United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Rock Island Division
E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge
before the Court are the Defendants' Partial Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (D. 11) and the
Plaintiff's Response in Opposition (D. 12). For the
reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion (D. 11)
is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.
Plaintiff, Todd Allen, filed his Complaint in February 2017
against the City of Moline and the following individuals:
Alderman Stephanie Acri, Alderman John Zelnio, Alderman Mike
Wendt, Alderman David Parker, Kevin Irby, and Scott Houzenga.
(D. 1). The Plaintiff seeks damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 (“§ 1983”) alleging violations
of his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and Conspiracy
by all Defendants. Id. He further alleges defamation
by Parker, Irby, and Zelnio.
Plaintiff has been a firefighter for the City of Moline since
1993 and is currently serving as a Battalion Chief.
Defendants Irby and Houzenga are also City of Moline
firefighters. Defendants Acri, Zelnio, Wendt, and Parker
served as elected alderman for the City of Moline during all
relevant times. The Plaintiff's now-wife, Heather Allen
(“Heather”), began working for the City of Moline
fire department in 2004, when the Plaintiff was already
serving as Battalion Chief.
Plaintiff alleges the Defendants retaliated against him when:
(1) Houzenga filed a lawsuit against him; (2) Houzenga, Irby,
“and others” defamed him; (3) Houzenga threatened
him in front of his son; (4) an unknown person vandalized his
house and broke some of his windows; (5) Houzenga called an
unidentified employee “Todd's boy” after the
unidentified employee accused Houzenga of cheating on a
work-related test-resulting in Houzenga and Irby retaliating
against the employee; (6) false and defamatory statements
about him were published; and (7) the Defendants made
accusations and initiated investigations into him forging
timekeeping records. (D. 1 at pp. 8-10).
Plaintiff claims that Heather was subjected to sexual
harassment at the fire department until she was
constructively discharged in 2010. He says he reported
Heather's complaints up the chain of command and
attempted to ensure they were addressed. The Plaintiff
asserts that Houzenga was one of the individuals sexually
harassing Heather. According to the Plaintiff, Houzenga filed
a lawsuit against him in 2012, alleging intentional
infliction of emotional distress, which was dismissed in
March 2016, the City conducted an initial investigation into
allegations of timekeeping irregularities within the fire
department. The Plaintiff's timekeeping and use of flex
time were investigated. While the Plaintiff was not found to
have engaged in any misconduct, the department's payroll
system was found to be flawed, resulting in unintentional
timekeeping errors, clerical errors, and inadvertent
wake of the investigation, the Plaintiff alleges that Irby
falsely accused him of engaging in misconduct and stealing
time off. He says Irby provided this false information to the
City Council. Irby, Acri, Wendt, and Parker initiated a
second investigation into timekeeping irregularities within
the department, hiring the law firm of Lane & Waterman to
conduct it. The Plaintiff claims the second investigation was
used by the Defendants to influence the City's 2017
mayoral election. Acri was running in that election as a
write-in candidate. The Plaintiff insists he had no
affiliation with Acri's candidacy for mayor.
Plaintiff further alleges that in approximately October 2016,
Zelnio made false statements that he stole time off from the
City. He also claims that sometime around November 2016, Irby
made the same allegation and falsely stated that the
Plaintiff had an affair. Additionally, the Plaintiff claims
that in January 2017, Parker falsely told people that a City
employee was fired for approving the Plaintiff's
inaccurate timekeeping records.
the second investigation into timekeeping irregularities, an
attorney from Lane & Waterman interviewed the Plaintiff.
The attorney mentioned the Plaintiff's prior complaints
about Houzenga and Irby harassing him and asked questions
Defendants now move to dismiss the Plaintiff's Complaint,
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The
Defendants argue that each of the Plaintiff's counts are
faulty. Specifically, they claim: (1) Count I fails to state
a claim, or, in the alternative, all of the individual
Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity; (2) Count II
only states a claim for retaliatory investigation and fails
to state a claim against Zelnio or Houzenga; (3) Count III is
barred by the intracorporate conspiracy doctrine or otherwise
fails to state a plausible entitlement to relief; and (4) the
claims in Count IV are barred by absolute privilege. (D. 11
at pp. 6-10).
reviewing the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court accepts
the Plaintiff's factual allegations as true. Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Allegations stated in
the form of legal conclusions, however, are insufficient to
survive a motion to dismiss. McReynolds v. Merrill Lynch
& Co., Inc., 694 F.3d 873, 885 (7th Cir. 2012). A
complaint must contain a short and plain statement of the
plaintiff's claim, sufficient to show entitlement to
relief and to notify the defendants of the allegations
against them. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2); Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-57 (2007). This standard is
met if the plaintiff describes in sufficient factual detail
enough to suggest a right to relief beyond a speculative
level. Id.; Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009); EEOC v. Concentra Health Srvs., 496 F.3d
773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007). In short, “the plaintiff must
give enough details about the ...