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Trettenero v. Police Pension Fund of the City of Aurora

September 05, 2002

ROBIN TRETTENERO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE CITY OF AURORA, THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE CITY OF AURORA AND ITS TRUSTEES, KEVIN BAXTER, EDWARD BEALE, DANIEL HOFFMAN, JOHN DUGGAN, AND WILLIAM WEIGEL, AND LARRY LANGSTON, CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE CITY OF AURORA, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 00--MRK--226 Honorable Michael J. Colwell, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Callum

Released for publication September 12, 2002.

ROBIN TRETTENERO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE CITY OF AURORA, THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE CITY OF AURORA AND ITS TRUSTEES, KEVIN BAXTER, EDWARD BEALE, DANIEL HOFFMAN, JOHN DUGGAN, AND WILLIAM WEIGEL, AND LARRY LANGSTON, CHIEF OF POLICE OF THE CITY OF AURORA, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 00--MRK--226 Honorable Michael J. Colwell, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Callum

PUBLISH

Plaintiff, Robin Trettenero, appeals from the trial court's order affirming the decision of the Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of the City of Aurora, Illinois (the Board), terminating her not- on-duty disability pension (40 ILCS 5/3--114.2 (West 2000)). Plaintiff contends that the Board's termination of her disability pension (1) denied her due process and equal protection of the laws (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2); and (2) was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. We affirm.

Plaintiff was hired as a police officer in Aurora in 1985. In 1991, she applied for a disability pension, requesting a line-of-duty disability pension (40 ILCS 5/3--114.1 (West 2000)), or, alternatively, a nonduty pension (40 ILCS 5/3--114.2 (West 2000)). Plaintiff alleged that she suffered from a mental disability resulting from stress. She argued that the stress resulted from witnessing acts of police brutality; being joined as a defendant in a suit alleging brutality; being the target of unfavorable press attention; and difficulties in her relationship with her co-workers and supervisors.

In 1993, the Board denied plaintiff's request for a line-of-duty pension but granted plaintiff a nonduty disability pension. The circuit court affirmed the Board's order denying the line-of-duty pension, and this court subsequently affirmed the denial. Trettenero v. Police Pension Fund, 268 Ill. App. 3d 58, 69 (1994).

In accordance with the provisions of the Illinois Pension Code (Pension Code) (40 ILCS 5/1--101 et seq. (West 2000)), plaintiff subsequently submitted to annual medical exams certifying her continued disability. 40 ILCS 5/3--115 (West 2000).

At the request of the Board, Dr. Richard P. Harris, a board- certified, licensed physician with a specialty in psychiatry, examined plaintiff on four occasions: August 4, 1997; August 13, 1997; July 9, 1998; and July 13, 1999. He spent a total of 4½ hours with plaintiff and reviewed her prior annual medical evaluations; the treatment notes of Dr. Roger P. Hatcher, her medical provider; and the Board's decision granting the nonduty disability pension.

Dr. Harris testified as follows. Plaintiff is no longer disabled. Plaintiff had suffered from depression and anxiety when she stopped working at the police department. However, by the 1998 examination, she showed no signs of illness, and she appeared to have been treated successfully. Specifically, there was no evidence of a psychiatric impairment. Plaintiff does not currently have posttraumatic stress disorder. She no longer suffers from a mental disability that would prevent her from returning to service with the Aurora police department. However, plaintiff has no interest in returning to the Aurora police department.

In his July 31, 1998, written evaluation, Dr. Harris stated that plaintiff "is not suffering from any psychiatric illness and has regained much of her energy and enthusiasm. She expresses herself in an assertive manner and did not manifest the anxiety seen in so many [previous] evaluations." With respect to returning to work, he wrote that plaintiff "has no desire to work as a police officer. This does not mean that she is disabled. She certainly does not have any active psychiatric disorder. She has a strong distrust of the department." Dr. Harris stated that plaintiff "would not do well if she returned to police work," not because she had a "clear psychological impairment," but because of her lack of interest in the work.

In his July 29, 1999, written evaluation, Dr. Harris stated as follows. Plaintiff is not currently in psychotherapy, and she wakes up crying every two weeks. Her condition has not appreciably changed since the last evaluation. There is no evidence of acute anxiety or depression when plaintiff talks about her experiences, though one would expect such a reaction when discussing such a history.

In addition to the testimony and evaluations of Dr. Harris, the Board reviewed the testimony of Dr. Clifton Rhead, a physician with a specialty in psychiatry, and the testimony of Dr. Roger P. Hatcher, a licensed clinical psychologist who had treated plaintiff for approximately 8½ years.

Dr. Rhead examined plaintiff on January 15, 1999; January 20, 1999; and July 13, 1999. He testified as follows. Plaintiff had posttraumatic stress disorder, which caused her to go on disability. She no longer has posttraumatic stress disorder. However, she should be continued on disability because she continues to be mentally disabled for work with the police department. Plaintiff is a high risk due to sufficient deficits in her personality. The condition is "in remission, with minimal residual phobic anxiety." Plaintiff has a continuation of "some anxiety symptoms." Her phobic reactions to police, "minimal though they may be, they don't cause her a great deal of handicap but I believe that they are residual." She has a mild phobia in that, for example, she drives around the block to avoid being seen by a police officer. Moreover, she is highly vulnerable to a repeat of the posttraumatic stress disorder. If plaintiff returned to the police department, she would ...


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