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Gekas v. Vasiliades

United States District Court, Central District of Illinois, Springfield Division

January 8, 2015

MARK GEKAS, Plaintiff,
v.
PETER VASILIADES, MARY RANIELI, JOHN LAGATUTTA, JOHN KRISKO, and FRANK MAGGIO, Defendants.

OPINION

RICHARD MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This is an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, wherein the Plaintiff alleges the Defendants retaliated against him because of his free speech activity in violation of the First Amendment. Pending before the Court is the Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

The Plaintiff, Mark Gekas, is a practicing dentist in the Springfield area. In 1988, the Plaintiff’s dental practice was visited by an investigator from the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation (“the Department”). The Plaintiff met with Dr. Michael Vold, who at the time was the Dental Coordinator for the Department. Vold requested information regarding the Plaintiff’s administration of nitrous oxide to a child and demanded that Plaintiff send information regarding all prescriptions the Plaintiff wrote on a continuing basis.

The Plaintiff contacted then-Deputy Governor Jim Riley for assistance challenging Vold’s demand. Deputy Governor Riley assisted the Plaintiff in scheduling an informal hearing with the Department. After the informal hearing, the Plaintiff was subject to less onerous requirements than Vold’s original demand. For the succeeding thirteen years, no action was taken against the Plaintiff by the Department.

In or around 2001, the Plaintiff’s offices were raided by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department, through investigator Peter Vasiliades, one of the Defendants. The Plaintiff claims that the raid was organized by Vold to “get even” with the Plaintiff before Vold was removed from the Department but he has no evidence of this allegation.

Following the 2001 raid, the Plaintiff attended two informal meetings regarding the number of pills he had dispensed. Defendant Frank Maggio, who sat on the Dental Board, attended the Plaintiff’s first informal meeting and aggressively questioned the Plaintiff’s attorney. The Plaintiff’s first informal hearing resulted in an offer to settle charges for a six-month suspension along with continuing education requirements. Immediately after his first informal hearing, the Plaintiff believed that Vold was in the building and ostensibly involved in the proceeding, despite the fact that Vold had been relieved of his Dental Coordinator position eight months prior.

The Plaintiff’s second informal hearing resulted in a decision that was consistent with the first meeting. However, the Plaintiff refused to sign off on any settlement.

A complaint was filed by the Department after no settlement agreement could be reached with regards to the informal hearings. Vold was replaced by Defendant Mary Ranieli as the Department Dental Coordinator on July 11, 2003. Ranieli testified that she and Vold had a contentious relationship after she took over that position. Ranieli further testified that she has never spoken to Vold about the Plaintiff.

On May 19, 2004, the Medical Prosecutions unit within the Department issued a Rule to Show Cause, in Department Case No. 200307927, why a cease and desist order should not issue against the Plaintiff for the unlicensed practice of medicine, based on an allegation that he was treating a patient for a medical, rather than dental, condition. The Plaintiff answered the Rule to Show Cause on May 26, 2004.

On June 10, 2004, an order to cease and desist the unlicensed practice of medicine was issued against the Plaintiff, citing his treatment of patient K.Y. The Plaintiff claims that his attorney consulted Department counsel and advised the Plaintiff to cease treating patient K.Y. On July 13, 2004, the Plaintiff filed an administrative review complaint regarding the order to cease and desist.

On October 31, 2008, Department Director Daniel Bluthardt, formerly a Defendant in this case, issued an order to vacate the cease and desist order. On December 8, 2008, the Plaintiff and the Department entered an agreed order to dismiss the administrative review case.

In 2004, the Plaintiff’s attorney informed him that a continuing education course that Plaintiff had attended had been disapproved by the Department. The Plaintiff claims that he contacted Defendant Ranieli about the disapproved course and she advised she would look into the issue but eventually stated she was instructed not to speak with the Plaintiff by Department counsel. Moreover, as Dental Coordinator, she regularly did not speak with dentists subject to investigation until investigatory conferences.

In 2005, the President of the Illinois Dental Society wrote a letter to the Department on the Plaintiff’s behalf. Beginning in 2007, the Plaintiff enlisted the assistance of State Senator Larry Bomke in dealing with the Department. Senator Bomke arranged a meeting between the Plaintiff and Defendant John Lagatutta, then-Deputy Director of the Department. Defendant ...


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