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Hahn v. Police Pension Fund

OPINION FILED NOVEMBER 20, 1985.

LAWRENCE L. HAHN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE CITY OF WOODSTOCK ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County; the Hon. Roland A. Herrmann, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE NASH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied December 13, 1985.

Plaintiff, Lawrence L. Hahn, appeals from an order of the circuit court of McHenry County which, on administrative review, affirmed the decisions of the board of trustees of the police pension fund of the city of Woodstock (board) that denied the plaintiff a "not on duty" disability pension under section 3-114.2 of the Illinois Pension Code. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 108 1/2, par. 3-114.2.

Plaintiff raises two assignments of error: (1) that the decision to deny the disability pension was against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (2) that his resignation from the police force did not foreclose his right to a disability pension.

Plaintiff had worked for the Woodstock police department since October 1974. After struggling with marital problems since late 1980, plaintiff voluntarily admitted himself on March 2, 1981, to River Edge Hospital in Forest Park. Marijuana and alcohol use, along with difficulties in relations with his superiors, also contributed to his condition. He was discharged and returned to active duty after five weeks of hospitalization. He was readmitted to the hospital on September 9, 1981, after suffering recurring periods of major depression and discharged himself three days later.

Plaintiff continued his patrolman duties until early 1982, when Police Chief William Patrick suspended him and filed charges against him with the board on the basis of a provision relating to the unlawful use of a weapon. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 24-3.1(a)(5).) That section provides:

"A person commits the offense of unlawful possession of firearms or firearm ammunition when * * * [h]e has been a patient in a mental hospital within the past 5 years and has any firearms or firearm ammunition in his possession * * *."

Patrick also charged Hahn with smoking marijuana while he was a member of the police department.

On February 26, 1982, plaintiff applied to the board for a "not on duty" disability pension. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 108 1/2, par. 3-114.2.) He tendered his resignation to Chief Patrick on March 29, 1982, and therein specifically preserved any rights he had based on the pension application. Hearings on the application began on September 16, 1982, and continued irregularly until June 4, 1983. The board denied plaintiff the pension on July 21, 1983. Holding that it was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, the circuit court affirmed the decision on August 13, 1984. This appeal followed.

Plaintiff first argues that the board's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Eight medical experts testified as to plaintiff's condition after examinations on various dates.

Dr. Ramesh Vemuri, a psychiatrist, examined Hahn during his two periods of hospitalization at the River Edge Hospital and found him extremely depressed due to his pending divorce. However, Vemuri authorized Hahn's return to work after both stays, believing plaintiff had recovered sufficiently to resume his duties as a patrolman.

Psychiatrist James Magnuson testified that he had determined plaintiff to be unfit to perform as a police officer after an examination on March 8, 1982. Citing plaintiff's sleep disorders, fluctuating appetite and reduced ability to concentrate, Magnuson stated that Hahn suffered from major depression and was emotionally disabled. Magnuson also testified he had suggested plaintiff seek psychiatric assistance, which would have eliminated or reduced plaintiff's problem, but Hahn never contacted him about such assistance.

Dr. Donald Sellers, a psychiatrist, examined Hahn on March 8, 1982, and determined Hahn was disabled from performing his duties as a patrolman due to his earlier major depression. Although Hahn appeared very well adjusted, with no evidence of depression or mental illness, and seemed to be recovering at that time, Sellers testified that a return to work would precipitate another attack of depression or anxiety.

Psychiatrist Richard Banta testified that he had examined plaintiff on March 22, 1982, and that, despite his depression and passive-aggressive personality, Hahn had appeared capable of performing police work. He had recommended that Hahn undergo ...


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