United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
S. Shah United States District Judge
Garrett Schmoeller was a police officer in the Village of
Island Lake. Schmoeller attained the rank of sergeant before
he was demoted due to procedural defects in the promotion.
Schmoeller was given the chance to try again, but the
Village's Board of Fire and Police Commissioners passed
Schmoeller over, choosing to promote another officer instead.
Schmoeller contends that the promotion denial was based on
his political associations. The officer who received the
promotion had supported the winning candidate in the recent
mayoral election, but Schmoeller did not. Schmoeller filed
suit, alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights.
About a year after he filed suit, the Village terminated
Schmoeller's employment. In his amended complaint,
Schmoeller brings claims of First Amendment violations and
tortious interference with prospective economic advantage
against the Village, the mayor, the commissioners, and two of
his supervisors at the police department. Defendants move for
summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, the motion is
judgment is appropriate 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).
A genuine dispute as to any material fact exists if
“the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The
movant bears the burden of establishing that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “To
survive summary judgment, the nonmoving party must show
evidence sufficient to establish every element that is
essential to its claim and for which it will bear the burden
of proof at trial.” Diedrich v. Ocwen Loan
Servicing, LLC, 839 F.3d 583, 591 (7th Cir. 2016)
(citation omitted). All facts and reasonable inferences are
construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Laborers' Pension Fund v. W.R. Weis Co., Inc.,
879 F.3d 760, 766 (7th Cir. 2018).
Garrett Schmoeller became a full-time police officer at the
Village of Island Lake Police Department in 2004.  ¶
At the time, Charles Amrich was the Village's mayor, but
Amrich was replaced the following year after losing the
election to Debbie Herrmann.  ¶¶ 3, 24. Over
the next several years, Schmoeller received some reprimands,
mostly for repeated attendance issues.  ¶¶ 5-6,
9. Then, in 2011, Schmoeller was promoted to
“probationary sergeant.”  ¶ 13. But it
did not last.
2013, Amrich defeated Herrmann to take back the mayoral seat.
 ¶ 24. Amrich made some personnel changes, including
changes to the Village's Board of Fire and Police
Commissioners. The Board is responsible for hiring and
promoting police officers and for terminating probationary
officers.  ¶ 32. The commissioners at the relevant
times for this lawsuit were Arnold Epstein, Debra Jenkins,
and Tom Martin.  ¶ 29. Each of the commissioners had
in some way supported Amrich in his mayoral campaign. 
¶¶ 21-22;  ¶ 11. In 2014, the
commissioners discovered that some of the previous
administration's sergeant promotions, including
Schmoeller's, were invalid due to procedural errors. 
¶¶ 33, 35. So Schmoeller was informed of the news
and given the opportunity to retake the sergeants' test
to qualify for the promotion under the proper procedures.
 ¶ 36.
same time, Bill Dickerson was vying for promotion to
sergeant. Dickerson had recently re-joined the police
department after being fired during his probationary period
in 2010.  ¶ 61. Dickerson's termination was
based on allegations that included insubordination and taking
“breaks” at his house while on duty.  ¶
5. In the year following his termination from the Village,
Dickerson pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge for
an altercation with his then girlfriend and had orders of
protection issued against him on behalf of his ex- girlfriend
and ex-wife.  ¶ 6. Dickerson supported Amrich's
bid for mayor in 2013 by putting up campaign signs, writing
blog articles, canvassing, and donating $20.  ¶ 7.
After the election, the Village's board of trustees voted
on whether to reinstate Dickerson to the police force. 
¶ 62. The vote resulted in a tie, so Amrich cast the
tie-breaking vote in favor of reinstating Dickerson. 
Dickerson, and others took the sergeants' test in 2014,
 ¶ 38, though there were a few wrinkles. Dickerson
was given an older version of the test-the version that was
in place in 2012-in an effort to correct for Dickerson's
earlier termination, which the commissioners believed was
done illegally and contrary to proper procedure.  ¶
22. In contrast, Schmoeller and others got a new version of
the test.  ¶ 23. Dickerson also had a few
months' more notice of the test to prepare.  ¶
23. Schmoeller did not hear about the date of the oral
component of the exam until another candidate told him. 
¶ 28. After receiving the results of the test, the
commissioners noticed that the test included a 75-question
section that not all of the candidates realized would be on
the test.  ¶ 40. To compensate, the commissioners
omitted that section from all of the candidates' scores.
 ¶ 40. The test scores were combined with any
applicable bonus points for military service as well as
“chief points” (discretionary points awarded by
the chief of police) to compile a ranking of the candidates.
 ¶ 41. The commissioners were legally obligated to
choose from among the top three candidates on the list-those
candidates were Officer Deuter, Schmoeller, and Dickerson, in
that order.  ¶¶ 41, 44.
commissioners first selected Deuter (who, like Schmoeller,
had previously been improperly selected for promotion under
the previous administration).  ¶ 45. Then the choice
for the second available sergeant position came down to
Schmoeller or Dickerson. The commissioners chose not to
consider chief points, preferring instead to focus on the
candidates' test scores.  ¶¶ 47-48.
Dickerson scored higher than Schmoeller on the test. 
¶ 47. Commissioner Jenkins also told the other
commissioners that she had negative experiences with
Schmoeller in the past and felt as though he had stalked her.
 ¶ 49. The commissioners did not discuss any of the
candidates' political associations.  ¶ 50. The
commissioners unanimously decided to select Dickerson instead
of Schmoeller, and the appointment was approved.  ¶
filed this lawsuit in November 2015. . In March 2016,
Schmoeller wrote a memo to Chief Anthony Sciarrone, who
Amrich had appointed just about a year earlier, to say that
he had been reassigned to a patrol vehicle he believed was
unsafe and that he felt as though the reassignment was
retaliation for his lawsuit.  ¶ 30;  ¶ 39.
Dickerson, now a sergeant, responded on behalf of Sciarrone,
stating, among other things, that future unfounded
accusations of retaliation could be viewed as
insubordination.  ¶ 39. In September 2016,
Schmoeller was reprimanded for telling an inappropriate joke
back in March of that year, and Schmoeller received a
negative performance review from Dickerson (and signed by
Sciarrone), which was abnormal because Dickerson had never
evaluated anyone else.  ¶¶ 36, 38, 40.
September 2016, a video surfaced on Facebook of an arrest
Schmoeller had assisted with several months before. 
¶ 70. The arresting officer, Gale Holford, had told a
citizen to leave a bar, and, as the citizen was walking away
while filming Holford, decided to arrest him. [68-1] at
254:12-258:18; . Schmoeller appeared after the arrest was
already underway, to provide assistance. [68-9] at 27:6-22;
. The video does not provide much visual depiction of the
arrest itself, but Schmoeller's voice can be heard
saying, “I'm gonna show you pain, ” in
response to the arrestee's expression of discomfort.
; see also [68-12] at 25. The police department
investigated the allegations of misconduct, and Dickerson
played a role in the investigation.  ¶ 48.
Ultimately, Sciarrone submitted recommendations to Amrich
that both Holford and Schmoeller be fired.  ¶¶
74, 76. Amrich rejected Sciarrone's recommendation as to
Holford, choosing to suspend him instead, but accepted
Sciarrone's recommendation to terminate Schmoeller. 
¶¶ 77, 80. Schmoeller was terminated in November
2016.  ¶ 80.