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Vincent Williams v. City of Chicago

June 12, 2012

VINCENT WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, RICHARD M. DALEY, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, TIMOTHY MARTIN, AND PAUL H. SCHWENDENER, INC., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is the Chicago Board of Education's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is granted and the Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff brings seven counts, each arising from the same series of events. In 2000, Plaintiff's company, Citizens Electric, became the electrical subcontractor for Paul H. Schwendener, Inc. ("PSI") (then in a joint venture with Gonzales Construction Company) in the construction of the William K. Sullivan Elementary School. Citizens Electric's subcontract was allegedly worth more than $1.3 million. At some point, the contractual relationship broke down, and Citizen's Electric did not complete the project or get paid the full contract amount. Plaintiff now alleges that the Chicago Public Schools ("CPS") conspired with PSI to remove him and Citizens Electric from the project and to ensure that they were never paid for their time and effort.

Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that he is an African-American man and operated a certified Minority Business Enterprise (an "MBE"). Plaintiff argues that when he refused to allow his company to be operated as a "front" for using non-minority contractors, some Defendants (though it is not clear who) harassed and intimidated him and his employees in an attempt to force them off the project and replace him with a Hispanic contractor. The harassment allegedly included verbal attacks, calling the police to remove Plaintiff and his employees from the project site, and allowing Plaintiff's electrical work and tools to be destroyed overnight at the guarded worksite.

At some point, Defendant Timothy Martin (then Chief Operating Officer of the Chicago Board of Education) intervened in the dispute and allegedly promised Plaintiff that he would be paid for the work that Citizens Electric had done to that point, as well as receiving 10% of the contract price as an incentive to leave the project. Plaintiff claims that he never received the promised amount.

The Defendants allegedly held secret meetings and plotted how to avoid paying Plaintiff, even though all non-minority contractors on the project were paid. Plaintiff alleges that this was done to financially compromise Citizens Electric. Finally, Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to an MBE certification process that non-minority contractors were not subject to, and that CPS' MBE contracting program is unconstitutional in that it is not "narrowly tailored" enough to perform its function well.

Many of the relevant dates are omitted from the narrative portion of Plaintiff's Complaint. However, the various documents that he attached as exhibits to his Complaint demonstrate, among other things, that the contract was entered into in October 2000 and that the relationship had already broken down irreparably by April 19, 2001. Judicially noticeable state court records show that Citizens Electric filed suit on June 1, 2001.

Count I of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint alleges a conspiracy to violate his civil rights. Count II alleges unjust enrichment on the part of the CPS and PSI. Count III alleges racial discrimination. Count IV alleges that CPS was grossly negligent in creating and administering a policy to level the construction playing field for minority contractors. Count V alleges both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; though it does not identify particular defendants, it appears primarily aimed at PSI. Count VI alleges that CPS and Timothy Martin breached alleged oral and written modifications to Citizen Electric's subcontract. Count VII alleges that Defendants conspired to provoke Plaintiff into breaching the subcontract by harassing him and refusing to pay him so that he could not finish the project.

Defendant Chicago Board of Education has moved to dismiss the suit under the doctrine of res judicata, noting that in 2001 Majestic Properties, d/b/a Citizens Electric, sued the Board and PSI. The suit alleged a breach of contract and sought an accounting, but Citizens Electric's Complaint was dismissed for want of prosecution.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

On a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all inferences in Plaintiff's favor. Cole v. Milwaukee Area Tech. Coll. Dist., 634 F.3d 901, 903 (7th Cir. 2011). A complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2).

Plaintiffs need not allege "detailed factual allegations," but must offer more than conclusions or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of the cause of action[.]" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).

Res judicata "promote[s] judicial economy by requiring parties to litigate, in one case, all rights arising out of the same set of operative facts and also to prevent the unjust burden that would result if a party could be forced to relitigate what is essentially the same case." River Park, Inc. v. City of Highland Park, 703 N.E.2d 883, 896 (Ill. 1998). A defendant may move under Rule 12(b)(6) to dismiss a complaint on res judicata grounds, if all of the relevant facts are ascertainable from the complaint or judicially noticeable records from the prior suit. Ennenga v. Starns, 677 F.3d 766, 2012 WL 1292768, at *13 n.6 (7th Cir. 2012). Illinois courts rendered the original ...


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