(CN) – Cook County officials did not violate the due-process rights of a 28-year deputy sheriff who claims he was forced into retirement after he was accused of stalking the children of the officer who ran the Chicago Police Academy.
Tadeusz Palka believed that his son, Peter, had been cut from the academy because he’s Polish. He contacted Assistant Deputy Superintendent Matthew Tobias, who was in charge of the academy, to complain, but Tobias refused to reinstate Peter.
Tobias told Palka that his son had been terminated from the academy because he failed to master the firearms manual.
A few weeks later, an unidentified man with a Polish accent called the school where Tobias’ children attended and “made inquiries about the children,” according to the ruling.
“Tobias traced the call to the Cook County Building, which confirmed his suspicion that Tadeusz Palka was the anonymous caller,” the ruling states.
Tobias filed an internal complaint against Palka, claiming Tobias and his wife feared that Palka was trying to stalk and possibly harm their children.
As the claims were investigated, Palka was de-deputized and suspended with pay, and had his retirement and firearm credentials confiscated.
He resigned before his hearing before the County’s Merit Systems Protection Board, allegedly because the sheriff’s department chief told him that if he retired, the merit board action would “go away” and he would get his full retirement benefits, including his badge and credentials.
But he never received his retirement badge or credentials.
Palka sued various county and police officials, claiming they violated his due-process rights and deprived him of “occupational liberty.”
The 7th Circuit in Chicago upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of the claims, saying Palka “failed to state a cognizable substantive due-process claim” and failed to show how the defendants’ actions blocked him from getting another job.
Circuit Judge Diane Sykes pointed out that allowing Palka to go before the merit board had satisfied Cook County’s due-process obligations.
Palka “could retire with full benefits or appear before the Board and potentially be vindicated; the latter option, however, obviously risked termination and loss of his benefits if the charges were substantiated,” Sykes explained. “But this is not the kind of choice that makes an otherwise voluntary resignation involuntary.”
The three-judge panel also dismissed Palka’s constitutional challenge to the phone call investigation.