STEVEN C. ENGLUM, Plaintiff-Appellee,
THE CITY OF CHARLESTON, Defendant-Appellant.
from Circuit Court of Coles County Nos. 14-CH-5, 14-CH-6
Honorable Brien J. O'Brien, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Harris and Knecht concurred in the judgment
1 In December 2008, plaintiff, Steven C. Englum, was employed
as a police officer by defendant, the City of Charleston
(City)-a non-home-rule municipality-when he was injured while
exiting his police cruiser. Englum was eventually awarded
line-of-duty pension benefits because of the injury.
Englum v. Board of Trustees of the Police Pension
Fund, 2013 IL App (4th) 120982-U (reversing the pension
board's decision denying Englum line-of-duty pension
2 In November 2013, Englum sent the City a letter requesting
health insurance benefits under section 10 of the Public
Safety Employee Benefits Act (Safety Benefits Act) (820 ILCS
320/10 (West 2012)). In December 2013, the City enacted an
ordinance establishing local administrative procedures to
determine applicants' eligibility for section 10
benefits. The City sent Englum notice of a hearing pursuant
to those procedures, at which Englum's eligibility would
3 In February 2014, Englum filed two actions in the trial
court. The first (case No. 14-CH-5) was a complaint for
declaratory relief, asking the court, instead of the
City's administrative entity, to determine Englum's
eligibility for section 10 benefits. The second (case No.
14-CH-6) was a complaint for injunctive relief, seeking to
enjoin the City from conducting an eligibility hearing under
the City's ordinance.
4 The trial court determined that the proper procedure for
determining section 10 benefits eligibility was for the court
to decide Englum's complaint for declaratory relief. The
court later held a hearing on Englum's complaint for
declaratory relief and determined that he was entitled to
section 10 benefits.
5 The City appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by (1)
deciding Englum's eligibility based on his complaint for
declaratory relief instead of allowing the City to determine
eligibility under its procedural scheme and, alternatively,
(2) concluding on the merits that Englum qualified for
section 10 benefits. We agree with the City on its first
point. We therefore reverse the trial court's judgment
denying the City's motion to dismiss Englum's
complaint for declaratory relief (case No. 14-CH-5; appeal
No. 4-16-0747). We dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the
City's appeal in No. 4-16-0748 (case No. 14-CH-6).
6 I. BACKGROUND
7 A. Englum's Injury
8 On December 7, 2008, Englum was on duty as a patrol officer
for the City. Around 12:30 p.m., he received a dispatch
informing him that the chief of police had requested an
officer to respond immediately to the Casey's gas
station. Dispatch did not provide Englum any other
information. Englum responded and arrived at Casey's
approximately one minute later. He noticed nothing suspicious
at Casey's; nor did he see the chief of police. Unable to
determine why he was dispatched, Englum returned to the
police station in hopes of speaking to the chief. On his way
into the station, Englum slipped and fell on ice in the
parking lot, injuring his hand and shoulder.
9 B. Proceedings on Englum's Claim for a Disability
10 In February 2010, Englum applied to the Board of Trustees
of the Police Pension Fund of the City of Charleston (Board)
for a disability pension under the Illinois Pension Code (40
ILCS 5/3-101 to 3-152 (West 2008)). The Board denied him a
line-of-duty disability pension but awarded him a not-on-duty
disability pension. In May 2013, this court determined that
the Board's decision to deny Englum a line-of-duty
pension was clearly erroneous. Englum, 2013 IL App
(4th) 120982-U, ¶ 25.
11 C. Proceedings on Englum's Claim for Health Insurance
Benefits Under Section 10 of the Safety Benefits Act
12 In November 2013, Englum sent the City a letter asserting
that his injuries entitled him to health insurance benefits
under section 10 of the Safety Benefits Act (820 ILCS 320/10
(West 2012)) and requesting the City to award him those
13 1. The City's Ordinance
14 In December 2013, the City enacted Title I, Chapter 11,
Section 7 of the Charles- ton City Council Code, entitled
"Administrative Hearings To Determine Eligibility Under
the Public Safety Employee Benefit Act" (Ordinance). The
Ordinance established administrative procedures to determine
whether City employees, such as Englum, were eligible for
section 10 health insurance benefits under the Safety
Benefits Act. The Ordinance provided for an administrative
hearing procedure overseen by a hearing officer appointed by
the mayor of the City.
15 In January 2014, the City sent Englum notice of a February
2014 hearing pursuant to the Ordinance, where Englum's
eligibility for benefits under section 10 of the Safety
Benefits Act would be determined.
16 2. Englum's Complaints
17 a. Englum's Complaint for Declaratory Relief (Case No.
18 In February 2014, Englum filed a complaint requesting the
trial court to enter a declaratory judgment deeming him
eligible for section 10 benefits.
19 b. Englum's Complaint for Injunctive Relief (Case No.
20 On the same day, Englum filed a complaint for injunctive
relief, arguing that the City's administrative scheme was
unauthorized by state statute and requesting the trial court
to enjoin the City from using the Ordinance's procedures
to determine Englum's section 10 eligibility.
21 3. The City's Filings
22 In March 2014, the City filed answers in both cases. Both
answers included identical arguments raising the City's
"first affirmative defense" of "choice of
remedy." The City's choice-of-remedy defense argued,
in both cases, that "this matter is not yet ripe"
because Englum had not exhausted the administrative
procedures available to him under the Ordinance. In June
2014, the City filed identical briefs in both cases
supporting its "first affirmative defense."
23 In its briefs, the City argued that it had authority under
the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/1-2-1, 10-4-1 (West
2012)) to establish the administrative scheme created by the
Ordinance. Therefore, the City claimed, Englum was required
to exhaust the procedures created by the Ordinance, and his
"claim for eligibility to benefits" was not yet
ripe for review by the trial court. (We note that the answer
and brief filed in Englum's injunctive relief action
(case No. 14-CH-6) raised arguments addressing the ripeness
of Englum's claim for declaratory judgment ("claim
for eligibility to benefits") and not his claim for
24 4. The December 2014 Hearing
25 In December 2014, the trial court held a joint hearing in
both cases. At the begin- ning of the hearing, the court
accepted the parties' request to treat the City's
answers in both cases as motions to dismiss Englum's
respective complaints. The parties then presented arguments,
and the court took the matter under advisement.
26 5. The Trial Court's January 2015 Orders
27 In January 2015, the trial court entered identical orders
in both cases denying the City's motions to dismiss. The
court determined that the supreme court's decision in
Gaffney v. Board of Trustees of the Orland Fire
Protection District, 2012 IL 110012, 969 N.E.2d 359,
precluded the City from establishing the procedural scheme
created by the Ordinance. The court ordered that Englum's
eligibility for section 10 benefits should be determined by
the court in response to Englum's complaint for
declaratory judgment in case No. 14-CH-5. (Although the ...