United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Dow, Jr. United States District Judge
diversity action, Plaintiff John Gerba
(“Plaintiff”) brings suit against Defendant the
National Hellenic Museum (“Defendant” or
“Museum”) for violation of the Illinois
Whistleblower Act, 740 ILCS 174/1 et seq.
(“IWA”), common law retaliatory discharge, and
defamation. Currently before the Court is Defendant's
motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim
. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion
 is granted. Plaintiff is given until July 20, 2018 to
file a first amended complaint to the extent that he can do
so consistent with this opinion.
is a citizen of Indiana and resides in Whiting, Indiana.
Defendant is an Illinois not-for-profit corporation
registered to transact business in Cook County, Illinois. Its
headquarters are located in Chicago, Illinois.
began working for Defendant on May 24, 2016 as the Director
of Finance. Within a few weeks, he was promoted to Vice
President of Finance and Operations. In this role, he
reported to Laura Calamos Nasir (“Nasir”).
Plaintiff's duties consisted primarily of running the
accounting department, overseeing the human resources
department, overseeing building and grounds maintenance,
overseeing contracts and insurance policies, and generally
overseeing Defendant's day to day operations. Plaintiff
had access to non-public information regarding
Defendant's financial situation, as well as the inner
workings of Defendant and its politics and structure.
Plaintiff's annual salary was approximately $125, 000.
May 2016, Pat Nichols (“Nichols”) served as
Defendant's interim president for six weeks on a
consultant basis. During that time, Nichols requested that
Plaintiff provide an inventory showing how Defendant used
funds from an Illinois Department of Natural Resources
(“IDNR”) grant to install information kiosks in
the Museum. Plaintiff was unable to find an inventory list.
September 2016, Plaintiff suggested to Nasir and James Adams
(“Adams”), the Chief Financial Officer of Calamos
Family Partners, various ways to install the kiosks.
Plaintiff emphasized the need to complete the project. He
also requested an accounting of how Defendant spent the IDNR
grant money. The requested accounting was never provided and
Defendant has not installed the kiosks in the Museum.
September 2016, Plaintiff discovered that Defendant had
received tens of thousands of dollars in donations to
purchase benches decorated with the donors' names to
place in the Museum. Plaintiff alleges on information and
belief that, instead of using the funds for their promised
purpose, Defendant used the donor money for unrelated Museum
projects. Plaintiff spoke with Nasir about the failure to use
the donor money for the intended purpose of purchasing
benches. He informed her continuously of the need to purchase
October 2016, “Plaintiff became aware of and concerned
about a number of alleged improprieties by Defendant,
including inaccurate financial reporting, commingling of
assets, and misallocation of funds.” [1-1] at 5. These
concerns included alleged directives to falsify financial
reports showing contributions by Defendant's board
members, including John Calamos, Sr. (“Calamos”);
misallocation and misuse of donations earmarked for
educational purposes; and concerns related to Nippersink
Country Club, a property that had been donated to Defendant.
February 2017, Defendant appeared to be running low on funds.
On February 7, Plaintiff emailed Nasir and Adams to inform
them that Defendant could not meet its upcoming payroll
obligations. Nasir and Adams instructed Plaintiff to use a
$30, 000 donation, which had been earmarked for educational
spending, to cover the payroll obligation. Plaintiff
cautioned them against using the donation for payroll,
because the money was restricted for educational spending.
Nevertheless, Nasir and Adams instructed Plaintiff to deposit
the $30, 000 check for payroll use, but to credit the revenue
to education. Plaintiff expressed discomfort in doing so and
stated that he felt pressured to use the funds improperly.
March 2, 2017, Plaintiff requested that Adams provide him
with the 2016 monthly financial statements, vendor names, and
receipts for Nippersink County Club. Plaintiff also asked
whether any of Defendant's board members had financial
ties to Nippersink or its vendors, which could create
conflicts of interest for the Museum. Plaintiff never saw any
income from Nippersink Country Club on Defendant's
balance sheets. At the time Plaintiff requested information
from Adams, he was preparing to create a Board Contribution
Report to track the 2016 contributions of each of
Defendant's board members to the Museum. Adams did not
provide the requested information.
compiled the Board Contribution Report using other financial
reports and submitted it to Nasir and Adams. His report
distinguished between board members' personal/individual
contributions and contributions by the board members'
companies/organizations. This was different than how previous
reports had been prepared. In those previous reports,
Plaintiff alleges, Defendant had “deceptively combined
the sources of funds from personal and business entities,
suggesting that the single board members donated all funds
personally.” [1-1] at 7. Upon receiving the Board
Contribution Report, Adams reprimanded Plaintiff and
questioned who gave him authority to include company and
foundation donations in the report. Plaintiff responded that,
as the Vice President of Finance and Operations, he should be
able to make that decision, which he believed had been
proper. Nasir told Plaintiff that his “threats [were]
wearing thin” and ordered him to fix the report to omit
company and foundation donations. Id. Although
Plaintiff made the changes that Nasir requested, he told her
that he was uncomfortable doing so and it was against his
better judgment, but he felt compelled to follow orders.
Plaintiff also expressed that Defendant would have to replace
him rather than coerce him to perform his job in a way he
deemed fiscally improper. See [1-1] at 9.
March 28, 2017, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's
employment. Prior to his termination, he did not receive any
warnings, disciplinary actions, write-ups, or poor
19, 2017, Defendant's Education and Public Programs
Manager, Dimitra Georgouses (“Georgouses”) sought
an order of protection against Plaintiff in the Circuit Court
of Cook County Domestic Violence Division, No. 17 OP 74063.
On June 21, 2017, Defendant's Director of Human Resources
and Operations, Kristi Athas (“Athas”), informed
Defendant's staff during an all-staff meeting that there
was an active restraining order issued against Plaintiff by a
Museum employee and that Plaintiff had been stalking and
sending inappropriate text messages to the employee. Athas
instructed staff to call the police if Plaintiff was spotted
on Defendant's property. In fact, a restraining ...