EAST CHICAGO | Manuel Montalvo’s lawsuit against Mayor Anthony Copeland claiming he was illegally fired from his job as the city’s library director unraveled Thursday.
Magistrate Judge Paul R. Cherry ruled Montalvo’s First Amendment claim did not legally protect him from being fired from the position. Cherry also ruled that Montalvo’s 14th Amendment claim, that he was denied due process in the course of his firing, was factually insufficient as presented. However, Cherry gave Montalvo until Nov. 27 to file an amended complaint on the 14th Amendment issue.
Montalvo claimed Copeland replaced East Chicago Library Board members with those who would agree to fire Montalvo, and he subsequently lost his job. He argued the reasons the board gave him for his termination were pretext for violating his rights under the First and 14th amendments.
The lawsuit contended his firing was politically motivated over his public support of former Mayor George Pabey, who beat Copeland in the city’s 2007 mayoral primary election. Pabey is currently serving time in federal prison stemming from his 2010 conviction for conspiracy and embezzling public funds.
Montalvo avoided prison time himself when he was sentenced Nov. 5 in federal court to 24 months probation for providing false information on his 2009 tax return. He was accused of falsely listing business and medical expenses for which the library board already had reimbursed him. As part of his plea deal, Montalvo is confined to home detention for four months.