United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. Chang, Judge
he was fired from the Bolingbrook Police Department, Sergeant
Willie McRay brought suit against the police chief, the
Village of Bolingbrook, and a host of others, challenging the
firing on a variety of state and federal law
grounds. R. 18, Am. Compl. McRay's fourteen-year
career with the department ended after a hearing in front of
the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, which determined
that he had violated a number of departmental rules. Am.
Compl. Exh. A. The primary disciplinary charge against McRay
arose out of his relationship with his young-adult son,
Jeremy McRay. Admin. R. at 722, Hrg. Tr. at 83. Now, even as the
parties are engaged in discovery on the federal law claims,
McRay moves for summary judgment on the state
administrative-review claim. R. 59, Pl. Br. The Defendants
oppose the motion, arguing that this federal court is not the
correct forum for review and, even if it is, the Board's
decision should not be disturbed. R. 77, Def. Resp. at 8,
14-18. For the following reasons, McRay's motion is
granted. The Board's decision is vacated and remanded.
2003, the Village of Bolingbrook hired Willie McRay as a
patrol officer, and he eventually climbed the ranks to patrol
sergeant in April 2014. Admin. R. at 1, Initial Charges at 1;
Admin. R. at 721, Hrg. Tr. at 78. Before the events
culminating in the Board hearing, McRay had performed his
duties satisfactorily, as reflected in his performance
evaluations for the preceding decade. Id. at 1130,
Hrg. Tr. at 1122; id. at 1223-24, Hrg. Tr. at
troubles in the department began with his son's June 2015
conviction for possession with intent to distribute a
look-alike substance, a Class 3 Felony. Admin. R. at 2,
Initial Charges at 2; id. at 347-50, Criminal
Sentence Ord. at 1-4. Jeremy McRay, who was 19- to
20-years-old during this time, struggled with an addiction to
prescription pills. Id. at 53-54, McRay Int. Tr. at
29-30; id. at 769, Hrg. Tr. at 204-05. When Jeremy
was again arrested in September 2015 and charged, this time
with felony burglary, he told the arresting officer that he
lived with his father, a police officer. Admin. R. at 2,
Initial Charges at 2. During the ensuing investigation,
Bolingbrook detectives learned of Jeremy's prior felony
drug conviction and overheard recorded telephone
conversations between McRay and Jeremy, including one where
McRay mentioned that he had warned Jeremy about decoy cars
and undercover units. Id. at 351, Internal Investig.
Memo. at 1; id. at 723, Hrg. Tr. at 87. Based on the
recorded conversations, Public Safety Director Tom Ross
launched a formal investigation, but the investigation
ultimately concluded that any allegation of misconduct was
unfounded. Id. at 351, Internal Investig. Memo. at
1. But the investigation into the recordings brought
Jeremy's larger problems to Director Ross's
attention. Id. at 722, Hrg. Tr. at 84.
learning of the felony conviction in September 2015, Ross
approached McRay to discuss Jeremy's criminal history.
Admin. R. at 723, Hrg. Tr. At 86-87. During that meeting,
Director Ross said that McRay's relationship with Jeremy
violated a departmental rule against certain associations set
forth in a specific departmental order, General Order 12.
Id., Hrg. Tr. at 88-89. General Order 12 contains a
list of various offenses that can subject a police officer to
departmental discipline. Among those is a ban on
relationships with persons who have criminal histories or who
are under investigation:
[R]egular or continuous associations or dealings with persons
[Employees] know, or should know, are persons under criminal
investigation or indictment, or who have a reputation in the
community or the Department for present involvement in
felonious or criminal behavior.
Admin. R. at 13, General Order No. 12, § VII, ¶
8(B). Paragraph 8(B) also contains exceptions, including:
Exceptions: when as necessary to the performance of official
duties, or where unavoidable because of other family or
personal relationships of the employees'.
Id. Finally, the rule requires an officer to notify
the Chief of Police if a family or personal relationship is
the basis for an exception to the ban:
If such family or personal relationships exist, then the
employee shall make notification to the Chief of Police, via
Id, General Order No. 12, § VII, ¶
confronted with the policy, McRay told his supervisors that
his son did not live with him, and in late September 2015, he
submitted a memo to the Director making that representation.
Admin. R. at 2, Initial Charges at 2; id. at 723-24,
Hrg. Tr. at 89-91; id. at 1269, McRay Memo. at 1.
Ross responded with a memo of his own, acknowledging
McRay's written notice, and advising him that the
association restriction, General Order No. 12, § VII,
¶ 8(B) and (C), applied to his situation. Id.
at 3, Initial Charges at 3; id. at 724, Hrg. Tr. at
92-93; id. at 1270, Ross Memo. at 1. Ross's memo
also asked McRay to keep Ross “advised of all changes
and updates.” Id. at 1270, Ross Memo. at 1.
When asked later (at the Board hearing) what he meant by
this, Ross answered, “the document speaks for
itself.” Id. at 725, Hrg. Tr. at 94. Director
Ross testified that he told McRay only that the rule applied
to his situation. Id. at 726, Hrg. Tr. at 100.
According to Ross, “it was not an explicit order”
that McRay stay away from his son. Id.
the September 2015 memo exchange between McRay and Ross,
Jeremy had several other run-ins with the police. In July
2016 (at that time, Jeremy was on pretrial release for the
pending burglary charge), the Naperville police department
had a 911 call come from Jeremy's cell phone. Admin. R.
at 784, Hrg. Tr. at 263. When emergency services dialed back,
Jeremy did not pick-up, and GPS was traced back to
McRay's Bolingbrook address, where Jeremy was found.
Id. at 833, Hrg. Tr. at 377. According to McRay,
Jeremy had gotten a flat tire the day before, and McRay let
him spend the night at his Bolingbrook home-which was closer
than his usual home at his mother's Plainfield
residence-so it could be fixed in the morning. Id.
at 527, McRay 7/13/16 Memo. at 1; id. at 728, Hrg.
whole situation came to a head in August 2016. McRay, away in
Arizona on vacation, asked Jeremy to go to McRay's
Bolingbrook home to check on his dogs. Admin. R. at 41-42,
McRay Int. Tr. at 17-18. Unbeknownst to McRay, Jeremy hosted
a party at the house that night. At the party, a woman
reported being sexually assaulted and numerous items were
stolen from McRay's house. Id. at 3, Initial
Charges at 3; id. 729-30, Hrg. Tr. at 113-15. After
the thefts, Director Ross claimed McRay had failed to file
police reports with the department and had not been
forthcoming with information about the incident. Id.
at 730, Hrg. Tr. at 114-15. McRay eventually filed police
reports stating that his badge and hat shield had been
stolen. Id. at 646, Board Ord. at 5. At that point,
Ross initiated a formal complaint against McRay, beginning
the investigation that would end in McRay's eventual
discharge. Id. at 730, Hrg. Tr. at 116; id.
at 1274, Serv. Complaint at 1. McRay was put on
administrative leave from the Bolingbrook Police Department,
but was ordered to contact his Patrol Commander by 9 a.m. on
the days he was scheduled to work; he failed to do that on
two days in September 2016. Id. at 4, Initial
Charges at 4; id. at 822, Hrg. Tr. at 332-33.
McRay was served paperwork of the Department's internal
investigation into his conduct, fellow Bolingbrook officers
searched his locker and desk at the department. Admin. R. at
341, Hess Timeline Memo. at 2. They found a bottle of
prescription Hydrocodone, prescribed to Jeremy, in
McRay's desk. Id. at 341, 343, Hess Timeline
Memo. at 2, 4. The officers confiscated the pills.
Id. at 741, Hess Timeline Memo. at 2.
incident happened in around October 2016. McRay's dog was
involved in a fight with a neighbor's dog. Admin. R. at
603, Am. Charges at 4. Under Bolingbrook ordinances,
McRay's dog should have been impounded, but McRay refused
to turn his dog over to the Village. Id. at 604, Am.
Charges at 5. McRay testified that he had moved the dog out
of town, because his house was for sale and McRay refused to
build a fence that would be necessary to release his dog from
impoundment. Id. at 646, Board Ord. at 5.
the Department notified McRay that Director Ross brought
disciplinary charges against him before the Bolingbrook Fire
and Police Commission. See Admin. R. at 1-9, Initial
Charges at 1-9. The list of accusations included: failure to
obey orders; possession of a controlled substance;
association with restricted persons under criminal
investigation; failure to cooperate with a police
investigation; failure to comply with general orders;
insubordination; failure to report the loss of municipal
property; failure to maintain a working knowledge of the
regulations of the police department; and failure to maintain
conduct expected of an officer. Id.
an evidentiary hearing, the Board found McRay guilty of each
offense except the failure to report the theft of municipal
property. It found that McRay's misconduct constituted a
“substantial shortcoming” that prevented him from
holding a sergeant's position. Then, the Board ordered
that McRay be discharged from the Bolingbrook Police
Department. Admin. R. at 687-88, Suppl. Board Ord. at 1-2.
Standard of Review
Illinois Administrative Review Law provides for judicial
review of administrative agency decisions. 735 ILCS 5/3-110.
Factual findings are presumed “to be prima facie true
and correct, ” id.; Richard's Tire Co.
v. Zehnder, 692 N.E.2d 360, 366 (1998), which means that
the findings remain intact unless they are against the
manifest weight of the evidence, Roman v. Cook Cty.
Sheriff's Merit Board, 17 N.E.3d 130, 153
(Ill.App.Ct. 2014). The manifest-weight standard is not
satisfied “merely because an opposite conclusion might
be reasonable.” Id. But even under the
manifest-weight standard, the deference given to the
agency's decisions is not “boundless.”
Kouzoukas v. Retirement Board of the Policemen's
Annuity & Benefit Fund, 917 N.E.2d 999, 1011 (Ill.
2009) (quoting Wade v. City of N. Chi. Police Pension
Board, 877 N.E.2d 1101, 1114 (2007)). The review
“cannot amount to a rubber stamp of the proceedings
below.” Bowlin v. Murphysboro Firefighters Pension
Board of Trustees, 857 N.E.2d 777, 782 (Ill.App.Ct.
2006). Although a decision may be “supported by some
evidence, which if undisputed would sustain the
administrative finding, it is not sufficient if upon a
consideration of all the evidence, the finding is against the
manifest weight.” Id. A reviewing court should
not “hesitate to grant relief” when a record
lacks the “evidentiary support for the agency's
agency's decision on a question of law is reviewed de
novo. Richard's Tire Co., 692 N.E.2d at 366. The
agency's decisions on mixed questions of law and fact get
some deference, with reversals reserved for those that are
“clearly erroneous”- that is, when the reviewing
court, on the entire record, is “left with the definite
and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.”
AFM Messenger Serv., Inc. v. Dep't of Emp't
Sec., 763 N.E.2d 272, 280-81 (Ill. 2001) (quoting
United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395