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Tucker v. Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of the Village of Park Forest Illinois

August 30, 2007

WILLIAM TUCKER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE VILLAGE OF PARK FOREST ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Honorable Anthony L. Young, Judge Presiding.

Published opinion

PRESIDING JUSTICE QUINN delivered the opinion of the court: Plaintiff William Tucker, who suffers from bilateral hearing impairment, appeals the decision of defendant Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of the Village of Park Forest, Illinois (Board), which determined that it did not have jurisdiction to hear his request for pension benefits. In this court, plaintiff contends that the Board possessed statutory authority to hear his request and that he is entitled to pension benefits dues to his disability.

BACKGROUND

On January 10, 1989, the Village of Park Forest Police Department (Department) hired plaintiff as a police officer. In October 1997, the Village of Forest Park Fire and Police Commission (Commission) filed charges against plaintiff and sought to discharge him from employment. The Commission based its charges solely on plaintiff's alleged inability to perform full services for the Department due to his bilateral hearing impairment.

On November 19, 1997, plaintiff filed an application for certificate of disability (application), in which he sought a "line of duty" disability pension pursuant to section 3-114.1 of the Illinois Pension Code (Pension Code) (40 ILCS 5/3-114.1 (West 2002)) and, in the alternative, a "not on duty" disability pension pursuant to section 3-114.2 of the Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/3-114.2 (West 2002)). Therein, plaintiff reserved his entitlement to benefits in the event of a discharge.

On or about December 15, 1997, the Commission terminated plaintiff's employment with the Department based on his disability of bilateral hearing impairment. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a discrimination action against the Village of Forest Park in federal court under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (2000)).

Subsequently, on February 6, 1998, plaintiff sought a "stay" in the proceedings on his application until a resolution was reached on his ADA claim in the federal court. In a written correspondence to plaintiff's attorney via the Board's attorney on February 13, 1998, the Board declined to "stay" proceedings

On May 21, 1998, the Board notified plaintiff that pursuant to section 3-115 of the Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/3-115 (West 2002)), he was scheduled to appear for two medical examinations by Board-selected physicians. The examinations were scheduled for June 15, 1998, and June 24, 1998. The record shows that plaintiff cancelled both examinations.

On June 12, 1998, plaintiff notified the Board that he was withdrawing his application. In doing so, however, plaintiff expressly stated that he preserved his right to seek disability benefits at a later date. The Board responded by scheduling a hearing on the merits of plaintiff's application. At the ensuing hearing, plaintiff informed the Board that he would proceed on his application.

On August 19, 1998, plaintiff again notified the Board in writing that he did not want to proceed with his application, but wished to preserve his right to proceed on the application at a later date. Plaintiff requested that the Board "stay" proceedings until the resolution of his federal lawsuit. Pursuant to an August 27, 1998, notice of hearing, the Board informed plaintiff that it had scheduled a hearing on the merits of his application for September 8, 1998.

On September 1, 1998, plaintiff notified the Board that he was withdrawing his application. The Board, however, denied plaintiff's motion to withdraw his application during the September 8, 1998, hearing.

On November 1, 1998, the Board issued a written "Decision and Order" in which it dismissed plaintiff's application with prejudice due to his failure to submit to the scheduled medical examinations. The Board also informed plaintiff that it would not "have jurisdiction over Applicant as a result of his discharge from the Police Department, in the event that Applicant attempts to renew his disability application." Plaintiff then filed a "Complaint for Administrative Review" of the Board's decision with the circuit court of Cook County on November 24, 1998.

On February 18, 2000, the circuit court reversed the Board's decision and held that the Board erred in dismissing plaintiff's application. The Board appealed on March 7, 2000.

On March 14, 2001, this court entered its decision in the matter. Tucker v. Village of Park Forest, No. 1-00-0789 (2001) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Therein, this court determined that the Board erroneously denied plaintiff's motion to withdraw his application. This court noted that nothing in the Pension Code prevented an applicant from voluntarily withdrawing his application for pension benefits. In so finding, this court also acknowledged the Board's concern that if plaintiff withdrew his application, he would be unable to file a new application at a later date because the Board would not have jurisdiction to rule on the petition under the Pension Code since plaintiff would no longer be employed as a police officer. This court concluded, however, that the Board's concerns were premature. As such, this court held that the Board's ruling dismissing plaintiff's application for pensions benefits was vacated as void and remanded the case to the Board to effectuate and give recognition to plaintiff's voluntary withdrawal of his application. Tucker, slip op. at 9.

On April 3, 2001, plaintiff filed a "Motion to Withdraw His September 1, 1998, Withdrawal of His Application for a Certificate of Disability" with the Board. Subsequently, on August 27, 2001, the Board vacated its November 1, 1998, ruling and granted plaintiff's September 1, 1998, motion to withdraw in accordance with this court's Rule 23 order. The Board did not address plaintiff's April 3, 2001, motion to withdraw his September 1, 1998, motion to withdraw.

On February 15, 2002, plaintiff filed a "Motion to Set Pending Motions for Hearing and Compel Decision" and an "Alternative Motion to Reinstate Application for Certificate of Disability." At a regular quarterly meeting on March 5, 2002, the Board discussed plaintiff's motions and rendered a verbal decision that it no longer had jurisdiction to rule on plaintiff's pending motions. The Board confirmed its ruling through its attorney ...


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