United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
STEPHEN E. ALEXANDER, Plaintiff,
TONI MELI and KEITH IMMERFALL, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff Stephen E. Alexander, an inmate incarcerated at
Waupun Correctional Institution (WCI), is proceeding on First
Amendment retaliation claims and class-of-one equal
protection claims against two WCI employees, Security
Director Toni Meli and Lieutenant Keith Immerfall. Alexander
alleges that Meli and Immerfall violated his rights by
terminating him from his food-service job and reclassifying
him to “voluntary unassigned” status to punish
him for having successfully challenged a conduct report.
move for summary judgment. Dkt. 41. I will grant
defendants' motion because Alexander fails to present
evidence that defendants' actions were motivated by
Alexander's protected activity, or that defendants
singled him out for adverse treatment without a rational
following facts are undisputed unless noted otherwise.
has been incarcerated at WCI since 2004. At various points
over the course of his incarceration, including the period
relevant here, Alexander was employed by WCI's food
service department. In early 2017, Lieutenant Immerfall
learned from WCI security staff that some chocolate chip
cream pies had gone missing from the canteen. Immerfall
investigated the pies' disappearance. He identified April
18, 2017, as the date of the probable theft, and watched
eight hours of surveillance footage from that day in an
effort to identify the perpetrators. Based on that footage,
Immerfall concluded that three inmates-Alexander, Toni
Toston, and Charles Walker-had worked together to steal a box
of pies from the WCI loading dock. On May 4, Immerfall issued
Alexander, Toston, and Walker conduct reports. Alexander was
charged with aiding and abetting (in violation of Wisconsin
Administrative Code § DOC 303.06) and theft (in
violation of Wisconsin Administrative Code § 303.37). He
was found guilty on both charges. As a result of that guilty
finding, Immerfall issued an Offender Work/Program/Placement
(DOC-1408) form on May 8, terminating Alexander's
food-service work assignment.
appealed the conduct report, asserting that he was not part
of the theft and that the charges were inappropriate. In a
decision dated May 24, 2017, the WCI warden ultimately agreed
that the conduct report should be dismissed because of
“inappropriate charges.” Dkt. 44-4, at 1. The
warden noted that the dismissal “does not negate the
inmate behaviors.” Id. Defendants say that,
notwithstanding the dismissal of the conduct report on a
technicality, Alexander was never deemed innocent of the
conduct it described. Alexander suggests that the dismissal
of the conduct report exonerated him of wrongdoing. See Dkt.
58, ¶ 29.
the conduct report had been dismissed, WCI staff continued to
believe that Alexander had been involved in the pie theft.
Defendant Meli, WCI's security director, deliberated
about whether to allow Alexander to return to his
food-service job. As part of those deliberations, Meli
contacted a member of WCI's Gang Task Force to inquire
whether Alexander was still gang-affiliated. (Alexander
admitted to being affiliated with the Gangster Disciples in
2002, but he says that he is no longer gang-involved. See
Id. ¶ 2.) The Gang Task Force member told Meli
that Alexander was still active in the gang and that he had
risen through the ranks to a leadership position.
ultimately issued Alexander a new DOC-1408 form terminating
Alexander's foodservice job assignment on June 5, 2017.
The parties dispute his basis for doing so. Defendants say
that Meli based his termination decision on three factors:
(1) his belief that Alexander was involved in the group
theft; (2) his belief that Alexander continued to be
gang-affiliated; and (3) his belief that Alexander had
committed the misconduct in conjunction with at least one
other gang member-in this case, Toni Toston. Id.
¶¶ 34-35. Based on these considerations, Meli
believed that Alexander's continued employment in food
service posed a security threat. Per Department of Adult
Institutions (DAI) policy 309.00.01, an inmate's
potential threat to a facility's security can be a basis
for removing him from his work placement. See Dkt. 44-5.
Alexander disputes that these were Meli's true reasons
and contends that Meli was acting out of a desire to
retaliate against Alexander for successfully contesting the
conduct report. See Dkt. 58, ¶¶ 35-36.
Alexander was removed from his food-service job, WCI security
staff placed him on voluntary unassigned (or
“UNAS”) status. Per WCI rules, any time an inmate
refuses, quits, or is “negatively removed” from a
work or program assignment, he is placed on UNAS status for
90 days. See Dkt. 44-3, at 22; DAI Policy 309.55.01. Inmates
in UNAS status are not paid an institution wage and are not
allowed to attend library or structured recreation, or to
participate in fine arts, hobby, music, or chapel studies
time. They must remain in their cells except for visits,
meals, cell hall recreation, and non-leisure-time passes.
After an inmate has been in UNAS status for 90 days, he may
request that his status be changed to involuntary unassigned
status, which is a paid status meant for inmates who are
willing to accept any job assignment but who have not been
assigned to a job.
complained that his placement in UNAS status was
inappropriate and contrary to policy given the dismissal of
his conduct report. The reviewing WCI official responded with
the following explanation:
After looking into your complaint I find that your removal
from Food Service was an Administrative removal based on an
incident that you were involved with that falls within the
parameters of “negative activity.” You are
correct, your Conduct Report was dismissed but with the
understanding that Conduct Reports can be dismissed for
various reasons, the dismissal in your case does not
automatically mean that you are innocent or that you were not
The point that you were Administratively removed from your
position for negative activity is more of the deciding factor
in your placement of UNAS status. In accordance with [DAI
Policy] 309.55.01 section IV, “Inmates who refuse or
are negatively removed from a work or primary program shall
be placed in voluntary unassigned status and shall not be
compensated for a minimum of 90 days unless already ...