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Former Chief of Independent Police Review Authority Wins on Whistleblower Retaliation Claim

Gair Eberhard Dedinas Nelson Ltd. (working together with the Chicago Corporation Counsel) won summary judgment for its client, Sharon Fairley, a law professor at the University of Chicago and former chief of the Chicago Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) on a claim for alleged retaliation against a supposed whistleblower. Lett v. City of Chicago and Fairley.

Professor Fairley had been brought in to reform IPRA and professionalize its investigations. Kelvin Lett was an investigator assigned to a police shooting. Lett falsely claimed that Fairley told Lett to report that the police had planted a gun on the shooting “victim.” In fact, Fairley had concluded that the “victim” had in fact had a gun and had pointed it at responding police officers and that the shooting by the officers was justified. Contrary to Lett’s fabricated story, Fairley directed Lett to obtain further evidence to reject the offender’s theory that the gun had been planted by police, and following Fairley’s suggestion, Lett obtained court records showing that the offender had pled guilty to both possessing the gun and assaulting the officers by pointing it at them.

Lett was eventually fired by the City after an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General concluded that he had committed misconduct in an unrelated investigation. He then sued Fairley and the City for claimed whistleblower retaliation, citing in his claim that he’d been told to lie in the investigative regarding the shooting.

After extensive discovery, including the firm obtaining key admissions by Lett in his deposition, Judge Sherlock granted summary judgment to both Fairley and the City. The Court found that there was no triable issue of fact and that, as a matter of law, Lett was fired for his unrelated misconduct.

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