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Harper v. Fulton County

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 8, 2014

VICTORIA HARPER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
FULTON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, Defendant-Appellee

Argued, February 20, 2014

Page 762

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 10-CV-01423 -- Michael M. Mihm, Judge.

For Victoria Harper, Plaintiff - Appellant: Richard L. Steagall, Nicoara & Steagall, Peoria, IL.

For FULTON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, an Illinois local governmental entity, Defendant - Appellee: Julie A. Bruch, O'Halloran, Kosoff, Geitner & Cook, Llc, Northbrook, IL.

Before EASTERBROOK, MANION, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 763

Manion, Circuit Judge.

After the Fulton County Board voted not to raise the salary of the County Treasurer, Victoria Harper, she filed a ยง 1983 action against the County for sex discrimination. The County moved for summary judgment. After considering Harper's sex discrimination claim under both the direct and indirect methods, the district court concluded that the claim failed as a matter of law, and granted the County's motion for summary judgment. Harper appeals. We affirm.

I. Facts

Victoria Harper has served as County Treasurer for Fulton County, Illinois, since 1994. The County Treasurer is elected and serves a four-year term. See Ill. Const. art. VII, § 4(c); 55 ILCS 5/3-10001.

Page 764

After her election in 1994, Harper was re-elected in 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010. Pursuant to the Illinois Counties Code, the Fulton County Board--a body composed of twenty-one members--is empowered to set the salaries for the County Treasurer, the County Clerk, and other elected officials. See 55 ILCS 5/4-6001. The Board's Finance Committee is composed of five members of the Board and focuses on the County's budget, expenditures, and general financial situation. The Finance Committee makes an initial recommendation to the Board regarding the salaries of the County Treasurer and County Clerk. From 1983-2002, the County Treasurer and County Clerk were paid the same salary. In the early 2000s, Ronald Rumler, the County Clerk, announced his decision to retire. The County Board voted to increase Rumler's salary in order to allow him to receive greater retirement benefits. Thus, from 2003-2006, the County Clerk's salary exceeded the County Treasurer's salary. After Rumler's retirement, the new County Clerk, James Nelson, and the County Treasurer were paid the same salary from 2007-2010.

In the years leading up to 2010, however, disputes arose between Harper and the members of the Finance Committee and the Board. These disputes seem to have prompted the Finance Committee to recommend against increasing the County Treasurer's salary for her term in office commencing in December 2010.[1] At that time, the members of the Finance Committee were Bob Bucher, Steve Conklin, Mat Fletcher, Ed Huggins, and Rob Malott. At its May 11, 2010, meeting, the Board adopted this recommendation by a vote of 10-8. At the same meeting, the Board voted (16-2) to give the County Clerk annual pay raises for the term commencing ...


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