United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. Lee United States District Judge.
Robert Bless has brought an Illinois state law claim seeking
review of an administrative decision by the Cook County
Sheriff's Merit Commission (“Merit Board”)
that terminated his employment as a police officer with the
Cook County Sheriff's Office (“CCSO”). Bless
seeks adjudication of this claim (Count IV of his complaint)
based on the administrative record, which requires the Court
to resolve the issue as a motion for summary judgment. For
the reasons stated herein, Bless's motion is granted in
part and denied in part.
Robert Bless worked as a police officer for the CCSO from
1997 until the Merit Board voted to terminate his employment
on May 6, 2013. R. at 24-28.During some years of his
employment with the CCSO, Bless also worked as a lawyer and
as a McHenry County Board Commissioner. R. at 488, 496-97.
September 2008, Bless was injured in a vehicle accident while
on duty, interrupting his employment as a patrol officer. R.
at 435, 512-15. Between September 2008 and November 2010,
Bless was placed on injured on-duty status and received
workers' compensation temporary disability benefits. R.
at 435, 512-15. During this time, Bless continued his work as
a McHenry County Commissioner and in his private law
practice. R. at 489-98.
CCSO permits employees to work second jobs if the employee
submits secondary employment forms and receives authorization
from the CCSO. R. at 1083- 91. Bless claims that he properly
submitted secondary employment forms for both his law
practice and his role with McHenry County during all time
periods, R. at 499, 507-08; Pl.'s Mem. Supp. at 4-6, ECF
No. 291. But Defendants assert that Bless had no secondary
employment authorization on file from December 2008 through
2010, while he was on leave from the CCSO, R. at 498-500,
509, 511, 560-61; Defs.' Mem. Opp'n Admin. Review at
12, ECF No. 301.
2011, the CCSO's Office of Professional Review
(“OPR”) initiated administrative charges against
Bless and recommended his termination on the basis that he
had received workers' compensation benefits and salary
from the CCSO while working unauthorized second jobs from
December 2008 through 2010. R. at 455, 693- 95, 1110-11,
1262-63. The Cook County Sheriff, Thomas Dart, filed formal
charges with the Merit Board based on these purported grounds
in October 2011. R. at 18- 23.
Merit Board is an administrative body created by Illinois
statute, and its members are appointed by the Cook County
Sheriff and approved by the Cook County Board of
Commissioners (“County Board”). 55 Ill. Comp.
Stat. Ann. 5/3-7002. The Merit Board issued a written
decision on May 6, 2013, terminating Bless's employment
with the CCSO. R. at 18-28. At the time of the Merit
Board's decision, John Rosales was a member of the Board
and participated in the decision to terminate Bless. As is
further explicated below, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled
in 2017 that Rosales was not lawfully appointed to serve on
the Merit Board at the time relevant here. See Taylor v.
Dart, 81 N.E.3d 1, 4, 8, 10 (Ill.App.Ct. 2017).
timely filed a claim seeking administrative review of the
Merit Board's decision to terminate his employment
pursuant to Illinois's Administrative Review Law, 735
Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/3-110. 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶
116-20. Bless asks the Court to vacate as void the Merit
Board's termination decision and to reinstate Bless with
full back pay and benefits. 3d Am. Compl. ¶¶
seeking review of an Illinois administrative body's
decision is governed by Illinois's Administrative Review
Law, which limits judicial review to the administrative
record. Lalowski v. City of Des Plaines, 789 F.3d
784, 794 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann.
5/3-110). When a federal district court considers such a
claim, it “resolves the issue [through] summary
judgment.” Lalowski, 789 F.3d at 794.
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Grochocinski v. Mayer Brown
Rowe & Maw, LLP, 719 F.3d 785, 794 (7th Cir. 2013).
The court “constru[es] all facts and draw[s] all
reasonable inferences from the record in the light most
favorable to the nonmovant.” Smith v. City of
Chi., 242 F.3d 737, 742 (7th Cir. 2001).
argues that the Merit Board's decision to terminate his
employment must be vacated because, pursuant to the Illinois
Appellate Court's recent decision in Taylor, 81
N.E.3d at 10, the Merit Board was illegally constituted at
the time of the determination, and therefore its decision is
void under state law. Pl.'s Mem. Supp. at 11-12. ...