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Jansen v. Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund

APRIL 19, 1965.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Adams County; the Hon. MAURICE E. BARNES, Judge, presiding. The judgment of the trial court is reversed and this cause remanded to the Circuit Court of Adams County, with directions to enter judgment for the defendants.


The defendants, Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and its Board of Trustees, appeal from the judgment of the trial court entered following proceedings under the Administrative Review Act.

The City of Quincy became a participant in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund effective July 1, 1942. The decedent, Frank A. Jansen, had been an employee of the Water Commission of that City for some years prior to the date of participation and he remained an employee of the City of Quincy, making contributions to the Fund from January 1, 1942 through September 30, 1961, except that for a period of approximately a year he drew a disability benefit from the Fund. On October 10, 1961, Frank A. Jansen, then 62 years of age, filed application for disability benefits with the Fund. It appears that the disability benefit that he would have been entitled to was less than the retirement annuity for which he then qualified. The statute relating to disability benefits then applicable (Ill Rev Stats 1961, c 24, § 1186(a)), provided that a participating employee less than 65 years of age, who had contributed to the Fund during at least one year of service immediately preceding disability, or who had other specified credits, should be entitled to disability benefits, in the language:

"3. Such benefits shall continue during the period of disability until the beginning of the day upon which the first of the following occurs. . . .

(e) Attainment of age sixty-five (65).

(f) The amount of retirement annuity, to which such employee would immediately be entitled from accumulation of normal, municipal and prior service credits, if separated from the service, equals the amount of the disability benefit."

The defendants advised the City of Quincy that under the provisions set out, the disability could not be paid to Frank A. Jansen since the retirement annuity was greater in amount than the disability benefit.

Thereafter, on October 18, 1961, Frank A. Jansen applied, in writing, for his retirement annuity and as of the same date the Fund was notified of his termination of employment through retirement. On November 8, 1961, Frank A. Jansen was advised of the amounts payable under his options as to the type of annuity and, on or about November 15, 1961, he advised the Fund of his election to receive a monthly level income annuity. Payment of the retirement annuity began effective October 1, 1961, and continued until his death on June 26, 1962. On August 29, 1962, the plaintiff, who had properly been designated as beneficiary of Frank A. Jansen, made application for death benefits. The Board computed the death benefit upon the basis of the retirement annuity, as provided by statute, and tendered a check to the plaintiff in the sum of $567.22. Plaintiff refused such tender and requested a death benefit upon the basis that Frank A. Jansen was entitled to and should have been receiving disability benefits. Upon this theory, after allowing for benefits received, the amount claimed due was the sum of $4460.26. The defendants refused to pay the death benefit computed as if Frank A. Jansen had been in an employment status on the date of his death and receiving disability benefits. Thereafter, on May 29, 1963, plaintiff, Jerome J. Jansen, individually and as administrator of the Estate of Frank A. Jansen, deceased, brought action for administrative review against the defendants. The circuit court entered judgment for $4460.26.

Plaintiff in his claim relies upon a section of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (Ill Rev Stats 1961, c 24, § 1183) in the following language:

"No provision of this Act shall operate to cause compulsory retirement of any employee, nor to give any employee any specific right to remain in service. Separations and retirements from the service of a municipality or participating instrumentality shall be made in accordance with the currently existing practices of the respective municipalities and participating instrumentalities."

By a letter dated August 20, 1962, the Water Works Commission of the City of Quincy had advised the defendants, amongst other things, that "There is no provision that the employee has to retire at any time."

The substance of plaintiff's argument is that by following the statutory requirements set out, the defendants compelled Frank A. Jansen to retire contrary to the then existing practice, or absence of practice, of the Water Works Commission of the City of Quincy in violation of the quoted sec 1183. Plaintiff further argues that sec 1186 under which the defendants determined that a retirement annuity to Frank A. Jansen was proper under the statute, was repealed effective July 1, 1962, which chanced to be five days after the death of Frank A. Jansen.

In considering plaintiff's theory, it is noted that plaintiff's argument points out that Frank A. Jansen received a somewhat greater sum of money through his retirement annuity than he would have received upon a disability benefit, and this seems to be the clear intent of the statute. Whatever the nature of the disability of Frank A. Jansen, we find upon examination of the act in question that his acceptance of the retirement benefit as administered by the defendant did not commit him irrevocably to retirement. On the contrary, par (d) of sec 1184 of the statute in question, specifically contemplates that one receiving a retirement annuity may again become an employee. His annuity will be suspended during such employment, but upon ceasing to be employed, he may again receive his retirement annuity augmented by service and credits earned through his later employment. The record discloses that the Water Works Commission was aware of the possibility of future employment by reason of sec 1184, for in its letter dated October 18, 1961, transmitting the application for retirement benefits in behalf of Frank A. Jansen, there is inquiry concerning the nature of future retirement benefits should decedent return to work. The record is not clear whether such inquiry was made in behalf of Frank A. Jansen.

The nature of the act creating the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund was discussed by the Supreme Court in People ex rel. Schuwerk v. Illinois Municipal ...

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