United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge.
Frank McPartlin alleges that he was fired from his job as a
Special Assistant in the Cook County Bureau of Administration
in retaliation for political activity protected by the First
Amendment. He filed a suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
Illinois common law against three defendants: Cook County;
Toni Preckwinkle, the President of the Cook County Board of
Commissioners; and Peter Silvestri, a Commissioner on the
Board. (For convenience’s sake, the
Defendants collectively will be referred to as the County
unless context dictates otherwise.) The County now moves to
dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). R. 13, Defs.’
Mot. Dismiss. The defense argues that McPartlin could be
fired for political reasons because he was employed in a
“Shakman-exempt” position. R. 14,
Defs.’ Br. at 5. In the alternative, they argue that
Preckwinkle and Silvestri are entitled to qualified immunity.
Id. at 8. The County also contends that
McPartlin’s state law claims are time-barred under the
Illinois Governmental Tort Immunity Act. Id. at 11.
For the reasons discussed below, the County’s motion is
granted as to McPartlin’s First Amendment claims, and
the Court relinquishes supplemental jurisdiction over his
state law claims if and when the dismissal of the federal
claims becomes final.
purpose of this motion, the Court accepts as true all
well-pleaded facts in the complaint. McPartlin has held
several positions with Cook County over the years. R. 1,
Compl. ¶¶ 9-13. In 1996, he started out as an
Operating Engineer at the Department of Facilities
Management. Id. ¶ 9. He left County employment
in 1998, but was rehired in 2008 as a Coordinator in the
Office of the Chief Administrative Officer. Id.
¶¶ 10-11. He again left County employment in 2010.
Id. ¶ 12. In March 2011, McPartlin was again
hired by the County, this time as a Special Assistant
assigned to the Bureau of Administration. Id. ¶
13. He was fired from that position on January 16, 2015.
Id. ¶ 40.
his employment with the County, McPartlin was active in local
politics. He placed signs in front of his home supporting
political organizations and candidates, and later worked as a
campaign manager on local campaigns. Id.
¶¶ 15, 19, 26. In early April 2011, he was
appointed the director of the Elmwood Park Neighborhood Civic
Organization (EPNCO). Id. ¶ 19. This is when
McPartlin’s run-ins with Silvestri began. Id.
¶ 20. Specifically, in May 2011, EPNCO, the Better
Government Association, and Fox News started an investigation
into possible corruption and misconduct amongst the Village
of Elmwood Park’s leadership; Silvestri was the Village
President. Compl. ¶ 20. In June 2011, the BGA and Fox
(but not EPNCO) published an article asserting that Elmwood
Park employees performed work on Silvestri’s house
while being paid from the Village’s coffers.
Id. ¶ 21. A few months later, in October 2011,
the BGA and Fox (again, not EPNCO) published an article
alleging that Elmwood Park auxiliary police officers
performed political campaign work for Silvestri while being
paid by the Village (and as a condition of employment).
Id. ¶ 22. In February 2012, the BGA and Fox
alleged that non-residents with ties to Silvestri had voted
in Village elections. Id. ¶ 23. According to
McPartlin, on around July 20, 2012, Silvestri told McPartlin
to resign as director of EPNCO. Id. ¶ 24.
in December 2013, McPartlin announced that he was going to
run for office himself, specifically for the Ninth District
seat-Silvestri’s seat-on the Cook County Board of
Commissioners. Id. ¶¶ 29, 31. McPartlin
alleges that Silvestri informed him that if he continued his
run for Commissioner, McPartlin would lose his job with the
County Id. ¶ 34. Running as the Democrat in the
November 2014 race, McPartlin lost to Silvestri. Id.
¶¶ 31, 38. Two months after the election loss, on
January 16, 2015, McPartlin was fired without any
explanation. Id. ¶ 40.
Standard of Review
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). “A motion under
Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the sufficiency of the complaint to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted.”
Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of the Police of Chi. Lodge
No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). In order to
survive such a challenge, “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In evaluating the sufficiency of a
complaint at this stage, factual allegations are to be
assumed true. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
Official Capacity Claims
initial matter, the County moves to dismiss any claims
against Preckwinkle and Silvestri in their official
capacities. Defs.’ Br. at 4. They argue that those
claims are redundant because official capacity claims are in
reality claims against the municipality itself, and the
municipality is already named in the suit. Id.
McPartlin responds that the claims are not redundant, because
the County is not named in all counts of the complaint. R.
26, Pl.’s Resp. Br. at 4.
suits against public officials, personal-capacity
suits and official-capacity suits are distinct.
See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165 (1985)
(“Proper application of this principle …
requires careful adherence to the distinction between
personal- and official-capacity action suits.”). While
“[p]ersonal-capacity suits seek to impose personal
liability upon a government official for actions he takes
under color of state law,” official-capacity suits
“represent only another way of pleading an action
against an entity of which an officer is an agent.”
Id. (internal quotation marks and citations
omitted). Because suing someone in his or her
“official” capacity is just the same as suing the
government, “an official capacity suit is … to
be treated as a suit against the entity.” Id.
at 166 (citing Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72
Count One alleges that Cook County is liable for the
retaliatory firing of McPartlin, and that simply duplicates
the official-capacity claims in Counts Two and Three (both of
which also allege retaliatory discharge). So the redundant
official-capacity claims in Counts Two and Three are
dismissed in favor of Count One. (As discussed below, the
Court proposes to relinquish jurisdiction over the state-law
claims, so there is no need to address the official-capacity
claims in Counts Four, Five, and Six.)