881 F.3d 514 (7th Cir. 2018), 16-2278, Catinella v. County of Cook, Illinois

Docket Nº:16-2278
Citation:881 F.3d 514
Opinion Judge:Sykes, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Michael CATINELLA, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. COUNTY OF COOK, ILLINOIS, and Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Anthony J. Peraica, Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Colleen B. Cavanaugh, Chaka M. Patterson, Attorneys, OFFICE OF THE COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before Bauer, Easterbrook, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:January 31, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
SUMMARY

In a complaint described as “disjointed and murky at best,” Catinella alleged that he worked for Cook County, 1994-2013, and in 2009, was promoted to a supervisory position. In 2013, Catinella was questioned regarding a bidding process and refused to sign documents relating to the probe. During this interview, investigators asked Catinella if he was carrying a weapon. Catinella admitted that he... (see full summary)

 
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Page 514

881 F.3d 514 (7th Cir. 2018)

Michael CATINELLA, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

COUNTY OF COOK, ILLINOIS, and Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 16-2278

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

January 31, 2018

Argued May 18, 2017

Page 515

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 15 C 1400— Elaine E. Bucklo, Judge .

Anthony J. Peraica, Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Colleen B. Cavanaugh, Chaka M. Patterson, Attorneys, OFFICE OF THE COOK COUNTY STATE’S ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before Bauer, Easterbrook, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Sykes, Circuit Judge.

Michael Catinella sued Cook County and its Department of Transportation for firing him under false pretenses in violation of his rights under the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and federal statutory provisions. The circumstances surrounding this event are filled with intrigue. The complaint describes a public-bidding process gone awry, an investigation to cover it up, coworkers who were jealous of Catinella’s promotion, a confiscated knife, false reports to police that Catinella threatened to " shoot up the workplace," and an arrest on a charge of disorderly conduct— all leading up to the abrupt termination of his employment with

Page 516

the County. What the complaint does not show, however, is how this whirlwind of alleged unfairness violates any federal constitutional or statutory provision. After giving Catinella two chances to plead a plausible claim for relief, the district judge dismissed the case with prejudice.

We affirm. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must include " enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together." Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). Catinella certainly spins an elaborate story, but it doesn’t cohere around any plausible constitutional or statutory violation. The judge was right to dismiss the case.

I. Background

The amended complaint is the operative pleading, so we take the following factual account from that document. The picture it paints is disjointed and murky at best. We add the usual caution that these are just allegations.

Catinella worked for the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways from January 1994 to March 2013. He was well regarded by his peers and supervisors— so much so that in 2009 the Department promoted him from machinist to a supervisory position. Before January 2013 Catinella was never disciplined.

In August 2012 Cook County conducted a round of bidding to award a fuel-pump contract. After bidding closed and the winner was announced, a losing bidder complained and tried to make a second bid. The complaint does not provide any additional information about the fuel-pump contract, the bidding process, the reason for the losing bidder’s complaint, or how Catinella fits into the story. All it tells us is that in mid-August investigators from the Office of the Independent Inspector General met with Catinella and his attorney regarding an investigation into the bidding process. Investigators asked Catinella to sign two documents relating to the probe but he refused. They warned Catinella that he could lose his job if he did not sign the documents, but he again refused. The complaint does not describe the contents of the documents or provide any further details about the investigation.

In the middle of this interview, investigators suddenly asked Catinella if he was carrying a weapon. Catinella admitted that he had a small knife that he used in his work as a machinist. At the investigators’ request, Catinella handed the knife over to his lawyer. The investigators did not confiscate it, nor was Catinella subject to further inquiry or discipline at that time.

Nothing untoward happened for the next four months. Then on January 24, 2013, five of Catinella’s coworkers filed a grievance complaining that Catinella was getting extra work privileges: a car, a cell phone, significant overtime, and a higher-rated position for longer than 180 days. Although five employees joined the complaint, only one of them actually signed the grievance.

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