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Robert Lynd v. Bristol Kendall Fire Protection District

July 26, 2012

ROBERT LYND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRISTOL KENDALL FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, MICHAEL HITZEMANN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS FIRE CHIEF OF BRISTOL KENDALL FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, AND PUBLIC SAFETY SERVIES, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Robert Lynd filed a four-count complaint, alleging that the Bristol Kendall Fire Protection District ("the District"), its Fire Chief Michael Hitzemann, and Public Safety Services, Inc. ("Public Safety") conspired to and did violate his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by forcing him to resign from his job as a firefighter in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He also alleges that the defendants violated Illinois' Firemen's Disciplinary Act, 50 Ill. Comp. Stat. 745, by questioning Lynd without informing him of his right to counsel or a union representative. Lynd seeks compensatory and punitive damages, and he has also requested declaratory relief. The District and Hitzemann have now jointly filed a motion to dismiss the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6); they further argue that this court should strike the request for punitive damages under Rule 12(f). Public Safety has also filed a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the court grants the motions.

I. BACKGROUND

The court takes all well-pleaded facts as true for purposes of resolving these motions. Lynd began working with the Bristol Kendall Fire Department ("the BK Fire Department") on April 4, 1991, as a volunteer firefighter. In October 2003, he was hired as a full-time paramedic,*fn1 and he was ultimately promoted to a full-time lieutenant position in June 2007. Public Safety contracted with the District to employ Lynd as a full-time firefighter, so when he was promoted on June 18, 2007, he was considered a full-time employee of Public Safety.

On about October 3, 2010, Lynd was "involved in" an incident while he was off-duty; the police were called to investigate a disturbance at a local restaurant bar. No charges were filed against anybody as a result of the incident. On October 7, Public Safety, Public Safety's president, Gary Frederick, and members of the BK Fire Department (including Chief Hitzemann) held a disciplinary investigation meeting with Lynd. Frederick and various members of the BK Fire Department had already been in contact with each other in an attempt to reach agreement as to how to discipline Lynd. Lynd, however, had not been informed of the nature of the disciplinary allegations prior to the meeting, nor was he informed that he had a right to have a union representative or legal counsel present. After the meeting, Lynd was suspended from duty with pay.

The next day, October 8, Lynd was informed that he had been suspended without pay. He had received no new hearing, nor was he given any reason for the change in the decision. He had no opportunity to contest the suspension without pay.

On October 13, 2010, the BK Fire Department began to investigate a second incident involving Lynd-this time involving comments Lynd allegedly made to a co-worker. The next day, Hitzemann and Frederick ordered Lynd to report for a disciplinary investigation at 4:00 p.m. Again, Lynd was given no notice of the allegations against him prior to the meeting, he was not told that he could have a union representative or attorney present, and he was not given the chance to present any evidence. Police officers were present at the meeting, and Lynd was subjected to intimidation and threats while he was interrogated. Specifically, the defendants told Lynd that things would "get ugly" for him and his family, and "if he knew what was good for him" he would cooperate in signing a resignation letter. The defendants then confronted Lynd with letters of resignation that had been prepared for his signature. After he was told that he had been removed from the payrolls of the BK Fire Department and Public Safety, he signed the prepared letters.

Lynd alleges that he had a property right in his public employment as a firefighter, and that the defendants deprived him of that right by coercing him to resign from his job without the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.*fn2

He claims that Hitzemann and Frederick formed an agreement to violate his due process rights, and that they performed acts in furtherance of the conspiracy by making threats and attempting to intimidate Lynd. Finally, Lynd claims that the questioning to which he was subjected violated Illinois' Firemen's Disciplinary Act.

II.LEGAL STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the defendant may seek to dismiss the case if the plaintiff "fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." The court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Stayart v. Yahoo! Inc., 623 F.3d 436, 438 (7th Cir. 2010). But although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) only requires the complaint to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," the complaint must include "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (noting that while Rule 8 does not require detailed factual allegations, "it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation"). The relevant question is whether the complaint includes enough factual allegations to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp., 550 U.S. at 555. In other words, to survive a motion to dismiss post-Twombly, "'the plaintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together,' and the question the court should ask is 'could these things have happened, not did they happen.'" Estate of Davis v. Wells Fargo Bank, 633 F.3d 529, 533 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404-05 (7th Cir. 2010)).

III.ANALYSIS

The defendants' motions raise largely the same issues, and will be addressed together. The court first turns to the federal claims, for if the federal claims cannot survive a motion to dismiss, the court will not retain supplemental ...


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