Former employee sues township road district over termination, claims firing was politically motiviated

By Jonathan Bilyk | Sep 23, 2013


A woman who was terminated from her job as office clerk at a DuPage County township highway department has sued her former employer, claiming the recently-elected Democratic commissioner fired her because she is a Republican.

On Sept. 19, plaintiff Linda Wood filed a complaint against Wayne Township Road District, asking Chicago’s federal court to award her damages and order the township road commissioner, Martin McManamon,  to reinstate her to her previous position with the district.

Wood alleges in her complaint that McManamon violated her constitutional rights to free speech and free association when he fired her on June 28, allegedly in retaliation for Wood’s refusal to switch parties and for raising the possibility that McManamon could be improperly administering a public construction bid process.

Wood was terminated from her job on June 28, the complaint states.

The firing followed several weeks of what she portrayed in her suit as a deteriorating working relationship between her and McManamon at the local government office in West Chicago.

In her complaint, Wood asserts she had been employed at the township road district as “office clerk and receptionist” since 2005, working from then until May 2013 under the management of former Wayne Township Highway Commissioner Kenneth Spitz.

Wood publicly supported Spitz, a Republican, for reelection, including attending Spitz’s fundraising events.

In April 2013, McManamon, a Democrat, defeated Spitz in the race for Wayne Township Highway Commissioner. He began his term in office on May 19.

Wood said McManamon, upon taking office, began discussing politics in the office, and “requested” that Wood “join the Democratic party.”

When Wood refused, she claims McManamon’s “demeanor” toward her “changed in a negative manner.”

Wood contends that McManamon began to behave “in a secretive manner,” meeting behind closed doors and taking phone calls away her.

She alleges he also “discontinued using certain vendors” with which the road district had worked in the past, because those vendors “did not support his campaign or the Democratic party.”

On June 17, Wood asserts, McManamon held a meeting with several people Wood did not recognize, to discuss a road construction project that was subject to the public bid process.

Wood states in her complaint she believed McManamon was “attempting to improperly manipulate the public bidding process by secretly sharing information with individuals from outside of the road district office.”

She contends she “confronted” McManamon on the matter, and informed the engineering company the road district was then using to administer the public bidding process.

McManamon, the complaint states, at no time attempted to deny her allegations.

In late June, Wood asserts McManamon cut ties with the engineering company Wood had notified of his actions. A few days later, McManamon fired Wood and replaced her with a woman who is a Democrat and who had run as a Democratic candidate for clerk in the village of Bloomingdale, the suit states.

Wood claims in her complaint that McManamon’s actions demonstrate a pattern of behavior establishing her allegations that the highway commissioner violated her rights by firing her “in retaliation” for her exercise of free speech in questioning his actions and reporting her suspicions to the engineering firm, as well as her exercise of free association in refusing to become a Democrat.

She has demanded a jury trial and is represented by Wheaton attorney John F. O’Reilly.

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