No silly, not that mayor. Rahm's married.
We're talking about the mayor, city council, and a few former employees of Country Club Hills, Illinois. The town of about 15,000 has seen a political power struggle that has led to a bitter election, allegations of misappropriated funds, mass layoffs of political opponents, and of course, allegations of combustible trousers.
No one does politics quite like Illinois.
Michelle Garner is one of the angry ex-employees. She's also the girlfriend of the recently re-elected Mayor Dwight Welch, reports the Courthouse News Service. Last election cycle, which was in April 2011, she stood by her man and went door-to-door handing out campaign literature. Welch won the hard fought battle, but the opposition had control of the city council.
Shortly after the election, the city council passed a new budget which eliminated 13 city employees, all of which were supporters of Mayor Welch. Michelle Garner was amongst the cuts. According to CBS, Mayor Welch encouraged the employees to file suit.
Note to employers: you generally can't fire someone in retaliation for their political activity or political speech. The First Amendment protects speech - especially speech of a political nature.
According to CNS, while the cuts were happening, Mayor Welch was investigated by the Better Government Association for charging tens of thousands to his city credit card for meals, gifts, and a $500 white tuxedo.
(Shouldn't such expenditures be allowable in a town called Country Club Hills?)
The tawdry tale and bitter political war continued with allegations of harassment. Garner said that two of the alderman who ran against Mayor Welch harassed her at work. After, she was fired.
Alderman Locket told CBS, "[s]he's a liar, liar, and her pants is on fire. That's all made up and make-believe stuff."
Liar or not, her lawsuit lives another day. In most litigation, the party being sued will file a motion for summary judgment after all of the fact-finding processes are complete. This motion essentially argues that even if every assumption is made in favor of the other side, they still don't have a case. It's a quick way to weed out extraneous and meritless claims.
The counsel for the council, the city, and the aldermen filed such a motion. Unfortunately for the defendants, Michelle Garner's claims for retaliatory discharge will survive another day, as her case survived the motion. The court felt that with all assumptions made in her favor, she at least had a tenable case, which is the minimum required to proceed.
It seems the battle of Country Club, Illinois shall rage on. Someone grab the golf clubs and Glenfiddich.
- Speak to a Chicago Employment Attorney (FindLaw)
- Michelle Garner v. City of Country Club Hills et al. (Memorandum Opinion and Order)
- Wrongful Discharge (FindLaw's LawBrain)
- Cognis Corp. Fires Employee For Refusing to Waive His Rights (FindLaw's Chicago Employment Law Blog)