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Ragano v. Illinois Civil Service Com.

OPINION FILED JANUARY 22, 1980.

PAUL RAGANO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ILLINOIS CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. RICHARD L. CURRY, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE PERLIN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Paul Ragano, filed a complaint in the circuit court of Cook County pursuant to the provisions of the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.) to obtain review of the decision rendered by the Civil Service Commission (hereinafter referred to as the Commission) which discharged him from his employment with the Department of Registration and Education (hereinafter referred to as the Department). The circuit court reversed the decision of the Commission. The Commission and the Department appeal. The dispositive question presented for review is whether Ragano was denied a timely hearing and speedy adjudication of the disciplinary charges against him.

For the reasons hereinafter set forth, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

Ragano was employed as a Licensing Specialist II *fn1 by the Department. On March 10, 1976, Ragano was charged in a seven-count Federal indictment with conspiracy, use of the United States mail "to obtain money and property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses" and travel in interstate commerce "with the intent to promote * * * and facilitate the promotion * * * of an unlawful activity." On March 16, 1976, the Department initiated discharge proceedings against Ragano charging him with "conspiring to obtain money and property through the [United States mail]" and "traveling in interstate commerce to promote bribery." These charges for discharge were approved by the Director of Personnel on March 26, 1976, and were received by Ragano on March 30, 1976. On April 1, 1976, Ragano requested a hearing on these charges. The Commission scheduled a hearing for April 26, 1976, and a hearing was in fact convened on that date.

At the April 26, 1976, hearing the sole evidence introduced by the Department in support of the charges for discharge was evidence that Ragano had been indicted. The Department explained that it was unable to introduce any evidence in support of the charges for discharge because the United States Attorney would not relinquish, prior to the Federal criminal trial, any evidence for use in the Commission hearing. On June 7, 1976, the hearing officer, Linda West Conley (hereinafter referred to as Conley), recommended that:

"In view of the fact that [the Department] was unable to present facts in support of the charges for discharge due to inability to obtain those facts because of the pending criminal matter, it is the Hearing Officer's recommendation that the Civil Service Commission remand this case for a hearing, the hearing date to be scheduled as soon as the United States Attorney's Office will relinquish such information for use in a Civil Service Commission hearing."

On June 16, 1976, the Commission "remanded" the cause to the hearing officer "for additional hearings to be held at such time as [the Department] will be able to present evidence in support of the charges for discharge."

Ragano's trial on the Federal criminal charges commenced on July 12, 1976, and terminated with a jury verdict of not guilty on July 16, 1976. On August 24, 1976, Ragano filed a motion to dismiss the charges for discharge based upon his acquittal of the criminal charges. On September 3, 1976, the Department advised Conley that it would seek to amend the charges for discharge, based upon the transcript of the Federal criminal trial, "to allege the specific conduct which forms the basis for discharge." The Department further advised Conley that the transcript had been ordered by the Department but had not yet been received. On September 24, 1976, Ragano filed a supplemental motion to dismiss the charges for discharge contending that the Commission had been divested of its "jurisdiction" because it had failed to grant a hearing within 30 days of Ragano's April 1, 1976, request for a hearing.

The transcript of Ragano's trial on the criminal charges was filed in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on October 1, 1976. *fn2 On November 17, 1976, the Commission denied Ragano's motions to dismiss and granted the Department leave to file amended charges. The amended charges were filed on December 6, 1976, and read as follows:

"Paul Ragano is discharged for cause, that cause being having solicited and accepted $100.00 from Betty Aiello for having arranged a meeting with Pat DiCostanzo, in order to allegedly assist with problems of receiving a license from the Department of Registration and Education, which activity is in violation of the Rules and Regulations of the Department of Registration and Education, promulgated on October 1, 1974."

The Commission scheduled a hearing for January 14, 1977. The Commission thereafter rescheduled the January 14, 1977, hearing to January 28, 1977, because January 14, 1977, had been declared a State holiday. The hearing was then continued to February 18, 1977, at the request of Ragano's attorney who was to be out of town on January 28, 1977. On February 15, 1977, the Department requested a continuance which was denied at the hearing on February 18, 1977.

The February 18, 1977, hearing was convened before hearing officer Larry Gehman (hereinafter referred to as Gehman). The evidence introduced by the Department consisted of the certified transcript of Ragano's testimony at the Federal trial, a copy of the Rules and Regulations of the Department, and the testimony of two Department employees. The testimony of these employees revealed that Ragano knew the acceptance of gratuities was strictly prohibited. The transcript of Ragano's testimony at his Federal criminal trial disclosed that he had received $100 from a license applicant to arrange a meeting with a "consultant." *fn3

Gehman found that the written charges were proved and warranted the discharge of Ragano. Gehman entered his findings and recommendation on March 28, 1977. On April 20, 1977, the Commission concurred in and adopted Gehman's findings and recommendation.

On May 26, 1977, Ragano filed an action in the circuit court of Cook County seeking review of the Commission's decision. The circuit court ...


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