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Kvapil v. Chippewa County

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 9, 2014

BLAINE R. KVAPIL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CHIPPEWA COUNTY, WISCONSIN, et al., Defendants-Appellees

Argued: May 23, 2014.

For Blaine R. Kvapil, Plaintiff - Appellant: Allen Steven Porter, Attorney, Madison, WI.

For Chippewa County, Wisconsin, James L. Kowalczyk, William Reynolds, Bruce G. Stelzner, Douglas Clary, Defendants - Appellees: Amy J. Doyle, Attorney, Crivello Carlson, S.C., Milwaukee, WI.

Before BAUER and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges, and ST. EVE, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 709

St. Eve, District Judge.

On January 2, 2012, Plaintiff Blaine Kvapil (" Kvapil" ) filed an Amended Complaint alleging that he had a protected property interest in his seasonal work with Chippewa County's Highway Department and that Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment procedural due process rights when they suspended him and terminated his employment without affording him notice or an opportunity for a hearing. On May 11, 2012, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) that the district court granted on June 26, 2013. The district court entered judgment on June 27, 2013, and Kvapil filed this appeal. We affirm the ruling of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

The Chippewa County Highway Department employed Kvapil as a seasonal employee from June 5, 2006, until June 27, 2008. Chippewa County is a municipal corporation organized and existing under Wisconsin law. At the time of Kvapil's termination, Defendant William Reynolds (" Reynolds" ) was the Chippewa County Administrator, Defendant Douglas Clary (" Clary" ) was the Chippewa County Planning and Zoning Administrator, and Defendant Bruce Stelzner (" Stelzner" ) was the Chippewa County Highway Commissioner.

Page 710

After Chippewa County hired Kvapil as a seasonal worker in the spring of 2006, he completed the Chippewa County New Employee Orientation for Limited Term Employees Form that advised him of Chippewa County's work rules, harassment policy, and employee handbook. In addition, Kvapil acknowledged receiving the Chippewa County Employment Handbook by signing a receipt that stated:

This employee handbook has been prepared for information purposes only. None of the statements, policies, procedures, rules or regulations contained in this handbook constitutes a guarantee of employment, a guarantee of any other rights or benefits, or a contract of employment, express or implied.
Unless noted in the collective bargaining agreements or working agreement, all county employees are employees at will, and employment is not for any definite period. Termination of employment may occur at any time at the option of Chippewa County.

The Chippewa County Employment Handbook also contained a provision entitled " At Will Employment" stating: " All employees of the County are 'at will' employees. Based upon this, employment can be terminated by either the County or the employee, at will, with or without cause, and with or without notice, at any time."

Kvapil's long-standing dispute with the Chippewa County Planning and Zoning Department gives context to this appeal. Kvapil, who resides in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, also owns several acres of real property in the Town of Wheaton, which is also located in Chippewa County. From 2000 until 2008, Clary, as the County Planning and Zoning Administrator, contacted Kvapil about Kvapil storing unlicensed and inoperable vehicles on his Wheaton property that was zoned for agricultural purposes. In June 2000, for example, Clary sent Kvapil a letter stating that the Planning and Zoning Department had information regarding vehicles on Kvapil's property and that the certain zoning ordinances prohibited storage of these vehicles. Similarly, between 2000 and 2004, the Planning and Zoning Department sent Kvapil letters that his property was not in compliance with the relevant zoning ordinances. In response, Kvapil claimed that his property was in compliance, but repeatedly denied officials access to the Wheaton property for verification.

During the ongoing zoning dispute, Kvapil made numerous threats to Clary, including, but not limited to, the following:

o June 7, 2000, Kvapil stated he would be setting up bear and booby traps all over his property, that if he caught Clary on his property he would be in big trouble, and that Clary did not want to mess with him.

o On November 7, 2001, Kvapil told Clary not to tell him what he could or could not do with his property and that if he found Clary on his property, he would break his legs.

o On May 2, 2003, Kvapil went to the Planning and Zoning Department Office. After being told that Clary was not there, he raised his voice and stated " What, do I have to go to his fucking house?" Kvapil continued swearing and then left the office.

o On January 28, 2004, Kvapil called the Planning and Zoning Department Office asking for " Asshole," referring to Clary. Kvapil then demanded that Clary stop harassing him and stated that Clary was harassing the wrong person.

In January 2004, Clary wrote a memorandum to the Chippewa County Board Chair discussing Kvapil's abusive behavior.

Page 711

Two years later in January 2006, the Planning and Zoning Department sent another letter to Kvapil about his property explaining that Clary would issue citations if Kvapil did not removed the vehicles or demonstrate that they were licensed and operable.

Approximately two years after the Planning and Zoning Department had last attempted to enforce the relevant ordinance, the Planning and Zoning Department sent Kvapil another letter. In that letter, Clary stated that he viewed the Wheaton property from the road on April 9, 2008, and observed: (1) approximately 17 unlicensed or inoperable vehicles; (2) scrap metal dumpsters being used for a non-permitted salvage yard; and (3) that the property was being used as a base for a snow-plowing and landscaping business that the County had not approved. The letter further explained to Kvapil that he had 30 days to either bring the property into compliance or obtain a conditional use permit.

After Kvapil failed to comply with the ordinance as directed by the May 7 letter, a judge issued a warrant to search Kvapil's property on June 13, 2008, after which Clary and a County Sheriff's deputy searched the Wheaton property. As a result of the inspection, the County issued Kvapil a citation for violating Chippewa County Ordinance 70-128 for having custody of inoperative motor vehicles on his property, including snowmobiles ...


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