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Gutraj v. Board of Trustees of Police Pension Fund of Village of Grayslake

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

June 28, 2013

CONRAD GUTRAJ, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE POLICE PENSION FUND OF THE VILLAGE OF GRAYSLAKE, ILLINOIS, Defendant-Appellant.

Held [*]

The appellate court upheld the trial court’s order that plaintiff, a police officer awarded a “line of duty” disability pension pursuant to section 3- 114.1 of the Pension Code, was entitled to annual 3% pension increases under both section 3-111.1(c) and 3-114.1(d).

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County, No. 12-MR-350; the Hon. Review Diane E. Winter, Judge, presiding. Judgment.

Jeffrey A. Goodloe, of Puchalski Goodloe Marzullo, LLP, of Libertyville, for appellant.

James L. Dobrovolny, of Dobrovolny Law Offices, of Urbana, for appellee.

JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

ZENOFF JUSTICE.

¶ 1 Defendant, the Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of the Village of Grayslake, Illinois, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Lake County ruling that plaintiff, Conrad Gutraj, is entitled to pension increases under both section 3-111.1(c) and section 3-114.1(d) of the Illinois Pension Code (Code) (40 ILCS 5/3-111.1(c), 3-114.1(d) (West 2012)). We affirm.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On March 5, 2012, plaintiff filed a complaint for mandamus and declaratory relief (see 735 ILCS 5/2-701 (West 2012) ("[t]he court may, in cases of actual controversy, make binding declarations of rights")), arising out of the following undisputed facts. Plaintiff became a police officer for the Village of Grayslake on July 1, 1975. On the same date, he joined the Grayslake police pension fund. On April 12, 2000, plaintiff suffered a heart attack while performing his duties as a police officer. As a result of his heart attack, plaintiff was no longer able to work as a policeman and was suspended from police service on September 19, 2000. On October 14, 2000, defendant awarded plaintiff, who was 49 years old, a "line of duty" disability pension pursuant to section 3-114.1 of the Code. In accordance with the provisions of the Code then in effect, plaintiff's pension was 65% of his salary as of his last day of service.

¶ 4 In 2001, plaintiff availed himself of a recent amendment to section 3-114.1 of the Code, which allowed for an annual noncompounded 3% increase to his pension, provided that he met certain conditions. On March 4, 2011, plaintiff turned 60 years of age. On October 10, 2011, plaintiff demanded an additional 3% increase pursuant to section 3-111.1(c) of the Code, which provided that the monthly pension of a police officer who is retired on disability shall increase, in January of the year following the year of attaining age 60, by 3% of the original pension for each year that he or she received pension payments, and for an additional 3% increase in each January thereafter. Defendant contends that it did not formally deny plaintiff's request for the increase under section 3-111.1(c). Nevertheless, defendant agrees that there is a controversy within the meaning of section 2-701 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

¶ 5 The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether plaintiff was entitled to a 3% increase under both sections of the Code. On September 26, 2012, the trial court ruled in a memorandum opinion and order that mandamus was inappropriate because plaintiff's averment that defendant rejected his request was made on information and belief complaint, the trial court held that plaintiff was entitled to increases under both sections of the Code. Defendant appealed the trial court's ruling on the declaratory judgment count.

¶ 6 ANALYSIS

ΒΆ 7 We first address plaintiff's motion to strike defendant's brief, or portions thereof, which we ordered taken with the case. Plaintiff contends that certain charts included in defendant's statement of facts are matters outside the record. To the contrary, the charts merely illustrate the record facts. Plaintiff also objects to defendant's use of the acronym "COLA, " contending that the term has a "negative connotation in today's highly charged discussion regarding public pensions." Plaintiff is concerned that the term "COLA" will prejudice us against him. This court is able to separate political hyperbole, which plaintiff unnecessarily interjected into the discussion ...


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