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09/08/89 Joseph Rispoli, v. Police Board of the City

September 8, 1989




Before us, petitioner, Rispoli urges for reversal that (1) because the evidentiary hearing of his case was by a hearing officer and not by the Police Board, the Police Board did not see and hear the witnesses; and (2) because the record does not affirmatively establish that the Police Board reviewed or read the transcript of the evidentiary hearing or conferred or counseled with the hearing officer, the Police Board's guilty findings and decision to discharge Rispoli were not based on the Board's evaluation of the credibility of the witnesses. Rispoli further contends for reversal that there was insufficient evidence to maintain the guilty findings upon which his discharge from the Chicago police department is predicated. We reject these contentions.


544 N.E.2d 1063, 188 Ill. App. 3d 622, 136 Ill. Dec. 288 1989.IL.1402

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas O'Brien, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE PINCHAM delivered the opinion of the court. MURRAY, P.J., and COCCIA, J., concur.


Petitioner, Joseph Rispoli, a Chicago police officer, appeals from the trial court's order which affirmed the City of Chicago Police Board's (the Board's) respondents' decision to sever petitioner from the Chicago police department. The facts are as follows.

In June of 1982, petitioner, Rispoli, a Chicago police department detective, had been a City of Chicago police officer for 25 years, the latter 12 years of which he was assigned to the department's central auto theft unit. Since October 1980, Rispoli had also been engaged in a secondary employment, as president and sole shareholder of Cardinal Car City, an automobile repair business.

In June of 1982, the Chicago police department undertook an investigation of Rispoli to determine whether he had been involved in using parts from a stolen automobile on another vehicle which Rispoli's Cardinal Car City auto repair business repaired.

Two investigations were conducted. The first investigation was conducted by Sergeant Curran and Detective Dennis Hayes; both were also assigned to the central auto theft unit and were co-workers of Rispoli. On June 21, 1982, while Rispoli was on annual furlough, he was telephonically notified at his home by Sergeant Curran that he had been named in a criminal investigation. On June 29, 1982, Rispoli appeared with his attorney at the central auto theft unit to meet with Sergeant Curran. At that time, documents relevant to the investigation were tendered to Sergeant Curran by Rispoli.

This initial investigation was pursued from June of 1982 to November or December of 1982 and involved only a 1981 Oldsmobile owned by Lisa Alkazoff which had been repaired at Cardinal Car City, which as stated, was owned by Rispoli. Alkazoff's 1981 Oldsmobile was allegedly repaired with parts from a 1982 Oldsmobile which had been stolen from Olympic Olds, an automobile sales company. During this initial investigation period, the investigators went to the Cardinal Car City premises and other locations to examine documents. In July of 1982, the investigators also interviewed Cardinal Car City shop foreman, Tad Bakun, and took the Alkazoff 1981 Oldsmobile from the Cardinal Car City premises to the police pound to examine it. When Sergeant Curran removed the panel on the right door, he saw a piece of paper glued to the panel. The paper was a broadcast sheet containing the serial number of the vehicle that the door was to be mounted on. The paper contained a vehicle identification number belonging to the 1982 Cutlass Oldsmobile which had been stolen from Olympic Olds.

At the close of this first investigation, Sergeant Curran wrote a report, finding that the allegations that Rispoli had used stolen automobile parts in the repair of automobiles were not sustained. The report was signed by the commander of the central auto theft unit. Thereafter, Sergeant Curran received a written report from the State's Attorney's office to the affect that there was no case against Rispoli and the first investigation was closed.

The second investigation began in February of 1982 and was a reinvestigation of Sergeant Curran's previous investigation of the Alkazoff 1981 Oldsmobile, as well as a broader investigation of allegedly stolen Volkswagen and Mazda automobiles. Sergeant Kark Kurth, an outside investigator from the Internal Affairs Division of the Chicago police department, was assigned to conduct this second investigation. Sergeant Kurth had experience in this field, having himself operated automobile body repair shops.

Sergeant Kurth reexamined the receipts tendered by Rispoli to Sergeant Curran. As a result of that examination, a subpoena was served upon Rispoli for his production of certain additional documents. Rispoli did not produce the documents. The State's Attorney thereafter filed a rule to show cause why Rispoli should not be held in contempt for his failure to produce the documents. Rispoli appeared before the presiding Judge of the criminal division of the circuit court of Cook County, who ordered Rispoli to surrender the relevant business records to the assistant State's Attorney. Thereafter Rispoli's attorney turned over three boxes of Cardinal Car City records to the assistant State's Attorney.

The assistant State's Attorney's examination of the records revealed that accurate or authentic documents were missing as to certain transactions; additionally, some of the documents that were turned over were fraudulent and were from companies that did not exist. The assistant State's Attorney never received certain original checks, particularly a $2,100 check payable to Tad Bakun, hereinafter again mentioned.

Sergeant Kurth also examined the documents Rispoli submitted supposedly relating to Alkazoff's 1981 Oldsmobile car, but the documents he found were for a diesel engine, while Alkazoff's 1981 Oldsmobile had a gasoline engine. Sergeant Kurth also found that the Cardinal Car City invoice of Alkazoff's Oldsmobile did not match the Farmer's Insurance Company's estimate of the cost to repair Alkazoff's car. The Farmer's Insurance Company repair estimate was $6,500, which included about $3,000 in parts, whereas the Cardinal Car City invoice of the estimate of the Alkazoff's car repair cost was for $3,200 and did not include the $3,000 for parts.

Sergeant Kurth sent paint samples from Alkazoff's Oldsmobile repaired by Cardinal Car City to the FBI crime lab and received a report in February of 1983, which stated that a comparison of paint samples from inside Alkazoff's car and paint samples from the stolen Olympic Oldsmobile revealed that the same paint was used on both, and that the two cars were painted at the same time.

Sergeant Kurth examined the Alkazoff Oldsmobile at the police pound and found, after removing the locks, that the covers on the front door locks had been removed and replaced with ones normally used for body shop work. The chrome on the trunk lock had been removed and replaced with the same kind of lock as on the stolen Olympic Oldsmobile. Additionally, in July and August of 1983, Sergeant Kurth submitted Rispoli's handwriting exemplars to the State crime lab, from which he received two reports.

Based upon the results of this reinvestigation supervised by Sergeant Kurth, the superintendent of the Chicago police department filed charges before the Chicago Police Board against Rispoli, which sought Rispoli's discharge from the Chicago police department. A hearing date on said charges was set and the hearing was continued periodically. During the interim, Rispoli stood trial on various criminal charges. The indictment, transcripts and verdicts of that criminal trial were not before the police board and are not included in the record in the instant appeal, with the exception of the testimony that Rispoli was found not guilty of the criminal charges.

Thereafter, on November 13, 1985, the Chicago police department superintendent withdrew the original charges against Rispoli before the police board and filed amended charges, in writing, with notice to Rispoli, who made no objection to the amended charges nor sought a postponement of the hearing thereon.

In the amended charges Rispoli was charged with violating Rule 2, which provided: "Any action or conduct which impedes the Department's efforts to achieve its policy or goals or brings discredit upon the Department." More specifically, it was alleged that during the period April 13 to June 9, 1982, Rispoli repaired or caused to be repaired Alkazoff's 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass with body parts from the stolen Olympic 1982 Oldsmobile, knowing the auto and the parts to have been stolen. Additionally, Rispoli was charged with buying, receiving, possessing and/or disposing of these stolen component auto parts, or causing those actions to be taken with knowledge that the identification number of the parts had been falsified or removed. Rispoli was also charged with misrepresenting or causing to be misrepresented the Olympic 1982 Oldsmobile identity and that of its component parts, and with failing to keep proper records of the identity of the persons from whom the Olympic 1982 Oldsmobile parts were obtained. It was alleged that during this same period, Rispoli retained or caused to be retained an attorney to procure the release of Alkazoff's 1981 Oldsmobile from the custody of the Chicago police department auto pound without the knowledge or permission of its owner, Lisa Alkazoff.

Rispoli was also charged with violating Rule 5, "failure to perform any duty," by failing to report the delivery to and receipt by Cardinal Car City body shop of stolen auto parts from the Olympic 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass, and that he had a duty so to do.

Finally, Rispoli was charged with violating Rule 14, "making a false report, written or oral," in that on or about June 29, 1982, he submitted a false report and falsified documents to Sergeant Curran and Sergeant Kurth.

An evidentiary hearing by a hearing officer of the Board on the amended charges was held. The evidence presented at the hearing established that on March 30, 1982, Lisa Alkazoff's 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass was stolen and that when it was recovered on April 9, 1982, its doors, trunk, front end and tires had been removed. Alkazoff had the car towed for repairs to Cardinal Car City, where she spoke with Rispoli. In mid-May of 1982, she picked up the car from the Cardinal Car City repair shop, but she was not satisfied with the repair work. She returned the car and picked it up again around June 8 or 9, but she was still dissatisfied with it. Alkazoff decided to trade the car in at Olympic Oldsmobile. When she took the car to Olympic Oldsmobile, on June 16 to be traded in for another car, two policemen walked in and told her they would have to take her car away because the repaired parts on her car were taken from an Olympic Oldsmobile salesman's car which had been stolen two weeks earlier. The police towed Alkazoff's car to the pound and she never saw it again.

It was stipulated at the hearing that Mr. Christopoulous, the owner of Olympic Oldsmobile, was the lawful owner of the 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme stolen from his dealership on April 30, 1982. It was further stipulated that when Lisa Alkazoff took her 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme to the Olympic Oldsmobile dealership, numerous parts from Olympic's stolen 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme were found on Alkazoff's 1981 repaired Oldsmobile.

Various Cardinal Car City receipts, purporting to be receipts for legitimate parts, were fraudulent. In particular, it was stipulated that the receipts from different businesses for parts for Alkazoff's car in two instances were not from those businesses and in the third instance the business was nonexistent. It was agreed that examination of the records of "V & O Auto Parts" in Sioux Falls revealed no sale records to Cardinal Car City; that "Western Body Parts" likewise made no sale to Cardinal Car City; and that there was no "Import Salvage" in Saledo, Colorado.

While there was no disagreement at the evidentiary hearing that some person or persons at Cardinal Car City repaired Alkazoff's car with stolen parts, there was disagreement that Rispoli knew or should have known of the use of stolen auto parts in the repair of Alkazoff's car.

Alkazoff testified that she spoke directly to Rispoli and that he told her it would cost $2,000 to repair her car. While Rispoli remembered talking to Alkazoff, he denied telling her the cost to repair her car would be $2,000. Rispoli stated he did not know how long Alkazoff's car was in the shop or whether there was a problem finding parts. He only recalled Alkazoff calling and complaining to him over a period of time and him telling her that they were waiting for the parts to repair her car.

The negotiations with Farmer's Insurance Company, the insurer of Alkazoff's car, were similarly disputed by Rispoli at the hearing before the hearing officer. Scott Sura, an auto claims representative for Farmer's Insurance Company, testified that he talked to Rispoli about the cost of the repairs to Alkazoff's 1981 Oldsmobile, that he prepared an estimate, and called Rispoli back. According to Sura, Rispoli agreed to an insurance settlement of $6,500, plus a rental car. Sura stated that he took a check for $6,400, dated April 27, 1981, payable to both Lisa Alkazoff and Cardinal Car City, to Rispoli along with the estimated repair cost. Rispoli denied showing Alkazoff an estimate over Farmer's for the repairs; Rispoli also flatly denied ever seeing a check for $6,400 from Farmer's Insurance Company or signing Alkazoff's name to it. Alkazoff testified that she was unaware of the Farmer's check until she received the cancelled void statement in the mail, and that while her name was signed on the back of the check, it was not her signature. It was agreed that the check was deposited in Rispoli's business account.

With respect to Rispoli's involvement or lack thereof in the actual repair of Alkazoff's car with stolen parts, the police department's primary witness was Tad Bakun, the body shop foreman, at Cardinal Car City and who, according to Sergeant Curran, was responsible for ordering and purchasing parts for Cardinal Car City. Bakun testified that when he first saw Alkazoff's 1981 Oldsmobile, it was totally stripped. He went to various junk yards and used car dealers, but after two or three weeks he had not found the parts needed for a reasonable price. Bakun went to Rispoli and told him that he was having trouble finding the parts. Rispoli told him to find the lowest cost. Bakun then talked to Lorenzo Perez, who also owned a body shop. Two days later, Perez brought the parts needed in a van to Bakun at Cardinal Car City. These parts were not like other dealer-delivered parts, which ordinarily came primer gray with tags. Instead, these parts were blue, the same color as the Alkazoff car. Bakun testified that he thought the parts were possibly salvage, but he admitted that it was very difficult to obtain similar parts in the same color.

Alkazoff's car was repaired in two or three days. According to Bakun, Rispoli was present during the repair job. He examined the parts in Bakun's presence. Bakun did not remember Rispoli asking where the parts came from.

The same day the parts arrived, Victor Kowalczyk, who was not employed by Cardinal Car City but was at the premises every day as an associate of the general manager, Richard Gage, and Rispoli, gave Bakun a check for $2,100. Bakun cashed the check at the Fullerton-Pulaski currency exchange, paid Lorenzo Perez $1,200 for the parts and gave Kowalczyk the rest. Kowalczyk gave Bakun back $200.

Bakun left his employment at Cardinal Car City in June of 1982. Two or three weeks later, Kowalczyk came to Bakun's house to tell him that investigators were coming to the Cardinal Car City repair shop. Bakun went to the Cardinal Car City shop and saw Rispoli. Rispoli told Bakun to turn himself in. Additionally, Rispoli told Bakun to go to Rispoli's lawyer and follow the lawyer's advice. Rispoli told Bakun that the attorney would cost him nothing and that Bakun would not have to pay the attorney. Bakun talked to Rispoli's attorney once, but hired another lawyer and later pled guilty to stealing auto parts, and he received three years' work release imprisonment.

Two other witnesses testified that they dealt directly with Rispoli in repairing Alkazoff's Oldsmobile. Patrolman Raymond Kilroy stated that he had secondary employment as a locksmith and, in April of 1982, he went to Cardinal Car City to make up trunk and door locks for Alkazoff's 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass. On May 3, 1982, Rispoli told Kilroy that he needed a receipt for the work. Kilroy said he would have to look up his records and find out what and when the work was done, but Rispoli stated he needed a receipt right away, so Kilroy gave Rispoli a blank receipt. Farmer's Insurance Company's agent, Scott Sura, testified that he went to Cardinal Car City three or four times to talk to Rispoli. In May of 1982 he went to the shop to look at the Alkazoff car ...

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