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12/04/89 Kendal Chambers Et Al., v. David Flota Et Al.

December 4, 1989

KENDAL CHAMBERS ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES

v.

DAVID FLOTA ET AL., CONSTITUTING THE BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE COMMISSIONERS OF THE CITY OF MT. VERNON, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIFTH DISTRICT

548 N.E.2d 61, 191 Ill. App. 3d 603, 138 Ill. Dec. 831 1989.IL.1869

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jefferson County; the Hon. George Timberlake, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

PRESIDING JUSTICE WELCH delivered the opinion of the court. CHAPMAN and RARICK, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE WELCH

This is an appeal by defendants David Flota, A.L. Dawson and Gene Bolerjack, constituting the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the City of Mt. Vernon (hereinafter Board), from a judgment of the circuit court of Jefferson County reversing the Board's decision which upheld the suspension by the police chief of Mt. Vernon of three Mt. Vernon police officers, plaintiffs Kendal Chambers, Paul E. Johnson and Charles Lamont. We affirm the judgment of the circuit court reversing the decision of the Board which sustained the suspension of the plaintiffs/officers.

Officers Johnson, Lamont and Chambers were suspended by the chief of police of Mt. Vernon for two days, four days and three days, respectively, on April 20, 1987. Officer Johnson was suspended for failure to obey a direct order of a superior. Officers Lamont and Chambers were suspended for failure to obey a direct order of a superior and for failure to follow the chain of command. They appealed their suspensions to the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, which upheld the suspensions by order dated October 26, 1987. Plaintiffs filed their complaint for administrative review in the circuit court of Jefferson County on November 16, 1987. By order dated October 28, 1988, the circuit court reversed the decision of the Board and vacated plaintiffs' suspensions.

The facts which gave rise to the suspensions are as follows. Located in the Mt. Vernon police station were a soda vending machine, a cigarette vending machine and a snack vending machine. The machines had been placed in the building at the request of the local unit of the Policeman's Benevolent and Protective Association (hereinafter PBPA). The PBPA had ordered the product for the machines, paid for them and retained the profit in a special account. Officer Lamont was president of the local unit of the PBPA, Officer Chambers was secretary of that association, and Officer Johnson was a member of the association who was charged with maintaining the cigarette machine and funds therefrom.

On March 18, 1987, the city manager of Mt. Vernon sent a memorandum to the chief of police asking for an accounting of all revenues and expenditures relating to the vending machines in the police station from May 1, 1986, to the present, and asking that all profits therefrom be turned over to the city finance director. The police chief forwarded the city manager's memo to Officers Mendenall and Johnson and civilian employee Betty Kryger, the individuals in the police department who were charged with maintaining the machines and accounting for the proceeds therefrom.

On March 21, 1987, Charles Lamont and Kendal Chambers sent a memorandum to the city manager asking him to reconsider his request relating to the police department vending machines. The memo was sent from PBPA Unit No. 50 and was signed by Lamont as president of that association and Chambers as secretary of that association. The memo explained that the funds from the vending machines had been used by the PBPA for donations to various charitable causes and organizations, that the machines had been operated by the PBPA since 1979 with the knowledge and approval of the city, and that the membership of the PBPA had voted that if the city did not reconsider its decision, the PBPA would ask the vending machine companies to remove the machines from the police station. This memorandum was not shown to or sent to the chief of police, nor did Officers Lamont or Chambers discuss this matter with the chief.

On April 3, 1987, Officer Lamont visited the office of the city manager to discuss the dispute over the vending machines. Officer Lamont visited the city manager while he was off duty and did not appear in uniform. In addition, all of the soda was removed from the vending machine by the PBPA.

On April 6, 1987, the police chief sent a memorandum to Officers Lamont and Chambers instructing them to refill the vending machines and to turn over all monies from the machines to the city finance director. The memo set forth the chief's belief that the chain of command had not been followed by Lamont and Chambers and that matters relating to the vending machines were police departmental administrative matters. The memo instructed the officers to comply with the city manager's requests relating to the vending machines. A similar memo was sent to Officers Mendenall and Johnson and to Betty Kryger.

Officer Johnson sent a memo to the city manager explaining that the cigarette machine and funds therefrom belonged to the PBPA and that he did not have authority from the PBPA to turn over those funds. Officer Johnson did not provide an accounting as ordered.

On April 20, 1987, the Board sent a letter to the police chief explaining that it had met regarding the dispute over the vending machines and felt that some disciplinary action should be taken against the officers involved. On that same date, the police chief suspended Officers Lamont, Chambers and Johnson. Officer Mendenall did not face ...


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