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Woolfolk v. Bd. of Fire & Police Comm'rs

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 30, 1979.

RONALD WOOLFOLK ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

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



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE WILSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiffs appeal the order of the trial court granting defendants' motion for summary judgment in an action seeking the reconstitution of the village of Robbins police force which had been abolished by village officials. They contend that genuine issues of material facts existed on whether the abolition of the police force constituted a mere ploy to avoid the Illinois statutes governing due process procedure for the dismissal of municipal policemen. We affirm.

Plaintiffs, several police officers with the village of Robbins (village) police department, lost their jobs on March 1, 1978. They filed suit in two counts claiming in count I that the defendant village administrator "without any lawful or reasonable cause and without legal right or authority, discharged * * * [them] and refused to permit them to work at any time subsequent to March 7, 1978 * * *." They stated that such action by the administrator constituted an attempt to usurp the authority of the defendant village board of fire and police commissioners which was the body charged with the sole power to remove or discharge the police officers. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 24, par. 10-2.1-17.

Plaintiffs attached to its complaint a March 3 letter and a March 4 memorandum as evidence of the unlawful action of the administrator. The March 3 letter, which was addressed to the police department among others, provided in pertinent part:

"Pursuant to the powers invested in me as Village Administrator, I declare that the public safety in the Village of Robbins to be in a state of emergency. Therefore, I have recommended to the Board of Trustees that the following measures be taken (these have been approved by the Board):

1. The Robbins Police Department and Police Commission Board as presently structured will be abolished and current (regular) police personnel will be PLACED ON FURLOUGH WITH PAY until such time as an acceptable Reorganization Plan can be developed and approved by the Mayor and Board of Trustees. This will be done as expeditiously as possible. The Fire Commission Board function will remain intact.

2. Police Services will be provided on a contract basis for a period not to exceed one year.

Several officers have served the Village of Robbins police force commendably. We will make every attempt to utilize their skills in the future."

The March 4 memorandum, also addressed to the police department, explained the effect of the abolition of the force and reiterated that the officers would have furlough status and that the village had made provisions for other police service. Plaintiffs claim that as a result of the actions of the administrator they were "removed" from the force and as such ought to have been provided with certain due process safeguards, including notice and a hearing. They ask that the action of the administrator be reviewed as an administrative decision so that it may be reversed and set aside.

In count II, they claimed that three ordinances passed by the defendant village board of trustees violated provisions of the Illinois Municipal Code (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 24, par. 10-2.1-1 et seq.). First, they claimed that Ordinance No. 3-1-78, which was passed on March 1, 1978, and entitled "An Ordinance Abolishing the Robbins Police Department and Establishing Contract Police and Safety Services," violated section 10-2.1-17 of the Code since the ordinance resulted in a "removal" of the officers from the department without first affording them procedural rights guaranteed by section 10-2.1-17 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 24, par. 10-2.1-17). Plaintiffs stated that the passing of this ordinance was a mere guise employed to circumvent the procedural safeguards of section 10-2.1-17. Next, plaintiffs claimed that Ordinance No. 5-8-78, which was passed on May 8, 1978, and entitled "An Ordinance Revising the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners," violated the requirements of the Code, particularly sections 10-2.1-17 and 10-2.1-18 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 24, par. 10-2.1-18). Although not clear from the pleadings, they apparently stated that the ordinance violated 10-2.1-18 because after the supposed abolition of the force, new officers were hired to carry on police functions without first affording plaintiffs a right to priority reinstatement as guaranteed by section 10-2.1-18. They apparently state that the ordinance violated section 10-2.1-17 because it is further proof that the defendants' intent from the very start was to "remove" plaintiffs from the department without first affording them due process rights. Last, plaintiffs apparently claimed that Ordinance No. 5-8-78A, which was also passed on May 8, 1978, entitled "An Ordinance Creating a Department of Public Safety," violated section 10-2.1-17 also because it proves that the defendants' original intent was to "remove" plaintiffs from the department without first affording them their section 10-2.1-17 rights.

Defendants' answer denied that the actions of the administrator were unlawful and stated affirmatively that plaintiffs had lost their positions in the department as a result of the abolition of the department by Ordinance No. 3-1-78 and not as a result of any discharge or removal by the administrator. The answer also denied that any of the ordinances violated any of the statutory sections cited by plaintiffs and denied that any person had been hired to replace any of the plaintiffs. The answer admitted that defendants had entered into a one year contract with the Cook County sheriff's police in which the sheriff's police had agreed to provide all personnel, facilities, and equipment necessary to render police service for the village.

On May 26, 1978, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment and an accompanying affidavit claiming that no genuine issue of material fact existed as to either count I or count II of plaintiffs' complaint. They stated that there was no genuine issue as to count I because the decision to abolish the police department was a legislative decision, as evidenced by Ordinance No. 3-1-78, and as such not reviewable under the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq). They stated that there was no genuine issue as to count II because plaintiffs did not allege any recognizable basis for finding the ordinances unlawful. The affidavit of defendants' attorney stated that no persons had been hired to replace the furloughed plaintiffs and that the Cook County sheriff's police were then providing police service pursuant to a one-year contract, the cost of which was being paid by a Federal grant. Plaintiffs filed a response which essentially repeated the allegations of their complaint. Additionally, they filed an affidavit of one of the plaintiffs in which the plaintiff stated that to his direct knowledge village police functions were then being carried on by officers other than plaintiffs.

On June 14, 1978, the trial court granted defendants' motion for a summary judgment. ...


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