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Village of Tinley Park v. Connolly

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

November 28, 2017

VILLAGE OF TINLEY PARK, ILLINOIS, Plaintiff,
v.
AMY CONNOLLY, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          SARA L.ELLIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Following a series of events that resulted in the Village of Tinley Park (the “Village”) facing Fair Housing lawsuits from housing developer Buckeye Community Hope Foundation and Buckeye Community Sixty Nine LP (jointly, “Buckeye”) and the United States, the Village brought this lawsuit against its former employee Amy Connolly alleging Connolly breached her fiduciary duties to the Village when she pushed a change to the Village's zoning plan through the Village Board. Connolly now moves to dismiss [11] the complaint arguing that she is immune to liability under the Illinois common-law doctrine of legislative immunity. Because Illinois courts have not previously applied the common law doctrine of legislative immunity to non-legislators and Connolly has not shown that it should be extended to reach such persons, the Court denies the motion to dismiss.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Connolly, now a Wisconsin resident, was the Director of Planning for the Village from September 2007 until she resigned the position in May 2016 to take a position as the Development Director for the City of Racine, Wisconsin.

         In 2009, the Village developed and approved the “Legacy Plan, ” which was meant to be a master plan for the future development of the Village's downtown into a walkable area with commercial real estate corridors. The plan included a requirement that all new real estate developments along these corridors include street-level commercial space (“Commercial Requirement”). While Connolly was Director of Planning, the zones covered by the Legacy Plan experienced minimal development. The Village alleges that Connolly became desperate to show that she could bring in development and decided to do whatever was necessary to do so.

         In March 2015, Buckeye contacted the Village regarding a potential development, called The Reserve, at the corner of 183rd Street and Oak Park Avenue in the Village. The proposed area for The Reserve was covered by the Legacy Plan and the Commercial Requirement. The proposal for The Reserve did not include any street level commercial space, and Connolly was aware that this was the case. However, Connolly represented to the Village that The Reserve met all Village zoning requirements.

         At the August 6, 2015 Village Plan Commission meeting, Connolly prepared a motion to review and consider amending the Legacy Plan in several parts, including a recommendation to amend the Commercial Requirement to state that street level commercial space is “permitted” rather than “required” in the area covered by the Legacy Plan. On October 6, 2015, the Village Board approved the proposed amendments to the Legacy Plan, but the Board did not discuss the changes to the Commercial Requirement specifically.

         Subsequent to the change to the Commercial Requirement, the Plan Commission tabled the zoning application for The Reserve. As a result, Buckeye filed a lawsuit against the Village alleging discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. The United States then also filed a lawsuit alleging violations of the Fair Housing Act arising from the tabling of The Reserve proposal.

         The Village alleges that these lawsuits would not have occurred if Connolly had not “schemed to change the Legacy Code without the Village's knowledge.” Doc. 1 ¶ 23.

         On March 22, 2016, citizens of the Village sued the Village seeking to rescind the amendments to the Legacy Plan adopted at the October 2015 meeting. On May 6, 2016, Connolly resigned her position with the Village. On May 17, 2016, the Village rescinded the amendments.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint, not its merits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Gibson v. City of Chicago, 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court accepts as true all well-pleaded facts in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor. AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must not only provide the defendant with fair notice of a claim's basis but must also be facially plausible. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009); see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the ‘grounds' of his ‘entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         ANALYSIS

         Connolly moves to dismiss the Village's complaint, arguing that her actions in relation to changing the Commercial Requirement from mandatory to permissive are shielded from liability by Illinois' common-law legislative immunity doctrine. The Village argues that the scope of the legislative immunity defense under Illinois law is not governed by common law, but by Section 2-205 of the Illinois Local Government and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (“ITIA”), 745 Ill. Comp. Stat. 10/1-101 et seq., and that the ITIA does not provide immunity for breaches of fiduciary duties. Connolly counters that the ITIA only applies to tort suits, and ...


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