Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Chapman v. Milwaukee County

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

August 15, 2016




         I. Facts and Procedural History

         Alonzo Chapman is a 53-year-old African American male who has worked at the General Mitchell International Airport (GMIA) fire department as an Assistant Chief since 2012. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 1.) Chapman was hired by the department’s Chief, Paul Menches, as one of five assistant chiefs. (ECF No. 34, ¶¶ 11-12.) Menches reported to Terry Blue, Deputy Director of Airport Operations and Maintenance. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 6.) Of the other four assistant chiefs hired by Menches, one was African American and the other three were Caucasian. (ECF No. 34 at ¶ 11.)

         The GMIA fire department has a quasi-paramilitary structure. As such, the employees are expected to follow a chain of command, to be respectful to their superiors, and to follow orders. (ECF No. 34, ¶¶ 7.) The Fire Chief and Assistant Chiefs are non-union employees (ECF No. 34, ¶ 9), while the firefighters are members of a union and governed by a collective bargaining agreement. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 10.)

         Each of the five assistant chiefs were assigned to handle various administrative duties, either as the primary assistant chief in charge of the duty or as an alternate. Chapman had primary responsibility on Public Education and Facility and Maintenance. He was an alternate on Policy, Operating Standards and Proposals, Safety and Health, Emergency Medical, and Equipment/Apparatus. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 15.)

         Menches appointed Chapman as his administrative chief of staff shortly after his hire. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 18.) The administrative chief of staff was the “right hand” of Menches and would fill in for him if he was away. (Id.) Part of the reason for assigning Chapman as administrative chief of staff was to groom him to succeed Menches when Menches left in five years. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 19.)

         In February 2013 the GMIA fire department sought to hire two or three additional firefighters. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 21.) In such a situation, an evaluation panel reviews candidates and provides a recommendation to Menches, who makes the hiring decision. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 24.) Menches would normally serve as the chair of the evaluation panel. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 22.) However, to give Chapman experience, Menches designated Chapman as the chair of the panel. (ECF No. 34, ¶¶ 21, 23.)

         The evaluation panel interviewed between six and eight individuals. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 25.) A woman, Shannon Rohde, was one of the top two candidates. (Id.) There was some discussion by two members of the panel, assistant chiefs Kevin Doyne and Scott Wisnewski, about the logistics related to hiring another female firefighter given that the department’s sleeping accommodations for women might not be sufficient to accommodate an additional woman. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 26.) Chapman and another assistant chief, Vernon Easley (also African-American), raised concerns about this line of discussion by the other members of the panel. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 28.) Menches decided to hire Rohde. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 32.)

         During his time as an assistant chief under Menches, Chapman was admittedly repeatedly insubordinate. Although Menches welcomed feedback from his assistant chiefs, he expected that, once he made a final decision, his subordinates would not question it. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 36.) Nevertheless, Chapman “constantly challenged” Menches’s decisions. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 37; see also ECF No. 34, ¶¶ 38, 39.) Blue believed that Chapman was “blatantly disrespectful very publicly” toward Menches. (Id.) Chapman’s philosophy was that he needed to take Menches “down a couple of pegs…for the good of the organization….” (Id.) In an email to Menches dated March 6, 2013, on which he copied the other assistant chiefs, after expressing his disagreement with certain decisions made by Menches, Chapman admitted, “I fully understand that this may provide just cause for my dismissal[.]” (ECF No. 34, ¶ 38.)

         Chapman was also “blatantly disrespectful in several emails” that he sent to Menches and other members of the command staff. (ECF No. 34, ¶¶ 41-44.) Indeed, Chapman admits that the emails to Menches were inappropriate and that he had devolved into personal attacks against his superior. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 45.) Chapman also failed to follow certain orders from Menches (ECF No. 34, ¶ 46), parked in the clearly-marked parking spot reserved for Menches after being directed not to do so (ECF No. 34, ¶ 48), and disrespectfully referred to Menches by his first name rather than using his title (despite referring to all other command staff by their professional designations) (ECF No. 34, ¶ 49).

         On March 28, 2013, Chapman failed to promptly respond to a pilot who reported that a warning light indicated there was a fire in the luggage compartment of his plane landing at GMIA. (ECF No. 34, ¶¶ 50-52.) Without waiting for Chapman’s instructions or approval, firefighter Wisnewski (no longer an assistant chief) acted to investigate the baggage compartment and confirm there was no fire. (ECF No. 34, ¶¶ 54-55.) The same day of the incident Menches directed that Wisnewski receive a written counseling regarding the chain of command violation. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 58.)

         Apparently unaware that Menches had directed that Wisnewski be disciplined, Chapman felt that Menches was going easy on Wisnewski because he was the president of the firefighters union. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 58.) The following day Chapman issued a memorandum to Menches and Blue, resigning his position as administrative chief of staff and accusing Menches of having engaged in “illegal and immoral acts.” (ECF No. 34, ¶ 59.) Blue requested that Chapman either support or retract his allegations about Menches. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 62.) Chapman was aware that if he did not substantiate his allegations or retract them he would be disciplined. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 63.) Nevertheless, he refused to retract his allegations against Menches or provide any substantiation for them. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 63.)

         While Blue was still deciding how to address Chapman’s unfounded allegations, on April 23, 2013, Menches attempted to discuss with Chapman his recent performance problems and to issue Chapman a “written counseling” regarding those performance issues. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 65.) The “conversation deteriorated” and Chapman left Menches’s office, contrary to Menches’s direction and orders. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 66.) When Menches followed Chapman to Chapman’s office, the conversation continued to escalate, with “Chapman inappropriately mentioning Chief Menches’[s] wife in the conversation.” (ECF No. 34, ¶ 67.) Chapman called the Sheriff’s Department, which determined that there was no basis for taking any action. (ECF No. 34, ¶¶ 68-69.)

         Blue placed Chapman on paid administrative leave while he investigated Chapman’s conduct. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 70.) A hearing was held on May 2, 2013, with Sean Moore, Milwaukee County’s Human Resources representative for GMIA, acting as the hearing officer. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 71.) Based upon Chapman’s numerous incidents of misconduct, his elevated position within the fire department, and his insubordination towards Menches, Blue recommended that Chapman be suspended for 10 days. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 74.) Blue’s recommendation was accepted by Moore. (ECF No. 34, ¶ 74.)

         In this lawsuit Chapman alleges that he was discriminated against due to his race and retaliated against for opposing the consideration of Rohde’s gender as a hiring factor. All parties have consented to this court’s jurisdiction. (ECF Nos. 3, 5.) Defendant Milwaukee County has moved for summary judgment on Chapman’s claims. The motion is now ready for resolution.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment 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 fact is “material” only if it “might affect the outcome of the suit” and a dispute is “genuine” only if a reasonable finder of fact could accept the non-moving party’s position and return a verdict in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In resolving a motion for summary judgment, the court is to “construe all evidence and draw all reasonable inferences from that evidence in” favor of the non-movant. E.Y. v. United States, 758 F.3d 861, 863 (7th Cir. 2014) (citing Gil v. Reed, 535 F.3d 551, 556 (7th Cir. 2008)); Del Raso v. United States, 244 F.3d 567, 570 (7th Cir. 2001). The “court may not make credibility determinations, weigh the evidence, or decide which inferences to draw from the facts; these are jobs for a factfinder.” Washington v. Haupert, 481 F.3d 543, 550 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003)). “To survive summary judgment, the nonmovant must produce sufficient admissible evidence, taken in the light most favorable to it, to return a jury verdict in its favor.” Fleishman v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 698 F.3d 598, 603 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Berry v. Chi. Transit Auth., 618 F.3d 688, 690-91 (7th Cir. 2010)).

         II. ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.