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McGreal v. Village of Orland Park

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 6, 2017

Joseph S. McGreal, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
The Village of Orland Park, Timothy McCarthy, Patrick Duggan, and James Bianchi, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued December 8, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 12 C 5135 - Joan H. Lefkow, Judge.

          Before Manion, Kanne, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          Kanne, Circuit Judge.

         On June 28, 2010, Joseph McGreal was fired from his position as a police officer with the Orland Park Police Department. Thereafter, he sued the Village of Orland Park and three members of the police department-Chief of Police Timothy McCarthy, Lieutenant Patrick Duggan, and Lieutenant James Bianchi-claiming that the defendants violated his First Amendment rights by firing him in retaliation for his exercise of protected speech at a community board meeting. He also brought a state-law intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress claim. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the district court granted.

         This appeal ultimately comes down to evidence, or perhaps more appropriately, a lack of it. Because McGreal has offered no admissible evidence showing that he is entitled to relief, the district court properly dismissed his claims.

         I. Background

         McGreal began working as a police officer in the Village of Orland Park on January 10, 2005. Early in his career, McGreal performed competently: he received positive reviews on his performance evaluations and was nominated for various commendations and other honors. But conflict between McGreal and the police department arose in 2009, which culminated in McGreal's firing on June 28, 2010.

         McGreal alleges that he was fired because of his exercise of protected speech at a village board meeting held on November 2, 2009. The village had called that meeting to discuss options to address an anticipated budgetary shortfall. One of the cost-saving options that the village proposed involved laying off as many as seven full-time police officers. McGreal, who had been elected secretary of the local police union in 2008, contends that he attended the meeting on behalf of the union. There, he allegedly presented three alternative solutions, none of which required the laying off of any full-time officers: (1) eliminating certain newly-created, non-essential positions; (2) eliminating the take-home squadcar program for certain lieutenant positions; and (3) creating a new longevity-benefit program that would allow eligible officers to take early retirement. McGreal contends that those solutions, which protected lower-level police officers at the expense of their superiors, drew the ire of the defendants. According to McGreal, the defendants then retaliated against him because of his speech by accusing, interrogating, and ultimately firing him under the pretext of unsubstantiated violations of department policy.

         The defendants, on the other hand, deny knowing that McGreal engaged in any protected speech or even attended the November 2 board meeting. Instead, they argue that McGreal was legitimately fired because of a series of incidents that occurred in late 2009 and early 2010, none of which involved any protected speech.

         The first incident occurred on October 27, 2009. That evening, McGreal conducted a traffic stop of a man named Charles Robson, which McGreal's in-squad video camera recorded. Because McGreal turned his microphone off shortly after placing Robson in handcuffs, the police department questioned whether the stop had been performed properly. The defendants also allege that McGreal initially refused to write a report for the stop and even lied under oath about what occurred during the stop. The department conducted an investigation of the stop and its aftermath on November 23, 2009.

         The defendants next contend that McGreal committed several acts of misconduct shortly after the November 2 board meeting. These included two unauthorized, unnecessary, and dangerous high-speed chases. The defendants also point to McGreal's behavior at an awards banquet on November 24, 2009, during which McGreal allegedly ostracized a fellow officer who had been honored as the Officer of the Year. The defendants further allege that McGreal continued this inappropriate behavior during his shift that same evening after the banquet.

         Because of these and other incidents, the department interrogated McGreal on January 21, 2010. Specifically, they questioned McGreal under oath about his actions during the Robson traffic stop, the awards ceremony, and his shift immediately following the awards ceremony. The defendants allege that McGreal lied during the interrogation about each of those incidents. Afterward, the defendants contend that McGreal committed several additional acts of misconduct, including one instance of reckless driving while off duty.

         On March 5, 2010, the department placed McGreal on paid administrative leave. McGreal's misconduct continued after this date. The written order placing McGreal on leave included a no-contact clause, which ordered McGreal "to have no contact or discussion of any kind with any member of this department, citizen or complainant regarding these investigations." (R. 215-23 at 1.) According to the defendants, McGreal violated the no-contact clause on at least two occasions. The department interrogated McGreal again on March 24, 2010. There, the defendants allege that McGreal again lied under oath, claiming that he never contacted anyone in the department about his case. The department ordered him to provide his phone records to verify his testimony, but McGreal refused, claiming that he was not an authorized user on his telephone account and could not obtain the records. The department then obtained the records by subpoena, which revealed that McGreal had in fact contacted at least ...


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