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John W. Brooks v. City of Chicago

January 4, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


Defendants City of Chicago, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and former Daley Chief of Staff Raymond Orozco have moved to dismiss [21] former Fire Commissioner John W. Brooks' complaint. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part Defendants' motion to dismiss [21] and dismisses Plaintiff's § 1983 claims for alleged constitutional violations (Counts I and II). Because the Court has dismissed the two claims over which it has original jurisdiction, Plaintiff's remaining state law claims (Counts III-V) will be dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiff may pursue those claims in state court if he so chooses.

I. Background

In July 2008, former Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed John Brooks to the position of Fire Commissioner and the City Council approved the appointment. As Fire Commissioner, Brooks was responsible for the Chicago Fire Department. Brooks alleges that his appointment was a permanent one, as opposed to a temporary appointment, and that he had a "constitutionally-protected right in continued public employment." Compl. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff's complaint further alleges that his job as Commissioner was "an exempt position." Id.

In March 2010, Defendant Raymond Orozco, at the time Daley's Chief of Staff, advised Brooks that a female Fire Department employee had raised an allegation of sexual harassment against him. As a result of the allegations, Brooks was advised that he was being placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. On May 1, 2010, Brooks met with Orozco again, and Orozco allegedly told Brooks that "Mayor Daley wants you out." According to the complaint, Orozco then advised Brooks that if he did not submit a letter of resignation, he would be terminated immediately or demoted to Battalion Chief. Brooks provided an undated letter of resignation to Orozco. Brooks maintains that he did not want to resign and that the letter was coerced. Brooks resignation became effective May 28, 2010.

On May 11, 2010, Brooks attended an interview with an independent investigator regarding the allegations of sexual harassment. On August 6, 2010, the City made public the findings of the independent investigator. The investigator concluded that the allegations were false and that there was no evidence that Brooks engaged in sexual harassment.

On April 29, 2011, Brooks filed a five-count complaint against the City of Chicago, Daley, and Orozco, alleging that he was "involuntarily extracted" from his position as Fire Commissioner. Brooks alleges violations of his due process rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Daley and Orozco in their individual capacities (Count I) and the City (Count II) and three state law claims for wrongful termination (Count III), "tortious interference with an advantageous business relationship" (Count IV), and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Daley and Orozco (Count V). Defendants have moved to dismiss all five counts.

II. Legal Standard for Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of the complaint, not the merits of the case.See Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level," assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 1973 n.14). "[O]nce a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1969. The Court accepts as true all of the well-pleaded facts alleged by the plaintiff and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. See Barnes v. Briley, 420 F.3d 673, 677 (7th Cir. 2005).

III. Analysis

A. Federal Constitutional Claims

In Counts I and II, Plaintiff asserts § 1983 claims for violations of his due process rights.*fn1

Plaintiff maintains that he had a constitutionally-protected property and/or liberty interest in his continued employment in the position of Fire Commissioner. He further maintains that he was deprived of due process of law prior to the deprivation of his property and/or liberty interest. As set forth below, even read charitably, Plaintiff's complaint directly conflicts with the City Municipal Code and Seventh ...

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