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Vick v. Wylie

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

February 9, 2018

BENNIE VICK, Sheriff of the County of Williamson; JIM MARLO, Williamson County Commissioner; BRENT GENTRY, Williamson County Commissioner; and RON ELLIS, Williamson County Commissioner, Plaintiffs and Counter defendants-Appellees,
v.
BEN WYLIE, STEVEN SINE, ROBERT OWSLEY, ASHLEY OLSEN, SHELLI MILANI, STEVEN HUGGINS, and SUSAN FLEMING, Defendants and Counter plaintiffs-Appellants.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Williamson County. No. 15-MR-29 Honorable Brad K. Bleyer, Judge, presiding.

          Attorney for Appellants Alfred E. Sanders, Jr., Sanders & Associates.

          Attorneys for Appellees Rhett T. Barke, Don E. Prosser, Gilbert, Huffman, Prosser, Hewson & Barke, Ltd.

          JUSTICE WELCH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Barberis and Justice Overstreet concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          WELCH JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The defendants-counterplaintiffs, Ben Wylie, Steven Sine, Robert Owsley, Ashley Olsen, Shelli Milani, Steven Huggins, and Susan Fleming (defendants), appeal from the Williamson County circuit court's decision denying their motion to reconsider and vacate the final judgment entered on August 9, 2016, in favor of the plaintiffs-counterdefendants, Bennie Vick, Williamson County sheriff, and Jim Marlo, Brent Gentry, and Ron Ellis, Williamson County commissioners (plaintiffs or the County). For the following reasons, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 Prior to November 18, 2014, the defendants were sworn deputy sheriffs, serving as dispatchers (telecommunicators) in Williamson County. On November 18, 2014, Sheriff Bennie Vick sent a memorandum to the defendants, informing them that the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board (Board) had determined that they do not qualify as "sworn officers" and would thereafter be considered "civilian employees." The memorandum stated that, "[p]ursuant to the new classification determined solely by the Board, Williamson County Telecommunicators will no longer be permitted to carry a firearm, wear a uniform, receive a uniform allowance or participate in [the Sheriff's Law Enforcement Personnel pension plan (SLEP)]." On December 18, 22, and 23, 2014, the defendants were sworn as Williamson County telecommunicators.

         ¶ 3 On February 3, 2015, the plaintiffs filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against the defendants, seeking a declaration that, as sworn telecommunicators, the defendants were not entitled to participate in SLEP but were instead entitled to participate in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

         ¶ 4 On February 6, 2015, six of the defendants filed an answer and a counterclaim, alleging that because their primary duties were acting as dispatchers, they did not meet the definition of "law enforcement officer" under the statute granting authority to the Board, and therefore, were not subject to the Board's standards. The defendants requested a declaration that there was no legal impediment to their status as sworn deputy sheriffs provided that their primary duties remain as dispatchers.

         ¶ 5 The parties submitted cross-motions for summary judgment. On August 9, 2016, the circuit court entered an order resolving the motions. The court noted that the parties agree that in December 2014, the defendants' classifications were changed, and they were administered new oaths of office as civilian telecommunicators. The court noted that it appeared the change was triggered by a communication from the Board to Sheriff Vick but that "the reason for the classification change is not, under the law, something this Court is allowed to consider, " as the defendants did not raise on the pleadings or seek declaratory relief on the issue of the applicability or enforceability of their collective bargaining agreement.

         ¶ 6 In response to the defendants' claims, the court found that under Illinois law, it was clear that an employee properly qualified and sworn as a sheriff's deputy could be assigned telecommunications tasks and still be eligible for SLEP participation; however, "as this Court construes the applicable statutes, in order to meet the requirements for the appointment of an Oath taken by a deputy sheriff, and to perform the statutory powers of a deputy sheriff (55 ILCS 5/3-6015), the training requirement of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board must be met." The court concluded:

"It is therefore judicially determined as follows:
1.That effective on the dates of the Oaths of office taken in December 2014, the defendants are sworn telecommunicators of ...

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