended individual for the opening, unless the hire was crucial. Norton Deposition, at 27.

In December 2004, Norton became the Director of Personnel for the Department. Norton testified that when she was working at the Department, the Governor's Office stopped micro-managing the hiring process. She stated that the ePAR form was changed so that the name of the successful candidate did not appear on the form when it was sent back to the Governor's Office for final approval. Thus, the Governor's Office was not informed of the identity of the successful candidates for Rutan-covered positions. She stated that positions were filled based on merit. Norton left the Department for a job in the private industry in December 2006. Norton Deposition, at 28.

In December 2004, Defendant Reinhart took Norton's position in the Governor's Office at the same time that Norton went to the Department. Reinhart performed the same function as Norton, matching recommended individuals with openings and assisting them in filing applications for employment. In December 2006, Reinhart became Chief of Staff for the Department. Response, attached Deposition of James Reinhart, at 41; Norton Deposition, at 15, 17.*fn3

On April 3, 2007, the Governor's Office approved the Department's request to fill a journeyman electrician position at the Lincoln Correctional Center (Position). Response, Exhibit 9, PAR 026312 for Department of Corrections. The Position was then posted. The notice for the Position stated that April 30, 2007, was the latest day to apply. Response, Exhibit 1, Job Posting. The Position required the person to perform journeyman electrical work. The notice stated that no formal education was required, but the Position "requires experience necessary to qualify as a journeyman electrician." Id.

The Job Posting did not define the term "journeyman electrician." The evidence indicates that the term "journeyman electrician" has at least two definitions. John Johnson, the Assistant Business Manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 51, testified that a journeyman electrician in Local 51 was an electrician with four years experience. Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 50) (Reply), Exhibit 1, Deposition of John Johnson, at 17-20. Local 51 covered electricians that worked at the Clinton, Illinois, nuclear power plant. Id. at 15. Johnson also testified that some IBEW locals defined "journeyman electrician" to mean an individual who completed a certified apprenticeship program. Johnson testified that IBEW Local 193 in Springfield, Illinois, used this definition for journeyman electrician. Id. at 20-22.

Wilson applied for the Position. Wilson had worked as an electrician in the Navy and at the Clinton nuclear power plant. Reply, attached Deposition of Dennis Wilson, at 11-12 and Deposition Exhibit, Application for Position, at Bates Stamp pp. 00008-00011. Wilson held the position of general repairman electrician at the Clinton plant. Wilson was an IBEW Local 51 member during his tenure at the Clinton plant. The general repairman electrician position required five years experience and was a promotion above the journeyman electrician level at the Clinton plant, according to IBEW Local 51. Johnson Deposition, at 18. Wilson, however, did not complete a certified apprenticeship program, and so, would not be considered a journeyman electrician by IBEW Local 193.

Wilson was not politically active. He voted, but did not contribute to any political campaigns, attend any political functions, or work for any political candidates. Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 43) (Defendants' Memorandum), Exhibit 33, Affidavit of Dennis Wilson, ¶ 8, and Exhibit 34, Deposition of Dennis Wilson, at 54. Wilson also testified that he did not ask anyone for assistance in getting the Position and did not list any references prior to being selected. Wilson Affidavit, ¶¶ 2-3.

Leslie Krebs, Human Resources Representative at the Department, was in charge of the hiring process for the Department. Response, attached Deposition of Leslie Krebs, at 23-24. Krebs reviewed the applications to make a list of qualified applicants for the interview process. Upon reviewing Wilson's application, Krebs asked Marilyn Lowery to confirm that Wilson was a journeyman electrician. Krebs Deposition, at 61. Lowery was the Human Resources Representative in the Lincoln Correctional Center Personnel Department. Response, attached Deposition of Marilyn Lowery Deposition, at 15-16. Lowery contacted Wilson to ask for verification. Wilson sent Lowery a copy of his IBEW Local 51 Union card that he acquired when he worked at the Clinton nuclear power plant. The card stated that Wilson was a general repairman electrician. After receiving the copy of the card, Lowery called Wilson because the card did not say journeyman electrician. After Lowery called him, Wilson spoke to Assistant Business Manager Johnson at IBEW Local 51 to confirm that the general repairman position was a journeyman position. Johnson confirmed that the general repairman position was a journeyman position. Wilson Deposition, at 19-20. Wilson called Lowery and told her that the general repairman electrician was a journeyman position. Id.

Lowery gave Krebs the information that she received from Wilson regarding his qualifications. Krebs believed if an electrician was a member of the IBEW, then he was a journeyman electrician and qualified for the Position. Krebs Deposition, at 61-63. Krebs testified that she contacted a person at Local 51 and confirmed that Wilson had been a member of the IBEW and could become a member again. She was told that all he had to do was pay his dues and he would be reinstated. Krebs Deposition, at 66- 67. After receiving this information, Krebs put Wilson on the list of qualified candidates to be interviewed. The Plaintiffs submitted a list of candidates which contained a ...


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