Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. Nos. 08-MR-60 09-MR-304 Honorable Chief; Maureen P. McIntyre and Thomas A. Meyer, Judges, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN
JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Presiding Justice Jorgensen and Justice Bowman concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Plaintiff, Woodstock police sergeant Steven Gorski, appeals the circuit court's orders reversing defendant the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of Woodstock's (Board) grant of a directed finding in Gorski's favor and subsequently affirming the Board's termination of Gorski. On appeal, Gorski argues that (1) the Board's grant of a directed finding in his favor was not against the manifest weight of the evidence; (2) the Board's ultimate decision to terminate him was improper because his line-of-duty disability pension was pending; and (3) this court should not be bound by the circuit court's decision affirming the Board's decision to terminate, because the Board's two decisions are conflicting. We affirm.
¶ 3 On August 29, 2007, Woodstock police chief Robert Lowen filed a complaint with the Board against Gorski. The complaint sought Gorski's discharge from the Woodstock police department (police department), alleging that Gorski's conduct constituted cause for discharge, as required by section 10-2.1-17 of the Illinois Municipal Code (Municipal Code) (65 ILCS 5/10-2.1-17 (West 2006)), because he violated police department rules and regulations, a return-to-work agreement, an agreement with the Illinois Pain Institute, and an agreement regarding his treatment with Suboxone and because of "his overall pattern of overlapping use and abuse of prescription narcotic drugs."
¶ 4 On February 4, 2008, the matter proceeded to a hearing before the Board. Chief Lowen testified that on February 13, 2006, he met with Gorski and told him that he was concerned that Gorski was abusing prescription drugs. Chief Lowen told Gorski that it was not appropriate to take Vicodin while performing his duties as a sworn police officer. He referred Gorski to the employee assistance program.
¶ 5 Chief Lowen testified that on March 10, 2006, he met with Gorski again and told him not to take any medication that was not prescribed. On April 6, 2006, Chief Lowen ordered Gorski to submit to a drug urine screen. Gorski's test came back positive for hydrocodone and hydromorphone.
¶ 6 Chief Lowen testified that nearly a year later, on April 12, 2007, he met with Gorski to discuss Gorski's "sick record" and use of prescription drugs. Chief Lowen required Gorski to submit to another drug urine screen. This screen also came back positive for hydrocodone and hydromorphone. Gorski told Chief Lowen that he knew the screen would come back positive, because he had received medication at an emergency room from a Dr. Gallant. Chief Lowen placed Gorski on paid administrative leave so Gorski could "seek counseling for his drug use *** and get things straightened out." Chief Lowen told Gorski that before he could return to work he would have to pass a fit-for-duty test, which included a urine screen.
¶ 7 Chief Lowen received a letter from Dr. Martin Fortier clearing Gorski to work as of June 5, 2007. The letter indicated that Gorski had been off pain medication for at least 10 days. Chief Lowen also testified that on June 7, 2007, he and Gorski scheduled the fit-for-duty test for June 11, 2007. On June 11, 2007, Gorski attempted to pass the test, but his urine screen came back positive for hydromorphone. Gorski told Chief Lowen that, before the urine screen, he had taken two Vicodin pills left over from Dr. Fortier's prescription. He also told Chief Lowen that, after the urine screen, he had taken two more Vicodin pills from the same prescription.
¶ 8 Chief Lowen testified that, on June 18, 2007, he presented Gorski with a return-to-work agreement that: prohibited him from using controlled substances other than those prescribed by a physician; required him to use any controlled substance only in a manner consistent with the prescription set forth by the prescribing physician; required him to provide the police department with documentation concerning any prescribed medication, indicating that the medication would not interfere with his duties as a police officer; and required him to submit to drug testing within one hour of any such request. Chief Lowen ordered Gorski to submit to a urine screen on July 3, 2007, but he did not submit to the screen because of illness. On July 11, 2007, at Chief Lowen's request, Gorski submitted to a urine screen, which came back negative.
¶ 9 On July 17, 2007, Gorski signed the return-to-work agreement, and he returned to work the following day. On July 18, his first day back to work, he submitted to a urine screen; the results would take nine days. Chief Lowen testified that, on the way to provide the sample, Gorski said that he was not taking Vicodin and he would not take it. As proof, Gorski gave Chief Lowen an empty prescription bottle from Dr. Fortier. Gorski submitted to another urine screen on July 26. The following day, Gorski's July 18 urine screen came back positive for a narcotic medication, oxymorphone. Chief Lowen suspended Gorski with pay. On August 9, the July 26 urine screen came back positive for hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone. Chief Lowen never received documentation from a physician that Gorski's medications would not interfere with his duties as a police officer.
¶ 10 Chief Lowen testified that Gorski told him that the drugs he took before the July 18 positive screen came from Dr. Fortier and that the drugs he took before the July 26 positive screen came from his father, Dr. Gorski. Gorski told Chief Lowen that his father gave him the drugs without a prescription. Chief Lowen testified that the integrity of the City of Woodstock was adversely affected by Gorski's failure to refrain from using prescription drugs and he recommended that Gorski be terminated.
¶ 11 Dr. Patrick Camadeca, a physician affiliated with Sherman Health Center, testified that he reviewed Gorski's urine screens. Gorski's urine screens on June 11, July 18, and July 26, 2007, tested positive for: hydromorphone; oxymorphone; and hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone, respectively.
¶ 12 Dr. Manuak Rana of the Illinois Pain Institute (Institute) testified that he treated Gorski for lower back pain from March through August 2006. Dr. Rana prescribed Gorski narcotic medication and also treated him with lumbar steroid injections. Dr. Rana testified that Gorski agreed to the Institute's policies that all narcotic medication would be prescribed only by a physician at the Institute, that all prescriptions would be filled only at a Walgreens pharmacy, and that Gorski would not increase the prescribed dose or obtain early refills.
¶ 13 Woodstock police officer James O'Doherty testified that during the first week in March 2006, at Gorski's request, he picked up and filled a prescription from a Dr. Keenan for a narcotic medication, Vicoprofen, and gave the medication to Gorski. Gorski was on duty at the time. O'Doherty also testified that between early 2006 and 2007 Gorski asked him approximately 10 times to ask his cousin, a doctor, to provide Gorski with pain medication.
¶ 14 Dr. Robin Purdy testified that, in early April 2006, he prescribed Dilaudid, a narcotic medication, to Gorski at an emergency room after Gorski complained of a headache and vomiting. Gorski did not to tell Dr. Purdy that he ...