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BEFORE THE CIVIC SERVICE BOARD

OF THE METROPOLITAN WATER RECLAMATION DISTRICT


OF GREATER CHICAGO
IN THE MATfER OF:

Case No. 15-03

Denis C. Lawlor

(Discharge)

Police Officer

DECISION
This matter comes before the Civil Service Board (hereinafter the "CSB") of the
Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (hereinafter the "District") on the

Districf s Petition

t.o DisCharge

against him on March 3, 2015.


Employee

Conduct,

Mcr. Denis- Law"fur

(hereinafter <'Lawlor.. ) based. .on charges filed


''

Mr. Lawlor has been charged with violating District Rules for

Administrative

Procedure

10.27.0, Section

3,

Intolerable

Offenses,

Paragraphs c, and e. The CSB considered the pleadings, exhibits, recording and testimony of
District and lllinois State Police employees. Mr. Lavl'lor did not testify nor did he present any
witnesses on his behalf at the hearing.

He did, however, present exhibits in support of his

defense. In consideration of ali the above, the CSB grants the Districfs petition to discharge Mr.
Lav-.rlor from employment with the District.
On September 27, 2011, Lawlor began his employment with the District as a Police
Officer and he attained civil service status in that position on September 27, 2012.

Whiie on

duty during his January 18, 2015 midnight shift, Lawlor engaged in a conversation with District
Probationary P o l i ce Officer Daniel Varallo ('"Varallo") that was broadcast on an Illinois State
Police ("ISP1') radio frequency. ISP recorded their conversation in the normal course of business.
During his fonnal interview and hearing Lawlor admitted, among other things, showing
Officer Varallo the Apartment, and using profane language and making racial slurs. In his
defense, Lawlor stated that the reason he showed Varano the Apartment encouraged him to have

a beer and to sleep during his shift was to test Varallo's integrity and see what kind of Officer he
would make. However, Lawlor admitted he was not assigned to train Varallo nor did he offer
any independent evidence or testimony to support his explanation.
As a pre! iminary matter, on April 7, 2016 Lawlor filed tvvo motions in limine alleging
that his recorded conversation with Varallo be barred claiming it violated the Illinois
Eavesdropping Act, the Federal Wiretapping Act, and tf1e Fourth Amendment. After furT
briefing and oral arguments by both parties, the CSB denied both of Lawlor's motions in limine
to exclude the recording finding, among other things, that there \Vas no eavesdropping device
used; there was no eavesdropper invoTved; the conversation was not private; the recording was
not surreptitious; and the interception was not intentional.
Consequently, a discharge hearing was conducted before the CSB on May 18, 2016; June

15, 2016; July 20, 2016; August 17, 2016; September 14,1016 and September18, 2016, wherein
Mr. Lawlor participated in the hearing with the benefit of legal counsel.

Evidence shows that

while talking to Varallo, Lawlor repeatedly used profanity; he referenced District employees
using racial, ethnic and gender sfurs; and educated Varano how to steep and dr!nk at work
On January 18, 2015 Angela Vandenberg, an ISP Telecommunications specialist, and
Rodney Coll ins, a fonner ISP Sergeant, overheard Lawlor's conversation broadcast over ISP's
North Radio Channel. Both Vandenberg and CoTiins described the communication as an .,..open
mic" incident, wherein the Officer who is transmitting with his engaged microphone blocks and
prevents others from communicating over the same radio channel. The open mic transmission
blocked ISP's radio channel, which created a safety and communication concern for fSP troopers
in the field. After detennining the open mic originated from the MWRD, the MWRD was
quickly notified and soon thereafter so was Lawlor, who immediately stopped the transmission.

.2

According to the ISP recording, Lawlor introduced Varano to the "Apartment" and

infonned him how to drink the alcohol in the Apartment, provided he replaced what he
consumed.. SpecmcaiTy, Lawlor sa1d..,.... so lfyou want to neTp yourseTtto a coupTe F*"*in.,.beers
one night they don't care if you drink it they just say replace, you know, don't fi'**in' take the
last one, you know what I mean?"
Even t11oug1i Lawlor claimed tf1e District knew about the apartment, his recorded
statements indicate otherwise. More specifically, Lawlor said "[no]body knows this is here,
except the guys that have the key, so, they, yeah they hide out here" and" ... I didn't even tell
Jerry, I didn-'t even tell Steve, I dldn"'t teiT anyone eTse cause I dldh't want them to ruin it .. I never
.

even really got around to shO\ving it to Danny (inaudible) because they were still on probation,
you know"; and "So right now only two other people know about this that wear our uniform,
thafs Jerry and Jimmy..,.,._
Moreover, Lawlor told Varallo how to sleep during the midnight shift, wherein he said "I
just set the alam1 on my phone (inaudible) for every F***ing hour and fifty-eight. So I call in at
fifty-nine, go right bad: to f!'"'f-""'in.,. sTeep. After you caTT in at five o"'dock, set that motherJ'*"'f-""'er
for six o'clock, you know so you get up to come and do your f'**ing trunk checks."
Further, regarding being absent andlor not working during District work hours, Lawlor is
heard saying to Varano "LoJur sons nave a game tomorrow at 3, so fm gonna go over there In
f''**in' unifonn while I'm working, you know", and "I'll clock out at five till four and be home
by five after four and we'll on the P**in' highway on the way to the United Center by 4:15 l
hope, ya know?""
It is alam1ing and troubling that Lawlor would characterize his profane statements, and
racial and gender slurs as "water cooler conversations". When making reference to Martin Luther

3-

King Day, Lawlor said "White guys should call it James Earl Ray Day", inferring that the
assassin shoul-dbe recognized and fondly acknowle-dged for his-evil deed: Lavviorused other
racially charged language whenrererencingAfricanA:merieanDis'tr-ietempioyees. For-example,
his statement about African American Laborers include "It was the n'"''er laborers that fi"'''in',
that r"*"ed us." When referencing DistrictPoliceOfficerHowardTeny, who is an African

American, Lawlor-said: "So that-stupid Alabama hill n"'"'*er-is


- going to think Pm the one that's
trying to bring in relief people who cut down my overtime?"
Finally, we fin:d Lawlor's claim of disparate treatment and

acking.

inappropriate discipline

The Di-strict J3resented evidence that the involved DistrictP.ipefiHers were di-sciplined

according to the facts they could prove. More specifically, there was no evidence that the
Pipefitters drank or slept on the job; falsified time logs used profanity: made racial and gender

slurs;

encouraged a probati-onat)'

emp1-oyee-t-o vl.o1atewei'k n:i1es, or v1-o1ated an oath t0 uphoki

District rules. Furtbennore, Varallo probationary status was terminated and was discharged for

misconduct in uSing profanity and racial slurs during

the

"open mic" conversation with La-wlor.

Lawlor's -gross mtscem'fuet -ofs


- Teeptng and,Cfr-tn-K:in-g-onthejclr andencoura-ging another
to do the same; and direct racial and gender slurs at fellow employees warrant discharge:

WH.EREFORE, For these reasons and others, the Board grants the District's petitio n to
discharge Mr. Deni-s C Lawter fiorn-tne-cTass1fie<Fservtee, andterml-nateTrfs en'lpfoyment.

Dated:

November 9, 2016.