Thursday, January 16, 2020

Giving Test Answers to “Wives and Paramours” was not Equal Protection or Due Process Violation

CPD Sgt. Hosea Word took the promotional exam for Lieutenant in 2006 and scored 150th on the promotional list. Unfortunately for him, the Department promoted candidates 1 through 149 during the life of the eligibility list. When he took the promotional test again in 2015, he became suspicious of the integrity of the test when he learned that “wives and paramours” of CPD leadership scored unusually high. For instance, the wife of one member of leadership scored 280th on the previous promotional exam, but as a result of the 2015 testing, she skyrocketed to first on the promotion list.

Certain that test rigging had occurred, Sgt. Word sued the City and CPD, alleging that CPD leadership snuck early test content to their “wives and paramours” resulting in those test-takers scoring very high on the test and receiving undeserved promotions to his detriment. Word alleged that this violated his constitutionally protected right to due process and equal protection and amounted to sex discrimination, among other claims. The court thought otherwise.

In order to bring a claim of a due process violation, a public employee must show that a right to due process was secured by agreement or law. Here, Sgt. Word claimed that the Illinois Municipal Code secured his right to a promotional test that was free of cheating. He cited the following provision in support of his argument:
…[n]o person or officer shall…willfully or corruptly furnish to any person any special or secret information for the purpose of either improving or injuring prospects or chances of any person so examined, or to be examined, being appointed, employed, or promoted. 65 ILCS 5/10-1-26
Additionally, Sgt. Word alleged that he was treated arbitrarily based on his sex because he was not romantically involved with a member of CPD leadership in violation of his right to equal protection and for the same reason was subject to sex discrimination under state and federal law.

While the court acknowledged that the Municipal Code created a prohibition against engaging in favoritism, it did not create a constitutionally protected interest in the test-taking process itself. Without an identified constitutionally protected property interest, Sgt. Word was unable to sustain a violation of a constitutional right. Along with no identifiable constitutional right to a test process free of favoritism, the court found that he also could not sustain a violation of his right to equal protection or show sex discrimination. The court found that Sgt. Word could not show that he was intentionally treated differently based on his sex. Noting that favoritism resulting from personal relationships disadvantages all others equally, not a particular sex, the court found that Sgt. Word could not show that he was the subject of sex discrimination because he was male.