On September 14, 2015 the Second District Appellate Court issued its Rule 23 Order in The Village of Vernon Hills v. Village of Vernon Hills Police Pension Fund, et al.
A police officer injured his knee while trying to break up a fight on duty and applied for a line of duty disability pension. The Village moved to intervene. The Pension Board granted the Village’s motion to intervene. The Pension Board then granted the police officer’s application. The Village filed a complaint for administrative review. The trial court and the appellate court affirmed the Pension Board’s decision.
After the officer was injured and before he applied for a disability pension, the Village assigned the officer to an investigative position and indicated that the officer would only have to perform in accordance with his FCE’s limitations. Among other things, the job description for the investigative position required the officer to apprehend suspects. The officer was only able to work for 4 hours per day and was using 4 hours of benefit time so that he received full pay. The Pension Board’s 3 IME providers concluded the officer could not perform patrol duties. However, the IME providers concluded the officer could perform the investigative position if the officer was not required to run, jump, or to apprehend suspects.
The appellate court held that the Pension Board’s decision was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. A police officer is not disabled if there is an existing full time light duty position within the police service that the police officer can perform. Additionally, the municipality must actually offer the position to the police officer. The position must be comparable in conditions, compensation, and tenure to the position the officer previously performed. The appellate court held that there was evidence to support the Pension Board’s decision that the officer could not perform full duty or the light duty investigative position. Notably, evidence supported the Pension Board’s position that the officer could not apprehend a suspect which was a condition of the investigative position. The appellate court held that the officer’s light duty position was available at the “convenience” of the police chief.
The appellate court rejected the Village’s argument that the Pension Board applied the incorrect legal standard or that it improperly shifted the burden of proof. The appellate court rejected the Village’s argument that the Pension Board improperly admitted hearsay evidence. The appellate court held that the Village forfeited the argument and failed to cite authority in support of its argument. The appellate court rejected the Village’s argument that the Pension Board improperly limited discovery. Again, the Village forfeited the argument by failing to cite authority in support of its argument and by failing to provide a complete record to the appellate court. Finally, the appellate court rejected the Village’s argument that the Pension Board erred in striking the Village’s motions to recuse a trustee and disqualify the officer’s attorney. The appellate court held that the Pension Board lacked the legal authority to disqualify an attorney.