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Drager v. Village of Bellwood

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois

August 22, 2013

MICHAEL P. DRAGER, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF BELLWOOD, a Municipal Corporation; FRANK A. PASQUALE, in his Individual Capacity and Official Capacity; and LENA M. MORELAND, in her Individual Capacity and Official Capacity, Defendants

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For Michael P. Drager, Plaintiff: James L. DeAno, LEAD ATTORNEY, DeAno & Scarry, Chicago, IL; Collin David Woodward, Deano & Scarry, Llc, Wheaton, IL; Emily Erin Schnidt, Howard P. Levine, Laura Lee Scarry, DeAno & Scarry, LLC, Chicago, IL.

For Village of Bellwood, a municipal corporation, Frank A. Pasquale, in his individual and official capacity, Lena M. Moreland, in her individual and official capacity, Defendants: John Joseph Rock, LEAD ATTORNEY, Cory D Anderson, Stacy Ann Benjamin, Rock Fusco & Connelly, LLC, Chicago, IL.

OPINION

Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber, United States District Judge.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants Village of Bellwood, Frank A. Pasquale and Lena M. Moreland's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. [ECF No. 12] For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' Motion is denied in part and granted in part.

I. BACKGROUND

The Village of Bellwood (the " Village" ) employed Plaintiff Michael P. Drager (" Plaintiff" ) as an electrical inspector from 2004 to March 2012. As part of his job, he inspected, maintained, and repaired electrical equipment. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Frank A. Pasquale (" Mayor Pasquale" ), the Village Mayor, also compelled him to participate in political activities as part of his employment. These political activities included distributing campaign literature, attending political meetings, and providing free home improvements at Mayor Pasquale's home and political headquarters. Plaintiff alleges Mayor Pasquale told him these activities were part of his job even though Plaintiff notified Mayor Pasquale that the compelled political activities kept him from doing his official duties.

In 2011, the Village acquired property to develop into a teen community center (" Teen Zone" ). Mayor Pasquale featured the Teen Zone as part of his 2013 reelection campaign. Mayor Pasquale's Chief of Staff, Peter Tsiolis (" Tsiolis" ), informed Village employees they were expected to provide free labor and materials to ensure the Teen Zone opened within budget and before the 2013 election.

In a January 2012 meeting, Mayor Pasquale instructed Plaintiff to inspect the Teen Zone property and outline any necessary repairs. At the meeting, Tsiolis told Plaintiff that Pasquale and Defendant Lena M. Moreland (" Clerk Moreland" ), the Village Clerk, would view him differently if he did not volunteer his personal time and materials toward completing the Teen Zone, and that they controlled Plaintiff's employment.

Plaintiff inspected the Teen Zone as requested. He claims he reported finding asbestos, mold, and building code violations in a meeting attended by Mayor Pasquale, Clerk Moreland, and Village officials. Defendants made no comment in response to Plaintiff's findings and took no action to remedy the violations. Work thus continued on the Teen Zone.

Plaintiff claims that he then shared his findings from the Teen Zone inspection with OSHA and Local Union 705 in response to the Defendants' inaction. Work at the Teen Zone soon stopped. Shortly

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thereafter, Mayor Pasquale instructed Plaintiff not to speak negatively about the Teen Zone. Also, the Village's Public Works Director informed employees their jobs would be " privatized" if they reported any additional problems at the Teen Zone. Compl. ¶ 34.

On March 22, 2012, Tsiolis told Plaintiff that the Village would be terminating his job. The next day, Mayor Pasquale and Clerk Moreland, citing budgetary reasons, eliminated the Village's electrical department and terminated Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Mayor Pasquale and Clerk Moreland acted without the Village Trustees' knowledge or approval.

Plaintiff filed a four-count Complaint on November 30, 2012. Plaintiff alleges two First Amendment retaliation claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a retaliatory discharge claim under Illinois common law, and a § 1983 claim of conspiracy to deprive him of his constitutional rights. Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his constitutional rights in retaliation for: (1) complaining about compelled political activity; and (2) notifying OSHA and Local Union 705 about the presence of hazardous materials at the Teen Zone. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). [ECF No. 12]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A plaintiff must provide a short and plain statement of the claim showing he is entitled to relief. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court construes the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff by accepting all well-pled facts as true and drawing all inferences in his favor. Justice v. Town of Cicero, 577 F.3d 768, 771 (7th Cir. 2009). A pleading does not need detailed factual allegations, but it must contain more than conclusory allegations and a recitation of the elements to a cause of action. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations, which when accepted as true, state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face. Id. A claim is plausible on its face when the court can reasonably infer a defendant's liability from the allegations before the court. Id.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Official Capacity Claims (Counts I-III)

Plaintiff asserts Counts I-III against Mayor Pasquale and Clerk Moreland in their individual and official capacities. Plaintiff also asserts these claims against the Village. Section 1983 requires personal involvement in the alleged constitutional deprivation for individual liability. Mixon v. Manno, No. 12 CV 0562, at *5 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 28, 2013). However, actions brought against individual defendants in their official capacities are treated as suits brought against the government entity itself. Id. at *7. Thus, Plaintiff's claims against Mayor Pasquale and Clerk Moreland in their official capacities are redundant, as the Village is already a named Defendant in Counts I-III. Accordingly, the Court dismisses Plaintiff's official capacity claims against Mayor Pasquale and Clerk Moreland with prejudice for Counts I-III. See, id. (dismissing § 1983 claim against defendant in official capacity when government entity also a named defendant); see also, Day v. River Forest Sch. Dist., No. 10 C 4426, at *9-10 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 17, 2011)(same).

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B. Count I - ยง 1983 Deprivation of Right to Free Speech (Retaliation for Teen Zone ...


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