based upon custom and practice, as supplemented by periodic
memoranda issued by the Chief of Police. One such memorandum,
dated August 19, 1974, directed that the City Treasurer
compensate all members of the Northlake Police Department at the
rate of time and one-half for overtime work.
The plaintiffs claim that the ordinance in question is
unconstitutional for three reasons: (a) because it purportedly
deprives them of a protected property interest, in violation of
the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments;
(b) because it impermissibly impairs a contractual obligation
owed by the City to the police officers, in violation of the
Contract Clause; and (c) because the ordinance constitutes an ex
post facto law. Of most significance with respect to these
contentions is the question of whether the plaintiffs had any
protected property interest in the continued receipt of longevity
pay increases and time and one-half overtime compensation. In
this regard, the issue presented is whether, under Illinois law,
the above-noted 1966 ordinance and/or 1974 memorandum created in
the plaintiffs a protected property interest which was violated
by passage of the 1978 ordinance.
For due process purposes, to have a cognizable property
interest in governmental benefits it is not enough that the
claimant has a demonstrated need for such benefits; rather he
must have a legitimate claim of entitlement to them.
Confederation of Police v. City of Chicago, 481 F. Supp. 566, 569
(N.D.Ill. 1980). Such an entitlement may stem from a state law
conferring the benefit in issue, or from rules or mutually
explicit understandings which would support the claim presented.
Id. at 569. Regarding this question, the plaintiffs claim that
the 1966 ordinance and 1974 memorandum both are sufficient
support for a claim of entitlement. The sufficiency of this
contention, however, must be decided by reference to state law.
Bishop v. Wood, 426 U.S. 341, 96 S.Ct. 2074, 48 L.Ed.2d 684
Under Illinois law, it is well settled that public employees do
not have a property interest in the continued application of any
specific rate or method of compensation. Chicago Patrolmen's
Ass'n v. City of Chicago, 56 Ill.2d 503, 508, 309 N.E.2d 3
(1974). Unless it can be shown that the legislative act in issue
will operate to deny to the plaintiff compensation for services
rendered prior to the enactment's effective date, there can be no
basis for finding that the enactment violates due process. Jordan
v. Metropolitan Sanitary District, 15 Ill.2d 369, 155 N.E.2d 297
(1958). In the present case, under the terms of the 1978
ordinance passed by the Northlake City Council, all of the
longevity increases that had accrued while the 1966 ordinance was
in effect were to be prorated as of the date of repeal and added
to the employee's base pay. Similarly, payment of overtime at the
rate of time and one-half was to be continued until the effective
date of the 1978 ordinance. That being so, under Illinois law the
1978 statute did not deprive the plaintiffs of any property
rights arising from the 1966 ordinance or 1974 memorandum.
The 1966 ordinance and the 1974 memorandum, standing alone,
thus did not create in the plaintiff police officers any property
interests cognizable under the due process clause. The
plaintiffs, though, also argue that, through those acts, a
contractual relationship was established between the parties
which created in the officers a protected property interest in
the continued receipt of all of the contractually provided for
benefits. If such a contractual relationship could in fact be
demonstrated, the plaintiffs' argument in this respect would have
merit. For the reasons stated below, however, the court finds
that no valid contract existed between the parties.
To determine whether a contract existed between the parties,
the 1966 ordinance and the 1974 memorandum both must be examined.
As to whether the 1966 ordinance gave rise to such a contractual
relationship, the rules of statutory construction must be
applied. See City of East St. Louis v. Union Electric Co.,
37 Ill.2d 537, 229 N.E.2d 522
(1967). Whether a statute creates contractual rights is to a
great extent dependent upon the language used. In re Application
of Skidmore, 75 Ill.2d 33, 25 Ill.Dec. 634, 387 N.E.2d 290
(1979). When the legislative act in question is one fixing
salaries for public employees, however, there is a presumption
that the statute was not meant or intended to create private
contractual rights, but rather was intended merely to declare a
policy to be pursued until the legislature declared otherwise.
Dodge v. Board of Education of Chicago, 302 U.S. 74, 58 S.Ct. 98,
82 L.Ed. 57 (1937). See also Crumpler v. County of Logan,
38 Ill.2d 146, 230 N.E.2d 211 (1967). In the case at bar, this
presumption is supported by two factors. The first is an
affidavit of the Northlake City Attorney, submitted by him in his
capacity as author of the 1966 ordinance, wherein he states that,
in passing said ordinance, the City of Northlake never intended
to confer to its employees any private contractual rights. The
accuracy of this statement, it should be noted, has not in any
way been challenged or refuted by the plaintiffs.
Also supportive of the aforementioned presumption is the
language of the statute itself. The 1966 ordinance was entitled
"An Ordinance Establishing the Personnel Policy for the City of
Northlake, Illinois." Its stated purpose was to set forth a
uniform policy concerning Northlake personnel to better permit
sound administration of the government. This language, rather
than evidencing an intent by the City to enter into a binding
contract, appears much more to conform to the Dodge Court's
presumption that legislation of this type is in most instances
only a policy statement.
From the above, it thus must be concluded that, because the
requisite intent was lacking, no contract between the parties was
created by the 1966 ordinance. Regarding the 1974 memorandum,
although it was not a legislative act, the determination of
whether that document created legally enforceable contractual
rights in the plaintiffs requires resolution of the same issue;
i.e. whether the parties, by this action, intended that a
contract be created. United States v. O. Frank Heinz Construction
Co., 300 F. Supp. 396, 399 (S.D.Ill. 1969).
When the essential facts are not in dispute, the question of
the existence of a contract is solely one of law. 300 F. Supp. at
399. From the facts in this matter, it does not appear reasonable
to conclude that the City of Northlake intended for the 1974
memorandum to constitute a binding agreement. That document, for
example, was only one of several such memoranda that had been
issued from time to time, all apparently for budgetary
considerations. Because the rate of overtime compensation had
been altered on several occasions in the past, the fact that the
memorandum in question did not set forth any period of duration
also is noteworthy. The plaintiffs, in addition, have not
presented any viable reasons for concluding that this particular
memorandum was intended to be contractually binding, when other
such memoranda clearly had not been so intended.
If the City lacked the intent to create a contract through the
use of the formal ordinance procedure, it is difficult to imagine
that this intent was present in the issuing of an informal
periodic memorandum. That such a conclusion is proper is
supported by the aforementioned affidavit of the Northlake City
Attorney — an affidavit which has gone unanswered by plaintiffs —
where he again states that the City had no contractual intent.
From the facts before the court, it thus must be concluded both
that the City of Northlake, in issuing the 1974 memorandum, never
intended to enter into a contract with plaintiffs, and that no
valid or enforceable contract ever existed. Since no contract
existed between the parties, the plaintiffs' alternative
contention that the defendant, through the actions complained of,
impaired its obligations under the police officers' contract
(thus violating the Contract Clause), also cannot stand.
Finally, as the 1978 ordinance did not make criminal that which
was an innocent act before its passage, it does not constitute ex
post facto law. See United
States v. Sutton, 521 F.2d 1385 (7th Cir. 1975).
Under the undisputed facts of the case, the plaintiffs'
theories for recovery all are contrary to the law. That being so,
their motion for summary judgment is denied. Also, as the
defendant is, from the facts presented, clearly entitled to
judgment as a matter of law, summary judgment will be entered for
the City of Northlake.
IT IS SO ORDERED.