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Darnell Keel and Merritt Gentry v. Village of Harvey

January 25, 2011

DARNELL KEEL AND MERRITT GENTRY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VILLAGE OF HARVEY, ERIC KELLOGG, SANDRA ALVARADO, AND STEVEN PORTER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On April 16, 2007, Plaintiffs Darnell Keel and Merritt Gentry (collectively, the "Plaintiffs") filed suit against Defendants City of Harvey, Eric Kellogg, Sandra Alvarado, and Steven Porter (collectively, the "Defendants") in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. After some procedural developments, Plaintiffs' Sixth Amended Complaint is before this Court and alleges that Defendants deprived Plaintiffs of employment benefits and promotional opportunities without due process. Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

The Sixth Amended Complaint states the following facts. Darnell Keel ("Keel") and Merritt Gentry ("Gentry") were granted full time civil service status as police officers with the City of Harvey in September 2004 and December 2004, respectively. Despite attaining this status, Keel and Gentry were denied full membership in the Harvey Police Department pension plan.

In April 2006, defendant Eric Kellogg ("Kellogg")(as Mayor of the City of Harvey) and Deputy Police Chief Eaves ("Eaves") informed Gentry that he was being placed on indefinite administrative leave. Gentry received pay while on leave but was denied benefits such as membership in the pension plan. Similarly, in September 2006, Defendant Kellogg, Police Chief Joshua ("Joshua"), and Defendant Porter ("Porter") (as a Police Commander) informed Keel that he was being placed on indefinite administrative leave with pay but without certain benefits. Keel and Gentry both complain that, while on leave, their requests to sit for the Sergeant's Exam were denied. Keel additionally argues that he did not receive the pay raise or retroactive pay that his peers did while he was on leave.

Keel and Gentry were not informed of the reason they were being placed on administrative leave. Each repeatedly requested an explanation of why they were placed on leave and demanded an opportunity to be heard on the issue before the Civil Service Commission. Neither Keel nor Gentry received a hearing regarding their leave. Superiors occasionally told them not to worry and that they would soon be allowed to return to regular work.

Gentry was notified that he would be suspended from duty without pay in May 2007 based on certain charges against him. Gentry chose to resign as a police officer in July. Keel returned to regular duty in November 2009 and is currently a serving member of the Harvey Police Department.

B. Procedure

Keel and Gentry filed this action in state court in April 2007. After Plaintiffs filed their Fifth Amended Complaint, Defendants removed the case to this Court and filed a Motion to Dismiss. The Motion to Dismiss was granted on January 21, 2010 based in part on Plaintiffs' failure to demonstrate why Illinois state courts did not offer an adequate remedy. See Keel v. City of Harvey, No. 09 C 6254, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4687 (N.D.Ill. Jan. 21, 2010). The case was then remanded as no federal claim was pending. In state court, Plaintiffs filed the instant Sixth Amended Complaint. Defendants allege that it differs from the Fifth Amended Complaint only in that it includes the following new allegations:

Keel/Gentry] requested numerous times for an opportunity to be heard by the Civil Service Commission, but his requests were continuously denied. [Keel/Gentry] was never given the opportunity to exhaust his administrative remedies before the Civil Service Commission despite his repeated requests to do so. Plaintiffs have not disputed this characterization of the Sixth Amended Complaint.

The instant Complaint is filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and claims that Defendants deprived Plaintiffs of their property interest in employment with the City of Harvey in violation of the Due Process Clause. Defendants now move to dismiss this Complaint. Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' constitutional claims fail because state remedies provide due process. Plaintiffs' other claims require a constitutional violation, so Defendants argue that these fail when the constitutional claims fail.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss should be granted if the complaint fails to satisfy Rule 8's pleading requirement of "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. ...


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