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Taylor v. Dart

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

September 23, 2016

PERCY TAYLOR, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THOMAS J. DART, Sheriff of Cook County, and THE COOK COUNTY SHERIFF'S MERIT BOARD, Defendants-Appellants.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 CH 26319 The Honorable Neil H. Cohen, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE HALL delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Gordon and Justice Lampkin concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HALL JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 The defendants, Thomas J. Dart, Sheriff of Cook County (Sheriff Dart), and the Cook County Sheriff's Merit Board (Merit Board) (collectively, the defendants) filed this interlocutory appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 308 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010). The circuit court certified the following questions for our review:

"Is a Cook County Sheriff's Merit Board member that was appointed on June 2, 2011 to serve a term which expired on March 19, 2012, a lawfully appointed member of the Merit Board when he presided over Percy Taylor's Merit Board Hearing on February 27, 2013? If the Merit Board member was not lawfully appointed to the Merit Board, does the decision of October 30, 2013 remain valid or is it rendered void?"

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 I. The Statute

         ¶ 4 Section 3-7002 of the Counties Code (Code) provides in pertinent part as follows:

"There is created the Cook County Sheriff's Merit Board, hereinafter called the Board, consisting of 7 members appointed by the Sheriff with the advice and consent of the county board, except that on and after the effective date of this amendatory Act of 1997, the Sheriff may appoint 2 additional members, with the advice and consent of the county board, at his or her discretion. ***
Upon the expiration of the terms of office of those first appointed (including the 2 additional members first appointed under authority of this amendatory Act of 1991 and under the authority of this amendatory Act of the 91st General Assembly), their respective successors shall be appointed to hold office from the third Monday in March of the year of their respective appointments for a term of 6 years and until their successors are appointed and qualified for a like term. As additional members are appointed under authority of this amendatory Act of 1997, their terms shall be set to be staggered consistently with the terms of the existing Board members. No more than 3 members of the Board shall be affiliated with the same political party, except that as additional members are appointed by the Sheriff under the authority of this amendatory Act of 1997 and under the authority of this amendatory Act of the 91st General Assembly, the political affiliation of the Board shall be such that no more than one-half of the members plus one additional member may be affiliated with the same political party. No member shall have held or have been a candidate for an elective public office within one year preceding his or her appointment." 55 ILCS 5/3-7002 (West 2012).

         ¶ 5 II. Facts

         ¶ 6 On May 5, 2011, Sheriff Dart requested approval from the Cook County Board to appoint John R. Rosales to the Merit Board to fill the vacancy of Commissioner Daniel Lynch whose term on the Merit Board was to expire on March 19, 2012. The county board approved the Rosales appointment on June 1, 2011. After the expiration of Commissioner Lynch's term on March 19, 2012, Sheriff Dart did not reappoint Mr. Rosales to the Merit Board, and he has continued to serve as a member of the Merit Board.

         ¶ 7 On October 20, 2011, Sheriff Dart filed a complaint against the plaintiff alleging misconduct and seeking to terminate his employment as a Cook County sheriff's police officer. On February 27, 2013, Mr. Rosales presided over the hearing held on Sheriff Dart's complaint against the plaintiff. On October 30, 2013, the Merit Board issued its decision terminating the plaintiff's employment. The October 30, 2013, order was signed by Mr. Rosales and seven Merit Board members.

         ¶ 8 The plaintiff filed a complaint for administrative review of the Merit Board's decision. On May 7, 2014, the circuit court issued a memorandum and order affirming the Merit Board's decision terminating the plaintiff's employment. The plaintiff moved for reconsideration of the order arguing, inter alia, that the appointment of Mr. Rosales to the Merit Board was invalid because he was not appointed to a six-year term as required by section 3-7002 of the Code (55 ILCS 5/3-7002 (West 2012)).

         ¶ 9 The circuit court granted the plaintiff's motion for reconsideration, finding that the appointment of Commissioner Rosales was invalid because he was appointed to less than a six-year term. The court rejected the defendants' argument that the decision of the Merit Board remained valid because seven lawful members voted to terminate the plaintiff's employment. The court found that the Merit Board was not lawfully constituted at the time it rendered its decision, and therefore, its decision could not be given effect. The circuit court vacated the Merit Board's October 30, 2013, decision terminating the plaintiff's employment and remanded the case for a new hearing on the charges against the plaintiff before a legally constituted Merit Board. The court denied the defendants' motion for reconsideration

         ¶ 10 Following the circuit court's certification of the questions for review, the defendants filed their request for leave to appeal, which was granted by this court on December 23, 2014.

         ¶ 11 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 12 I. ...


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