United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
KENNETH M. KEMPFER, JR., Plaintiff,
SHERIFF SHANNON WOLFF and RANDOLPH COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on the defendants' motion
for summary judgment in this First Amendment retaliation case
(Doc. 13). Plaintiff Kenneth M. Kempfer, Jr. has responded to
the motion (Doc. 16).
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment must be granted “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Spath v. Hayes Wheels
Int'l-Ind., Inc., 211 F.3d 392, 396 (7th Cir. 2000).
The reviewing court must construe the evidence in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable
inferences in favor of that party. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986);
Chelios v. Heavener, 520 F.3d 678, 685 (7th Cir.
2008); Spath, 211 F.3d at 396.
initial summary judgment burden of production is on the
moving party to show the Court that there is no reason to
have a trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323;
Modrowski v. Pigatto, 712 F.3d 1166, 1168 (7th Cir.
2013). Where the non-moving party carries the burden of proof
at trial, the moving party may satisfy its burden of
production in one of two ways. It may present evidence that
affirmatively negates an essential element of the non-moving
party's case, see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A),
or it may point to an absence of evidence to support an
essential element of the non-moving party's case without
actually submitting any evidence, see Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(c)(1)(B). Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-25;
Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1169. Where the moving party
fails to meet its strict burden, a court cannot enter summary
judgment for the moving party even if the opposing party
fails to present relevant evidence in response to the motion.
Cooper v. Lane, 969 F.2d 368, 371 (7th Cir. 1992).
responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party
may not simply rest upon the allegations contained in the
pleadings but must present specific facts to show that a
genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322-26; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57;
Modrowski, 712 F.3d at 1168. A genuine issue of
material fact is not demonstrated by the mere existence of
“some alleged factual dispute between the parties,
” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247, or by “some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material
fact exists only if “a fair-minded jury could return a
verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence
presented.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.
all the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in
Kempfer's favor, the Court finds the following relevant
facts for the purpose of this motion.
December 1994, Kempfer was hired by defendant Randolph
County, Illinois (the “County”), to work in the
Randolph County Sheriff's Office. In June 2014, Kempfer
and the County entered into an early retirement agreement
(“ERA”) under which Kempfer agreed that his
employment would terminate on December 31, 2014. The ERA also
contained a release of claims against the County and its
employees. Under the agreement, the County allowed Kempfer to
use his accrued sick leave for the entire time between
entering into the ERA and the end of his employment on
December 31, 2014.
sheriff had the authority to appoint a Sheriff's Office
employee to serve as a school resource officer for the Sparta
Community School District #140 (the “District”).
The collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”)
governing the relationship between the County and its
employees required the sheriff to offer this position to
full-time deputies first, then to supervisors. If no one in
these positions volunteered, a part-time deputy could be
assigned to the position. CBA § 26.8 (Doc. 14-2). In
August 2014, while he was still technically a full-time
employee of the County but not reporting to work, Randolph
County Sheriff Michael Hoelscher commissioned Kempfer to
serve as a school resource officer for the District.
Hoelscher arranged for the District to pay Kempfer directly
rather than having the sheriff's department pay Kempfer
for his service at the school.
the same time, defendant Shannon Wolff was challenging
Hoelscher for the position of Randolph County sheriff in the
2014 general election. Kempfer supported and campaigned for
Hoelscher, but Wolff ended up winning the election. Wolff
became sheriff on December 1, 2014.
the election but before he took office, Wolff told Hoelscher
he was not going to renew Kempfer's commission as the
District's school resource officer because Wolff did not
like the things Kempfer had said about him during the
campaign. He told Kempfer the same thing, and suggested that
if he wanted to keep his position as the District's
school resource officer, he would have to seek a commission
from another law enforcement agency such as the Sparta Police
Department. Other factors played into Wolff's decision
not to renew Kempfer's commission. He thought it was
unethical for Kempfer to be drawing a paycheck from the
County and the District at the same time while potentially
subjecting the County to liability for his conduct as a
school resource officer. He also thought there was a conflict
because the County and the District both had control over
Kempfer, presenting uncertainty about to whom Kempfer
answered for his conduct. At the time of his decision, Wolff
knew that Kempfer had an agreement with the County to retire
early, but he was not aware of the details of the agreement,
including the date Kempfer agreed his employment would
terminate. Wolff did not see the ERA itself until this
continued to work as the District's school resource
officer until the school let out for Christmas break.
However, true to his word, Wolff did not renew Kempfer's
commission and instead commissioned another sheriff's
deputy to be the school resource officer in January 2015.
filed this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in May 2016.
He alleges that Wolff retaliated against him because of his
political activities in violation of the First Amendment
(Counts I and II). He seeks to hold the County liable for
Wolff's conduct under Monell on the grounds that
Wolff was a policy-maker for the County (Count III). See
Monell v. Department of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694
(1978) (holding that a municipality can be ...