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Marisol Rodriguez v. Jody P. Weis

March 31, 2011

MARISOL RODRIGUEZ, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JODY P. WEIS, SUPERINTENDENT OF POLICE OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, AND THE POLICE BOARD OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO,
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 08 CH 32743 Honorable William O. Maki, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Hall

PRESIDING JUSTICE HALL delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hoffman and Rochford concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Plaintiff Marisol Rodriguez appeals from a circuit court order affirming a decision of the Police Board of the City of Chicago (Board) discharging her from her position as a Chicago police officer. The Board determined that plaintiff altered certain documents (return-to-work status reports) and submitted them to the Chicago police department's medical services section (hereinafter, Medical Services), falsely representing that a physician had recommended that her work duties be limited due to injury.

The Board concluded that plaintiff's conduct violated the following rules of article V of the rules and regulations of the Chicago police department (Department): Rule 2, which prohibits "[a]ny action or conduct which impedes the Department's efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the Department," and Rule 14, which prohibits "making a false report, written or oral."

Plaintiff sought administrative review of the Board's decision in the circuit court. The circuit court affirmed the Board's decision. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

On May 14, 2008, the superintendent of police filed charges with the Board against plaintiff, recommending that she be discharged from her position as a Chicago police officer for violating Department Rules 2 and 14. The Board conducted a twoday hearing on the matter at which the following evidence was presented.

Plaintiff worked routine patrol duty at the 20th District. In June 2006, she was reassigned to a light-duty desk job due to alleged problems with her right hand. Plaintiff maintained she was left-handed, but that she used her right hand to fire her service weapon.

Dr. David Garelick, an orthopedic surgeon at the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute's Desilva Center, first examined plaintiff on July 14, 2006. Plaintiff complained of numbness and tingling in her right hand. She claimed that her symptoms were aggravated when she typed.

Plaintiff was initially diagnosed as suffering from possible carpal tunnel syndrome. However, after failing to identify a specific cause of plaintiff's symptoms, the doctor scheduled plaintiff to undergo an electromyogram (EMG)/nerve conduction test. The doctor also completed a return-to-work status report, stating that plaintiff could return to work, but with limited repetitive movement of her right hand, no strenuous activity with her right hand, and no typing. Plaintiff was given an appointment to return on July 28, 2006.

On July 28, 2006, Dr. Garelick examined plaintiff and discussed the results of her EMG test. The test results were normal. Again, the doctor was unable to identify a specific cause of plaintiff's symptoms. He determined that there was nothing further he could do for plaintiff within his specialty of orthopedics. He discharged plaintiff from his care and referred her to a neurologist.

Dr. Garelick testified that plaintiff requested a doctor's note recommending that she be placed on light duty for six months. The doctor responded that he was uncomfortable making such a recommendation in light of his inability to identify a cause of plaintiff's symptoms. Instead, he agreed to extend her light duty a week or two, to give her time see the neurologist. The doctor also completed another return-to-work status report, stating that plaintiff could return to work, but that she should be limited to mostly left-handed work.

During his testimony, Dr. Garelick was shown the return-to-work status reports from plaintiff's file at Medical Services. The doctor noted that the reports contained alterations and extra notations not found on the copies of the reports retained in his office files.

Dr. Garelick observed that on his copy of the return-to-work status report for July 14, 2006, he had only recommended that plaintiff's duties include "no typing," but that the copy of the report from the Medical Services file had been altered to include the word "writing" after "no typing." The doctor further noted that on his copy of the return-to-work status report for July 28, 2006, the line adjacent to "Next Appointment" had been left blank, but that the copy of the report from the Medical Services file had been altered to list the "Next Appointment" as "8/16/06." The report had also been altered to recommend that plaintiff's light duties be extended for "11-12" weeks, instead of the "1-2" weeks the doctor had written.

In addition, the doctor noted that on his copy of the return-to-work status report for July 28, 2006, he had not written anything on the line next to "Other (specify)," and he had not put a check mark on the line next to "Limited pushing/pulling." However, the copy of the report taken from the Medical Services file showed that someone had altered the report by putting a check mark on the line next to "Limited ...


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