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STONE v. SANGAMON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT

October 11, 2001

ARTHUR STONE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE SANGAMON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT AND NEIL WILLIAMSON, IN HIS CAPACITY AS SHERIFF OF SANGAMON COUNTY, ILLINOIS[FN1], DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, U.S. District Judge:

OPINION

The Sangamon County Sheriff's Department-and the sheriff-are entitled to summary judgment.

FACTS

Arthur Stone began working at the Sheriff's Department of Sangamon County, Illinois in 1974. In 1977, Stone was allegedly injured in a car accident while on duty. The Court uses the term allegedly because there is no evidence of Stone's injury other than what he asserts in his deposition and affidavit. In any case, this began what Stone claims was more than a decade of back and leg pain.

Stone's alleged injuries did not impede his advancement within the Sheriff's Department. He rose to the civil service rank of sergeant and the staff position of undersheriff before leaving the Sheriff's Department. In March 1985, Stone took a leave of absence in order to obtain employment with the Fraternal Order of Police (the "FOP"). The Sheriff's Department extended Stone's leave of absence on numerous occasions.

In 1989, then-Sheriff J. William DeMarco changed Stone's leave of absence to a medical leave of absence. Who initiated this change is not clear from the pleadings, but it is undisputed that Stone was physically able to perform any job in the Sheriff's Department in July 1990. In fact, Stone's doctor, Dr. William Schroeder, wrote a letter to DeMarco which authorized Stone to return work.

Sometime around July, DeMarco advised Stone that a position as a supervisor of Cap Com-Sangamon County's 911 system-had become available. On July 18, 1990, DeMarco assigned Stone to the position and requested that he report to work on August 15, 1990. Stone requested that he be given until October 1, 1990, to report to work and DeMarco allowed the request. Despite his request, Stone never reported to Cap Com 911. Instead, he wrote a letter to DeMarco on September 12 stating that he would be retiring as undersheriff. The letter Stone signed did not indicate any medical condition which might prevent him from working at Cap Com 911 or in any other capacity at the Sheriff's Department.

Throughout Stone's entire tenure at the Sheriff's Department he owned a construction company, A.L. Stone. Stone built homes during the late 1970's and early 1980's. Until at least 1995, he laid out walls, installed windows, plumbed, wired, drywalled, roofed, etc. One of the persons for whom Stone roofed, Barry Brown, states that Stone did not appear disabled.

In 1995, Stone left his position at the FOP amid allegations that he misappropriated funds. In an effort to secure pension benefits, Stone contacted DeMarco's successor, Sheriff Neil Williamson, and asked to be reinstated to his former position with the Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Williamson asserts that he told Stone that since he resigned in 1990, he would have to pass the department's Merit test before he could be considered for re-employment. Stone admits that it was possible that Sheriff Williamson told him this, but he cannot remember being informed of the Merit test requirement. Taking the Merit test, according to Sheriff Williamson, has always been an absolute prerequisite to employment at the department during his tenure as sheriff.

Stone and Sheriff Williamson met at least two times during 1995 and 1996 to discuss the possibility of Stone's re-employment. Stone told Sheriff Williamson that he could return to work without any medical restrictions. Sheriff Williamson never indicated that Stone's back condition would bar him from being reinstated in the Sheriff's Department. What troubled Sheriff Williamson about Stone's possible return were the circumstances of Stone's departure from the FOP. Although Sheriff Williamson did not raise this issue with Stone, he believed the allegations of Stone's wrongdoing were enough to disqualify him from re-employment.

Following his meetings with Stone, Sheriff Williamson met with the department's staff to discuss the issue of Stone's alleged financial improprieties and his possible return to work. Sheriff Williamson also claims he suggested to Stone that he file a formal application and comply with the Sheriff's Merit Commission's Eligibility Procedures if he wished to rejoin the department. Stone denies that the Sheriff ever suggested this. However, a letter from Stone's attorney dated March 25, 1996, stated that he gathered from a conversation with Sheriff Williamson that the Sheriff required Stone to satisfy the Merit Commission's procedures in order to gain re-employment. In any case, Stone never took the merit test.

Stone claims that his back injury was a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the "ADA") and that the Sheriff's Department violated the ADA when it required him to take the Merit test, but did not impose the same requirement on non-disabled officers who sought re-employment. The Sheriff's Department contends that Stone has not established that he is covered by the ADA because he has not shown that he is disabled.

(The Sheriff's Department also argues that Stone's ADA claim must fail since he did not take the Merit test and, thus, cannot show that he complied with the Sheriff Department's application process. For the reasons that ...


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