CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit tossed claims that Cook County overlooked a sergeant for promotion to lieutenant because of his affiliation with the Republican Party and his failure to donate to the sheriff’s campaign.
In 1998, Thomas Brown donated $100 to the campaign of Leroy Martin, who was vying for the office of sheriff over incumbent Michael Sheahan, a Democrat. Brown also posted campaign signs supporting Martin.
Five years later, Brown became one of 16 candidates eligible for promotion to lieutenant. He remained on the list for two years, during which time five other officers were promoted. Brown retired a few months after being removed from the list and filed suit for political discrimination and violations of his free-speech rights.
A federal judge dismissed the case on summary judgment, and the appellate division affirmed recently, pointing out Brown’s arguments were alternately “irrelevant” and “amusing.”
Though Brown says he was never asked or told to contribute money to Sheahan’s campaign to be promoted, a senior staff member allegedly told, “Call your clout,” meaning find an influential person to back his candidacy.
“We are certainly happy to learn that bit of Chicago argot,” Judge Richard Posner wrote for the three-judge panel, but there was no indication that the statement related to political affiliation.
The judges also rejected arguments that the sheriff promoted other candidates based on political affiliation.
Of the five officers promoted, three had contributed to Sheahan’s campaign and two had not. Of the 11 denied promotions, four had contributed and seven had not. The average contribution size of the officers who had contributed by were not promoted was $595 – greater than the $557 average contribution of the officers who received promotions.
“The most amusing evidence that Brown tendered to support his claim of political discrimination consisted of proof that he had several times made accurate predictions of upcoming promotions before they were publically announced – as verified by his having placed an ad in the Chicago Tribune congratulating the promoted officers before their promotions were announced and by his mailing to himself a sealed letter, setting forth his predictions, to be opened only by the judge in camera,” Posner wrote.
“If anything, Brown’s ability to predict promotions suggests that they are based on visible criteria – such as being well regarded by one’s superiors – rather than on the frequently secretive operation of clout.”