APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR
L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE O'CONNOR DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This consolidated appeal involves the dismissal of plaintiff-appellant, Lieutenant William Basketfield, from the Chicago Police Department. Two orders of the circuit court of Cook County are before this court for review: (1) an order entered in an action for administrative review affirming the decision of the Police Board of the City of Chicago discharging Basketfield; and (2) an order dismissing Basketfield's complaint for declaratory judgment for failure to state a cause of action. This complaint alleged that inordinate delay by the Police Board violated Basketfield's right to due process of law.
A number of charges were brought against Lieutenant Basketfield pertaining to the recovery of tires on October 19, 1967, by Walsh and Murray, two officers under Basketfield's command. Allegations of misconduct concerned Basketfield's involvement in the tire recovery and his investigation of possible wrongdoing by his subordinates. On March 20, 1969, after a hearing on these charges, the Police Board ordered his discharge. On administrative review, the circuit court of Cook County reversed the decision of the Police Board and the appellate court affirmed the circuit court, one justice dissenting. (Basketfield v. Police Board (1972), 6 Ill. App.3d 370, 285 N.E.2d 801.) The Illinois Supreme Court granted leave to appeal and subsequently affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded the cause with directions to the Police Board. Basketfield v. Police Board (1974), 56 Ill.2d 351, 307 N.E.2d 371.
The facts pertaining to the charges against Basketfield are set forth in the supreme court opinion and will be repeated here only as needed to resolve this appeal. The supreme court found that the most serious charges brought against Basketfield were not proved and that, with respect to the following charges, the decision of the Police Board was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence:
(1) Basketfield committed an unlawful act by obtaining unauthorized control of the tires with the intent to deprive the owner of these items;
(2) he was guilty of official misconduct for his actions as heretofore specified;
(3) he conspired with Walsh and Murray to gain unauthorized control of the tires;
(4) he rendered a false report of the incident in an official report given on November 4, 1967; and
(5) he failed to promptly notify superior officers of the misconduct of the members of his command.
(56 Ill.2d 351, 360, 307 N.E.2d 371, 376.) However, the court determined that: "The Police Board findings that Basketfield failed to conduct a proper investigation pursuant to applicable police regulations and failed to comply with an order of his superior regarding such matter may be sustained by the evidence." (56 Ill.2d 351, 360, 307 N.E.2d 371, 376.) Accordingly, the cause was remanded to the Police Board with the following directions:
"The most serious charges cannot be sustained, and in fundamental fairness we believe that the sanction imposed in this instance might well differ were only the charges that have been sustained the basis for disciplinary action. We therefore remand the matter to the Police Board to reconsider the appropriate disciplinary action to be taken against Basketfield who, since he became a police officer in 1953, had no prior complaints concerning the performance of his duties." 56 Ill.2d 351, 361, 307 N.E.2d 371, 376.
On August 9, 1974, upon remand, the Police Board sustained and reaffirmed its decision discharging Lieutenant Basketfield from the Chicago Police Department. This decision was based solely upon the Board's review of the record in the original discharge proceeding without affording Basketfield a new hearing.
On August 29, 1974, Basketfield filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County for administrative review. The circuit court interpreted the supreme court's direction to "reconsider" as a mandate to conduct a new hearing as well as reconsider the record. Accordingly, on March 27, 1975, the cause was again remanded to the Police Board.
On January 5, 1976, a hearing to supplement the original record was conducted. Basketfield undertook a twofold approach at the hearing: (1) presentation of character witnesses who vouched for his excellent reputation as a police officer; and (2) an attempt to introduce evidence of disparities in punishment accorded another officer whose misconduct was similar. Five character witnesses offered substantially similar testimony that was neither impeached nor contradicted. All the witnesses knew Basketfield well and for sufficient duration to offer reliable opinions. Basketfield's general reputation in the Chicago Police Department for honesty and integrity prior to October 19, 1967 (the day the incident began), was excellent. Moreover, before this date Basketfield consistently complied with all rules and regulations of ...