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Thomas Fitts v. Village of Grant Park

February 10, 2011

THOMAS FITTS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VILLAGE OF GRANT PARK, FRED 'J.R.' MEYER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, AND TIMOTHY SWANSON, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



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

E-FILED

Thursday, 10 February, 2011 04:03:21 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

This case is before the court for ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment (#25) filed by Defendants the Village of Grant Park, Mayor Fred "J.R." Meyer, and Police Chief Timothy Swanson. This court has carefully reviewed the arguments of the parties and the documents filed by the parties. Following this careful and thorough review, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (#25) is GRANTED.

FACTS*fn1

Plaintiff, Thomas Fitts, began working for the Village of Grant Park (Village) in 1988 as a part-time police officer. Plaintiff became a full-time police officer in 1994. Plaintiff was subsequently promoted to sergeant and later to lieutenant. Plaintiff's brother, Scott Fitts, was police chief for the Village until he was arrested in June 2008.*fn2 When his brother was arrested, Plaintiff was asked to become interim police chief. Plaintiff testified that he agreed to do it "on a short-time basis" and "there was no change" in his pay at that time. In February 2009, Mayor Bob Schurman and Warren Wessman, who was a trustee on the Village Board, had a discussion with Plaintiff at breakfast and talked about paying Plaintiff additional compensation for his extra work as interim chief. Plaintiff testified that they ultimately agreed upon $5,000 as the amount of compensation. Plaintiff testified that "[t]hey said they would get it voted on at the board and it would be no problem." Plaintiff testified that he was not aware of any vote by the Village Board to pay him $5,000 for the time he acted as interim chief. In fact, the Village Board voted regarding the $5,000 payment in April 2009 and four of the six trustees voted against it so it was not approved.

In April 2009, Schurman ran for re-election and was defeated by Fred "J.R." Meyer. Plaintiff testified that he supported Schurman for re-election by attending a couple of Schurman's golf outings. Meyer testified that he also attended some of Schurman's golf outings. Meyer ran for mayor with other candidates for Village office as members of the Unity Party. Meyer testified that the Unity Party was not affiliated with any political party. Meyer testified that the Unity Party no longer existed after the election.

On May 1, 2009, before Meyer took office as mayor, Plaintiff sent a letter to Schurman and resigned as interim chief due to "personal reasons." He asked to remain as a part-time police officer and lieutenant for the Village. As a part-time employee, Plaintiff was not entitled to accumulate sick days. It is undisputed that, as of April 2008, Plaintiff had accrued 131.6 sick days. Plaintiff testified that he discussed payment for the unused sick days with Schurman and Wessman and was told he could only be paid for 45 days.

On May 4, 2009, Meyer took office as mayor. Ken McCabe acted as interim police chief following Plaintiff's resignation. On August 1, 2009, Timothy Swanson took over as police chief. Swanson testified that he is not affiliated with any political party, and Plaintiff did not provide any evidence that Swanson was ever involved with the Unity Party. Swanson recommended to the Village Board that any part-time officers who had a supervisory rank be demoted to patrolmen in order to be in compliance with state law. The applicable Illinois statute provides, "Part-time police officers shall not be assigned under any circumstances to supervise or direct full-time police officers of a police department." 65 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/3.1-30-21 (West 2008). On September 9, 2009, Swanson notified Plaintiff and another part-time officer, Tom Harwood, by e-mail that the Village Board had voted "to eliminate the supervisory ranks held by part time police officers." Plaintiff was also notified that his pay rate was reduced to $12.50 per hour.

Plaintiff testified that, at the beginning of September 2009, he called in sick for two days. Plaintiff testified that he was taken off the schedule for the month of September. Plaintiff testified that his supervisor, Sergeant Justin Dole, told him he was removed from the schedule for calling in sick. Plaintiff did not testify that he ever had a discussion with Swanson about being taken off the schedule. On November 7, 2009, Plaintiff sent a letter to Swanson and asked to be paid for his accumulated sick days. Plaintiff testified that he was only seeking payment for 45 days. Plaintiff's request was denied based upon the Village policy. The policy provides, in pertinent part:

All sick leave accumulated above 45 days must be used before December 31st of the current calendar year or it will be forfeited. In case of resignation or termination at any time no compensation will be paid.

Meyer, Wessman and Swanson testified that they did not know of anyone who was paid for unused sick days. Schurman testified that, while he was mayor, he discussed payment for unused sick days with Plaintiff and told Plaintiff he "didn't ...


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