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

OPINION FILED APRIL 7, 1980.

OLIVER CHRISTENSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE COMMISSIONERS OF THE CITY OF OAK FOREST ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



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

MR. JUSTICE O'CONNOR DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 12, 1980.

Plaintiff, Oliver Christenson, was discharged from his position as a captain in the Oak Forest Police Department (department) after a hearing before the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the City of Oak Forest (board). Christenson filed a complaint for administrative review against the board and Alvin E. Lexow, as department police chief, in the circuit court of Cook County. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, pars. 264-279.) The circuit court reversed the board's order as to the penalty of discharge and remanded the cause. Defendants appeal seeking reinstatement of the board's ruling.

The charges brought against Christenson alleged, among other things, that (a) on June 5, 1977, Christenson had driven an Oak Forest police vehicle outside the city limits for nonofficial purposes while on duty and while accompanied by members of his family, and (b) on June 22, 1977, Christenson had lied to the chief of police and, on August 26, 1977, to a polygraph operator acting for the chief concerning the improper use of the police vehicle.

The board adjudged Christenson guilty of these charges and found:

(1) On June 5, 1977, Captain Christenson was on duty and in uniform. Without authority he used a police vehicle to transport himself and members of his family to Balmoral Race Track in Crete, Illinois, for personal reasons concerning caring for his horses. Balmoral is located about 15 miles from Oak Forest. Christenson was outside of effective radio communication with the department while at Balmoral.

(2) On June 22, 1977, Christenson gave Chief Lexow a written explanation of this incident knowing such statement was false.

(3) On August 26, 1977, Christenson gave a true statement concerning the incident to a polygraphist. However, in pretest questioning, he omitted the fact that he had been to the track to attend to his horses earlier on June 5, 1977, while off duty. The board found this omission was intended to mislead the polygraphist and the chief in the investigation.

On January 23, 1979, the circuit court entered an order:

(1) sustaining the board's findings as to guilt;

(2) reversing the board's decision to terminate Christenson as contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence; and

(3) remanding the cause to the board for the imposition of any punishment other than discharge or suspension greater than 120 days.

On February 5, 1979, the circuit court stayed its order pending appeal. On February 20, 1979, defendants appealed from that portion of the circuit court order reversing Christenson's termination as being against the manifest weight of the evidence. Christenson did not cross-appeal.

Accordingly, the question of whether the board's factual findings were contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence is not before us. The sole issue is whether these findings ...


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