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Civil Rights; Public employees; protected speech


Civil Rights; Public employees; protected speech


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Civil Rights; Public employees; protected speech

A police officer who was terminated after objecting to the release of a suspect with political connections, stated a claim under the First Amendment.

“We find that Kristofek has stated, albeit barely, a plausible claim that Scully had at least de facto authority to set policy for hiring and firing. The complaint suggests Scully was fully in charge of the police department and that his firing decisions were not reviewed. See, e.g., Valentino, 575 F.3d at 677 (‘Key in our reasoning was that the plaintiff provided evidence that: (1) the board did not review the Chief’s personnel decisions; and (2) the Chief was completely in charge of the probation department.’) (citing Kujawski v. Bd. of Comm’rs of artholomew Cty., Ind., 183 F.3d 734, 740 (7th Cir. 1999))). The picture painted by the complaint, which includes Scully’s angry reaction to Kristofek’s speech, ‘suggests that [Scully] had the unfettered discretion to hire and fire whomever he pleased.’ Id. at 678; see also Gschwind, 692 F.3d at 848 (school board permitted principals to ‘make evaluation and employment ecisions as they see fit,’ making the principal a final policymaker). And it is plausible that Scully essentially had a de facto policy that anyone who made noise about political corruption or favoritism would be fired, especially when he equated ‘speaking to other persons about the circumstances of the arrest of the driver’ as a breach of trust against Scully, and then suggested that he could not work with anyone whom he could not trust. By firing Kristofek and escorting him out of the building in front of his co-workers, many of whom were well aware of Kristofek’s speech, Scully made it clear to his staff that anyone else who complained about the November 2010 incident (or any other incident involving political favoritism) would meet a
similar fate. Two other officers involved in the incident have left the force since that time. Though discovery may reveal that they left for reasons having nothing to do with the November 2010 incident, it may be inferred at the pleading stage that their leaving was due to Scully’s established policy.”

Reversed and Remanded.

12-2345 Kristofek v. Village of Orland Hills

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Der-Yeghiayan, J., Williams, J.

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