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Hardy v. City of Chicago

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 2, 2017

CLEVELAND HARDY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Milton I. Shadur Senior United States District Judge

         Cleveland Hardy ("Hardy") sued the City of Chicago ("City") and former Chicago Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy ("McCarthy"), the latter in his official and individual capacity, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), charging them with having deprived him of a sergeant's position in the Chicago Police Department ("Department") without due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Asserting that he was unlawfully demoted from his position without the procedures guaranteed by Department's Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"), Hardy seeks damages, declaratory relief and reinstatement.

         McCarthy and City have filed separate motions for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. ("Rule") 56(a). For the reasons explained in this opinion, both motions are granted and Hardy's case is dismissed.

         Factual Background

         As part of the consent judgment in the long-pending Shakman v. Democratic Organization of Cook County litigation, [1] Department adopted a Hiring Plan that was negotiated and agreed to with the plaintiffs and a federal monitor and was then approved by this District Court (C. St. ¶ 6).[2] Under the version of the Hiring Plan provided to this Court by the parties, [3] Department's Human Resources Department oversees the selection and promotion decisions for sworn titles (which includes sergeants) by Department and acts as a liaison between Department and City's Department of Human Resources ("Human Resources") (C. St. ¶ 10). Human Resources functions as the "gatekeeper to the City's processes governing actions covered by [the] Hiring Plan and Other Employment Actions" (C. St. ¶ 11; Hiring Plan at 8). In that capacity, a Human Resources Recruiter:

shall suspend a requisition at any point in the hiring process when he or she has reason to believe that a Hiring Manager, Hiring Authority, or other City employee may have committed a violation of [the] Hiring Plan . . . (Hiring Plan at 34).

         Of course the Hiring Plan is subject to other applicable laws as well as to the terms of Department's CBA. In particular CBA at 12 states that "[n]o sergeant covered by this Agreement shall be suspended, relieved from duty or disciplined in any manner without just cause."

         Of special relevance to this case, Hiring Plan at 13-14 states that officers must meet certain requirements to be placed on the merit eligibility list for promotion to sergeant, including attaining a predetermined minimum score on a qualifying exam. In addition, Hiring Plan at 22-24 details a merit promotion process, which may be used to fill up to 30% of the vacant positions for each round of promotions. Through the merit promotion process any command staff below the rank of Deputy Superintendent may nominate individuals for promotion (id.). In turn the nominees' packets are reviewed by a merit board, the merit board makes non-binding recommendations to the Superintendent, and the Superintendent then selects members for promotion at his discretion (id. at 22-23). All nominees must appear on the merit eligibility list, which confirms that they have achieved the minimum score on the qualifying exam (id. at 22). Interviews are not required for merit promotions (id. at 22-24).

         Cleveland Hardy has been employed by Department as a sworn police officer since 1991 (M. St. ¶ 1). During a period before the incidents that gave rise to this case, Hardy was assigned as a driver for Superintendent McCarthy (M. St. ¶ 2). At some point the two discussed whether Hardy would be interested in a promotion to sergeant (H. Resp. C. St. ¶ 26).

         In February 2013 Department posted a merit process announcement, which opened the process for a round of merit promotions to the position of sergeant (C. St. ¶ 34). At that point McCarthy and Hardy again discussed the latter's interest in a promotion (H. St. ¶ 7). When Hardy indicated that he was interested in being promoted to sergeant, McCarthy asked his chief of staff Gus Miniotis ("Miniotis") to see if someone would be interested in nominating Hardy (H. St. ¶ 8). Miniotis then asked Commander Jonathan Johnson ("Johnson") to do so, and Johnson agreed (M. St. ¶¶ 26, 28). But again, to be promoted through the merit process nominees must have passed the written qualifying examination and appear on the merit eligibility list (C. St. ¶¶ 9, 19, 23, 34). And unknown to McCarthy and Johnson, Hardy was well aware that he had failed the qualifying exam (M. St. ¶¶ 25, 27, 28).

         In March 2013 Johnson nominated Hardy for merit promotion to sergeant without confirming that he had passed the qualifying exam (M. St. ¶ 28). Sergeant Daniel Baroli then informed Hardy that Johnson had nominated him for sergeant and instructed him to work with Department to put together his nomination packet (M. St. ¶ 32). At some point after Hardy submitted his nomination packet, he was interviewed by McCarthy and other members of the command staff (M. St. ¶ 33). Without verifying that Hardy was on the merit eligibility list, Department's Human Resources Department forwarded Hardy's nomination packet to the merit board, which was responsible for reviewing the packets and offering recommendations for merit promotions (C. St. ¶¶ 22, 37-39). On April 5, 2013 the merit board issued its recommendations but did not recommend Hardy for a merit promotion (C. St. ¶ 40).

         In the spring of 2014, not bound by the merit board's recommendations and unaware that Hardy had failed the qualifying exam, McCarthy selected Hardy for promotion to sergeant (M. St. ¶ 34; C. St. ¶ 41). Hardy then attended sergeant training in the spring of 2014 (M. St. ¶ 34). On June 11 Hardy completed that training and was issued a sergeant's star and shield (D. Resp. H. St. ¶ 12). After Hardy had completed sergeant training he was assigned to the 7th District as a sergeant on June 15 (C. St. ¶ 43; M. St. ¶ 35). Throughout that process Hardy never expressed concern to McCarthy or anyone else that he had failed the qualifying exam (M. St. ¶ 31).

         At that point Human Resources had not yet approved Hardy's promotion (M. St. ¶ 37). Then on June 23 Elizabeth Opel ("Opel"), a Human Resources recruiter, reviewed Hardy's merit promotion paperwork and noticed a problem: Hardy's name did not appear on the merit eligibility list because he had not passed the qualifying exam (C. St. ¶¶ 45, 46). Opel then informed her supervisor Christina Batorski, who notified Human Resources Deputy Director Rose Sprinkle ("Sprinkle") (M. St. ¶ 38). Sprinkle in turn notified Department's Chief of the Bureau of Administration Eugene Williams ("Williams") that there was a problem with Hardy's promotion -- specifically, that the promotion could not be processed because Hardy did not meet the eligibility requirements (M. St. ¶ 39, 41). Williams relayed the bad news to Hardy on June 25, informing him that he was not on the merit eligibility list because he had not passed the written qualifying exam and that he must return to his previous rank (C. St. ¶ 49; H. St. ¶ 22).

         Legal ...


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