APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Kendall County; the Hon.
PATRICK J. DIXON, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE REINHARD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is an appeal by plaintiff, Timmie Batley, from an order of the circuit court of Kendall County affirming the decision of the Kendall County Sheriff's Department Merit Commission, which discharged him from the department. Plaintiff contends on appeal: (1) that he was denied due process when the circuit court affirmed his discharge but based it upon acts neither charged in the complaint before the merit commission nor specifically found by the merit commission, (2) that the circuit court committed reversible error when it reversed certain findings of the merit commission but still affirmed his dismissal, and (3) that his discharge was arbitrary and unreasonable.
In a letter dated January 25, 1980, from the sheriff of Kendall County, Victor Frantz, Batley was charged with the following:
"1. Permitting one Toni Heubel to possess your firearm at the Aurora Police Station in a concealed place, to-wit: her purse, in violation of Chapter 38, Section 24-1, Illinois Revised Statutes.
2. Refusing to comply with my order to you of 1/21/80 with regard to submission to a polygraph examination."
The letter further alleged that this conduct was in violation of specific provisions of the Kendall County Sheriff's Department Standards of Conduct and the Kendall County Merit Commission Rules and Regulations. At oral argument, counsel for Batley stated that a subsequent letter also charged Batley with making a derogatory remark, "My friends come first, fuck the Department." Although this letter is not in the record, both parties agree that this charge was also before the merit commission.
Antonia Cotts was the first witness called by the sheriff at the hearing. Cotts testified that on the morning of December 21, 1979, she was in the LaRoca restaurant in Aurora, Illinois. She stated that, at that time, she witnessed a patron enter the restaurant with a gun tucked in his belt. Thereupon, she promptly left the restaurant, and, when she reached home, she notified the Aurora police of what she had seen.
Salvador Polanco, the owner of the LaRoca restaurant, corroborated the fact that Cotts had been in the restaurant at approximately 2 a.m. on December 21, 1979. Polanco stated that Officer Timmie Batley was also present in the restaurant on that night and was in the company of two women and another man. The witness further testified that Aurora police officers had entered his restaurant that night and that they had discovered guns on Batley and his companions.
Edward Beale, an Aurora police officer who had responded to the call at the LaRoca restaurant, was the next witness called by the sheriff. Beale stated that after gaining entry to the restaurant, he asked Mr. Polanco if he had noticed if any of the patrons were wearing guns. Polanco responded in the negative but directed the officer toward Batley and his companions since they were the only customers remaining in the restaurant. Beale approached the group and subsequently discovered guns on the persons of Batley, Timothy Riley, and Sharon Riley. Beale stated that he then arrested the Rileys and returned Batley's gun to him after Batley identified himself as a deputy sheriff.
Thomas Ratz, another Aurora police officer who had responded to the call at the LaRoca restaurant, then testified. Ratz stated that, after the arrest of the Rileys, he saw Officer Batley and his female companion, Toni Heubel, in the waiting room of the Aurora police station. Ratz testified that while at the station, he heard Officer Beale make a comment to Batley that he "should be more careful who his companions were." Beale stated that Batley then responded that he cared more about his friends than his job. Beale further testified that when Batley and Heubel were leaving the station, Batley asked her for his gun, and Heubel reached into her purse and handed it to him.
Officer Robert Reichardt of the Aurora Police Department also testified that he heard Batley ask Heubel for his gun but stated that, because of his position in the station, he could not see the actual transfer of the weapon. Reichardt also testified to the dialogue that transpired between Batley and Officer Beale. Reichardt testified that, in response to a comment by Beale, Batley stated "that his friends come first, `fuck the Department'."
Sheriff Victor Frantz was then called and laid the foundation for the admission of the Kendall County Sheriff's Department Standards of Conduct and the merit commission's rules and regulations. He testified that Batley had been a deputy sheriff for about three years. On cross-examination, Frantz indicated that Batley had received the Policeman of the Year Award from the Illinois Valley Chiefs of Police Association. Frantz stated that the association was fully apprised of the charges pending against Batley at the time the award was given.
Toni Heubel was the first witness called by Timmie Batley. Heubel stated that while she and Batley were at the Aurora police station, he at no time offered her his gun or allowed her to touch it. Heubel admitted that Batley's gun had ended up in her purse but stated that she did not know how it got there. She also stated that just before they left the station, Batley reached into her purse and removed the weapon. Heubel indicated that she had no knowledge that the gun was in her purse until Batley removed it. Further, the witness denied that Batley had made the alleged comment to Officer Beale. Heubel was at the time working as a jailer in Kendall County as a CETA employee.
Timmie Batley was the last witness called at the hearing. He stated that while at the Aurora police station, he slipped his gun inside Heubel's purse while she was "half asleep." Batley indicated that Heubel was unaware that he had done so. Finally, Batley denied making the ...