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Komaa Mnyofu v. Board of Education of Rich

November 1, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John W. DARRAHUnited States District Court Judge

Judge John W. Darrah


Plaintiff, Komaa Mnyofu, filed a Complaint against the Board of Education of Rich Township High School District 227 (the "Board"); Howard Hunigan;

Sonya Norwood; Nathaniel Motten, Jr.; Donna Leak; and Paul Winfrey, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his rights under the First Amendment. Plaintiff brings claims for First Amendment Violations (Count I); Civil Conspiracy (Count II); and Breach of October 2008 Settlement Agreement (Count IV). On June 2, 2011, the Court dismissed Count II against Defendant Winfrey, Count IV against all individual Defendants in their official capacities, and Count IV against all individual Defendants. Mnyofu v. Board of Educ. of Rich Tp. High School Dist. 227, No. 10-cv-7870, 832 F. Supp. 2d 940, 950 (N.D. Ill. 2011) (Mnyofu).

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment as to his First Amendment claim, in part (Count I) and Breach of October 2008 Settlement Agreement (Count IV). Also before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as to all pending Counts of Plaintiff's Complaint.


The following facts are taken from the parties Local Rule 56.1 statements of facts.


Plaintiff, Komaa Mnyofu is a citizen of the United States and a resident of Richton Park, Illinois. (Defs.' 56.1(a)(3) ¶ 1.) The Board is a unit of local government organized under the laws of the state of Illinois with offices in Cook County, Illinois. (Id. ¶ 2.) Hunigan was Superintendent of Rich Township High School District 227 ("District 227") from 2005 until July 2010. (Id. ¶ 3.) Norwood was President of the Board at all times relevant to this lawsuit. (Id. ¶ 4.) Motten was District 227 Police Liaison at all times relevant to this lawsuit. (Id. ¶ 5.) Leak has been the Superintendent of District 227 since July 2010. (Id. ¶ 6.) Winfrey is a police officer with the Park Forest Police Department and former District 227 Police Liaison Officer and Campus Supervisor for Rich East High School. (Id. ¶ 7.) This Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the causes of action in the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and over the state-law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. (Id. ¶ 11.)

Board Meetings

Plaintiff attended and participated at District 227 board meetings on October 1, 2009; October 20, 2009; April 20, 2010; May 6, 2010; May 18, 2010; June 15, 2010; July 20, 2010; September 9, 2010; October 7, 2010; November 4, 2010; November 16, 2010; December 21, 2010; January 18, 2011; and June 21, 2011.*fn1

(Id. ¶ 12.) Board Policy 2.230 states that "[a]t each regular and special open meeting, the members of the public and District employees may comment on or ask questions of the Board, subject to reasonable constraints" and that the Board President "may shorten or lengthen an individual's opportunity to speak." (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.) The Board President may also deny an individual an opportunity to speak if the individual has "previously addressed the Board on the same subject within the past two months." (Id. ¶ 15.)

Board Policy 8.110 states that "Any individual may make a suggestion or express a complaint at any District or School office." (Id. ¶ 18; Pl.'s 56.1(b)(3)(B) ¶ 18.) If an individual is not satisfied after filing a complaint, he may file a grievance under the Uniform Grievance Procedure. (Def.'s 56.1(a)(3) ¶ 19.) On one occasion, Plaintiff followed the District's complaint process in connection with complaints he had with employees of District 227 or members of the Board. (Id. ¶ 20.)

The "Open Forum -- Non Agenda Items" portion of the Board Meeting Agenda states that remarks by any individual addressing the Board which would reflect adversely upon the character or motives of any person and attacks in the form of inferences, insinuations and innuendoes against the character or motives of any person are out of order. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17.) Before speaking, all individuals have to fill out a card indicating the subject matter on which they intend to speak. (Id. ¶ 26.)

Current Board member Cheryl Coleman testified, with respect to the use of the gavel at Board meetings: "[W]hen I start to see the gavel happen, it is always in a position where the board was either not in agreement with what the person was saying, [or they] didn't want to hear the rest of it continued because it could be damaging to the district." (Pl.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 48.) Coleman testified that Plaintiff was one of the community members whom the Board gaveled before his time was up because his "facts" made the Board "uncomfortable." (Id. ¶ 49.) Board member Morgan testified that Norwood would instruct Plaintiff or anyone with whom she did not agree to stop talking because "[y]ou can only discuss what is agreeable to the Board majority." (Id. ¶ 50.)

At the October 1, 2009 Board meeting, while Plaintiff was speaking about his concerns that the Superintendent selection process was conducted unfairly, Norwood interrupted him before his designated time had concluded and gaveled the meeting to adjournment. (Id. ¶ 51.)

On October 15, 2009, Hunigan and Norwood testified that Plaintiff came to District 227's office and yelled at a receptionist, causing her to cry. (Defs.' 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 18.) Plaintiff testified that he did not engage in such conduct. (Pl.s' Resp. to Defs.' 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 18.)

At the October 20, 2009 Board meeting, there was an incident between Plaintiff and Hope Henderson, a teacher for District 227. (Defs.' 56.1(a)(3) ¶¶ 21-22.) Henderson claims that Plaintiff called her a "ho." (Defs.' 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 3.) Plaintiff avers that he did not. (Pl.s' Resp. to Defs.' 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 3.) Plaintiff was ejected from the meeting by Officer Akiyama at the direction of Hunigan, before he had a chance to speak to the Board. (Pl.'s 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶ 53.)

At the April 20, 2010 Board meeting, Plaintiff did not mention his allegation that he was stopped from entering the school for close to two hours. (Defs.' 56.1(a)(3) ¶ 23.) At the May 18, 2010 Board meeting, Plaintiff made a complaint, concerning district employee Lydia Hernandez, during the public comment period of the meeting. (Id. ¶ 24.)

Plaintiff was the subject of discussions at the October 1, 2009, and January 18, 2011 closed-session meetings. (Id. ¶ 28.) At the October 1, 2009 meeting, Hunigan discussed receiving a letter from Plaintiff, concerning allegations against him, Dr. Selma McDonald, and Ilandus Hampton, and stated that the allegations were not true. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30.) The Board and Hunigan discussed that, at the open Board meeting that evening, Plaintiff may bring up ...

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