PETERSON v. VILLAGE OF OAK BROOK

On December 13, 2013 the Second District Appellate Court issued its Rule 23 Order in Peterson v. Village of Oak Brook, et al. upholding the Oak Brook Board of Fire and Police Commissioners’ decision to discharge Stephen Peterson from his position as a police officer.  Stephen Peterson is the son of former police officer Drew Peterson who was convicted of murder.  The BFPC found that Stephen had obstructed justice when he assisted his father who was under investigation for murder.

EDWARDS v. ADDISON FIREFIGHTERS’ PENSION BOARD

On December 9, 2013 the Second District Appellate Court issued its Opinion in Edwards v. Board of Trustees of the Addison Fire Protection District Firefighters’ Pension Fund.  The plaintiff filed an application for a line of duty disability pension as a result of a latex allergy. The Pension Board denied the application.  The trial court affirmed the Pension Board’s decision and the plaintiff appealed.  The Appellate court affirmed the Pension Board’ decision.

The Fire Protection District sought to terminate the plaintiff’s employment as a firefighter because she had developed a latex allergy.  The plaintiff subsequently applied for a line of duty disability pension.  The plaintiff had never missed any work as a firefighter as a result of her sensitivity to latex until the District placed the plaintiff on administrative leave. A number of Pension Board doctors and a number of District doctors concluded the plaintiff was disabled.  However one Pension Board doctor and one District doctor concluded the plaintiff was not disabled.  The Pension Board’s decision concluded that the plaintiff was not permanently disabled within the meaning of the Pension Code because it had not lasted for a continuous period of 12 months and it never prevented her from performing firefighting duties.

The Appellate Court held that the record contained evidence to support the Pension Board’s decision. Notably, the record contained no evidence to demonstrate that the plaintiff had missed any work due to her alleged allergy.  Furthermore, the plaintiff’s complaint before the Department of Human Rights alleged that her disability was unrelated to her ability to perform the essential functions of her job.

The Appellate Court took serious issue with the plaintiff’s arguments writing “falsely attributing testimony and exaggerating other testimony is not proper argument and merits no consideration.”  The Appellate Court also held that the plaintiff’s argument that the Pension Board was required to give more weight to the District’s interpretation of its doctors’ reports was a non sequitur.  The Appellate Court also commented on the plaintiff’s counsel’s sleight of hand and called the actions sanctionable.

Most importantly in this case, the Appellate Court affirmed its previous holding in Dowrick v. Village of Downers Grove that it is not inconsistent for a municipality to find a person unfit for duty and for the pension board to also find the person not disabled.  “The legislature set a lower bar for a municipality seeking to discharge an unfit firefighter than for a firefighter to obtain a disability pension, and committed the decisions to separate agencies with separate missions.”

PETERSON v. VILLAGE OF OAK BROOK

On December 2, 2013 the Second District Appellate Court heard oral argument in Peterson v. Village of Oak Brook.  The plaintiff is the son of former police officer Drew Peterson who was convicted of murdering his ex-wife.  The Village of Oak Brook subsequently fired the plaintiff from his job as a police officer for alleged misconduct involving the concealment of evidence related to his father’s case.  The trial court affirmed the Village’s decision.

SCEPUREK v. NORTHBROOK FIREFIGHTERS’ PENSION FUND

On December 3, 2013 the First District Appellate Court heard oral argument in Scepurek v. Board of Trustees of the Northbrook Firefighters’ Pension Fund.  The Pension Board denied the plaintiff’s application for a line of duty disability pension.  The trial court affirmed the Pension Board’s decision.  The issue in the case is whether the Pension Board’s decision with respect to causation was against the manifest weight of the evidence.   The appellate court took issue with the Pension Board’s decision to reject the opinions of its three physicians who concluded that an act of duty either did or could have caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s disability and to instead rely on observations it made of the plaintiff during the hearing.  The appellate court also took issue with the Pension Board’s findings based on its visual observations of the plaintiff during his disability hearing.  The appellate court appears strongly inclined to reverse the Pension Board’s decision.

** ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE PASSES PENSION REFORM BILL **

At approximately 4:30 p.m. on December 3, 2013 the Illinois Legislature passed Conference Committee Report Number 1 to SB-1.  The bill passed the House 62-53 and Senate 30-24.  In order to pass, the bill needed 60 votes in the House and 30 votes in the Senate

PGM will provide a comprehensive overview of the new law which will become effective on June 1, 2014.

Illinois Lawmakers Approve Major Pension Overhaul