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Rizzo v. Board of Fire & Police Commrs.

DECEMBER 2, 1970.

ERNEST D. RIZZO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE COMMISSIONERS OF THE VILLAGE OF FRANKLIN PARK ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD J. EGAN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DRUCKER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT AS MODIFIED ON DENIAL OF PETITION FOR REHEARING:

Rehearing denied January 22, 1971.

Plaintiff appeals from a judgment which affirmed a finding and decision of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the Village of Franklin Park (hereinafter "Board") that plaintiff be removed and discharged as a police officer of Franklin Park and which found that plaintiff had received a fair and impartial hearing before the Board. On appeal plaintiff contends (1) that the decision of the Board was arbitrary and capricious and against the manifest weight of the evidence and (2) that the hearings conducted by the Board were not fair, reasonable or impartial.

The following facts are summarized from the hearings held before the Board on January 30, February 28, July 18, and July 26, 1968. On November 11, 1966, a patrolman from the Northlake Police Department found a 1967 Chevrolet serial number 164877F113850 on fire. The car was owned by Avis Rent A Car System (hereinafter "Avis"). Both the interior and exterior of the car were burned beyond drivable conditions.

Plaintiff testified that "a couple of days" prior to December 5, 1966, the plaintiff saw a 1967 white Chevrolet advertised for sale at a gas station, *fn1 and that he contacted the owner of the car, one John Campell, who agreed to sell the car to the plaintiff for $2,295. Plaintiff made a down payment of $15 and received a receipt for this payment signed by John Campell. About the middle of December 1966 the plaintiff, at the request of Campell, purchased from Avis the burned 1967 Chevrolet serial number ending in 3850. Plaintiff paid $375 in cash to Avis for the car and gave the title in blank to Campell for $400. Plaintiff had no idea what Campell did with the car.

The title for the burned 1967 Chevrolet serial number ending in 3850 was issued by the Secretary of State to a John Campell. The title shows the date of purchase as December 12, 1966.

On December 21, 1966, the plaintiff paid the balance on the white 1967 Chevrolet to John Campell. He received a receipt reciting payment of $2,280 by plaintiff for purchase of Campell's white 1967 Chevrolet serial number ending in 3850 (the burned car) signed by John Campell. However, Campell gave plaintiff a title for a 1956 Chevrolet serial number ending in 3850. The assignment of title was notarized December 22, 1966.

On December 22, 1966, the plaintiff made an application for certificate of title for the white 1967 Chevrolet serial number ending in 3850. However, the application was cancelled for correction since it read 1956 and not 1967. Plaintiff then applied for a corrected motor vehicle title. On January 5, 1967, title for a 1967 Chevrolet serial number ending in 3850 was issued by the Secretary of State to the plaintiff.

In October 1967 Avis reported to the Chicago Police Department that one of its cars, a white 1967 Chevrolet serial number 164877J114806 had been misplaced, rented to another person or stolen as of December 16, 1966. Also in October 1967 the acting Chief of Police of the Franklin Park Police Department, William W. Zahn, started an investigation upon receiving certain information with reference to plaintiff's operation of a 1967 motor vehicle.

The plaintiff was driving the 1967 Chevrolet from December 1966 until January 11, 1968, when he traded it in at Edwards Chevrolet. An investigation of the 1967 Chevrolet traded in by plaintiff disclosed that the serial number on the door plate ended in 3850 but that the true serial number had been concealed. On further investigation it was learned that the true serial number ended in 4806, which was the serial number of the missing car. The vehicle was immediately impounded. Upon receiving this information Chief Zahn signed a complaint seeking plaintiff's discharge from the Franklin Park Police force. The charges against the plaintiff included a charge of conduct unbecoming a police officer.

On January 13, 1968, the plaintiff was served with a notice of hearing before the Board and a copy of the written charges filed against him.

An employee of Avis testified that on January 16, 1968, he received a phone call from a man who said he was Mr. Campell. The man on the phone stated that it was possible he would be implicated in a case and would like to buy the title for the white 1967 Chevrolet serial number ending in 4806. The employee stated that he would sell the car and quoted the caller a price. When the alleged Mr. Campell came into Avis the employee told him he would have to get the car released from Franklin Park or the State, whoever was holding it. Campell paid $1,950 in cash and the certificate of title was given to him. Title was in Avis from October 4, 1966, when it purchased the car, until it sold the car on January 16, 1968, to Mr. Campell.

A certificate of title was issued to John Campell on January 24, 1968, and on the reverse side title to the 1967 Chevrolet serial number ending in 4806 was assigned to the plaintiff on February 5, 1968.

Officer John LaGioia testified at the hearing that on February 8, 1968, he received a phone call. The caller did not identify himself but LaGioia recognized the voice as that of the plaintiff. Chief Zahn, listening on an extension phone, also recognized the voice as that of the plaintiff. The plaintiff asked LaGioia if he was still looking for John Campell and when LaGioia said that he was, a meeting was arranged at the Franklin Park Police Station. LaGioia stated that Campell should "come in with the ...


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