Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division
STEVE DE JESUS, SABRINA DUDLEY JOHNSON, and MARIA KOUZOUKAS, Individually and on Behalf of Other Similarly Situated Chicago Police Officers and Retirees, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
POLICEMEN'S ANNUITY AND BENEFIT FUND OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendant-Appellee.
from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 18 CH 06195,
Honorable Raymond W. Mitchell, Judge presiding.
Attorneys for Appellants: Paul D. Geiger and Ronald C. Dahms,
both of Northfield, for appellants.
Attorneys for Appellee: Mary Patricia Burns, Vincent D.
Pinelli, and Sarah A. Boeckman, of Burke Burns & Pinelli,
Ltd., David Kugler, of David R. Kugler & Associates, and
Justin Kugler, all of Chicago, for appellee.
JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Justices Lampkin and Reyes concurred in the judgment and
1 Plaintiffs Steve De Jesus, Sabrina Dudley Johnson, and
Maria Kouzoukas brought a class action lawsuit against
defendant Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of the
City of Chicago, alleging that they and other similarly
situated Chicago police officers had been receiving reduced
disability benefits because defendant failed to properly
calculate their salaries-the metric that determined the
amount of their disability benefits-by not including an
additional form of compensation known as duty availability
allowance. On defendant's motion, the circuit court
dismissed plaintiffs' complaint, finding that they had
failed to timely initiate administrative review of their
allegedly miscalculated disability benefits pursuant to the
procedures set forth in the Administrative Review Law (735
ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 2018)).
2 On appeal, plaintiffs contend that, because their
complaint's claims were based on defendant's
systematic miscalculation of their disability benefits, they
were not challenging administrative decisions and, thus, did
not need to follow the procedures set forth in the
Administrative Review Law. Because we agree with the circuit
court that plaintiffs were required to follow the procedures
set forth in the Administrative Review Law to review
defendant's alleged miscalculation of their disability
benefits, we affirm the dismissal of plaintiffs'
3 I. BACKGROUND
4 In 1963, the Illinois Pension Code created the
Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of
Chicago to benefit Chicago police officers, their widows or
widowers, and their children. 1963 Ill. Laws 213 (§
5-101); see also 40 ILCS 5/5-101 (West 2018). The fund
provides not only for retired police officers and their
families, but also officers who become disabled. See 40 ILCS
5/5-101 et seq. (West 2018). For an officer who
suffers a duty-related disability, he or she has the right to
receive disability benefits "equal to 75% of his
salary." Id. § 5-154(a). The fund also
provides disability benefits for officers who suffer an
occupational disease disability and ordinary disability, also
based on a percentage of their salary. Id.
§§ 5- 154.1, 5-155.
5 For Chicago police officers, salary is defined as the
"annual salary of a policeman appropriated for members
of his rank or grade in the city's annual budget or
appropriation bill." Id. § 5-114(d).
However, since January 1, 1998, their salary must also
include "any duty availability allowance received by the
policeman." Id. § 5-114(f). The duty
availability allowance is an additional form of remuneration
to compensate officers for being available to perform their
jobs. See Hooker v. Retirement Board of the Firemen
's Annuity & Benefit Fund, 2013 IL 114811,
¶ 17 (in the context of compensation for Chicago
firefighters); Collins v. Retirement Board of the
Policemen's Annuity & Benefit Fund, 334
Ill.App.3d 909, 914 (2002) (in the context of compensation
for Chicago police officers). As the statutory language
indicates, the officer must have actually received the duty
availability allowance while an active duty officer. See
Hooker, 2013 IL 114811, ¶ 23 (rejecting an
argument under a similar provision of the Pension Code
related to Chicago firefighters that the firefighters'
pension board was required to include a duty availability
allowance in the calculation of widows' benefits, even if
the decedents never actually received the allowance as active
duty firefighters). The fund has a board responsible for
administering the provisions of the Pension Code related to
the fund. 40 ILCS 5/5-178 (West 2018). Under those
provisions, the Administrative Review Law "shall apply
to and govern all proceedings for the judicial review of
final administrative decisions of the retirement board."
Id. § 5-228(a).
6 Steve De Jesus is a disabled Chicago police officer and has
received duty disability benefits continuously since
September 1998. Sabrina Dudley Johnson is a disabled Chicago
police officer and has received duty disability benefits
continuously since October 1995. Maria Kouzoukas is a limited
active duty Chicago police officer, who was previously
disabled and received duty disability benefits between
December 2005 and December 2014.
7 In May 2018, De Jesus, Johnson, and Kouzoukas, individually
and on behalf of other similarly situated Chicago police
officers, filed a three-count class action complaint against
the Policemen's Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of
Chicago. Plaintiffs raised causes of action under the pension
protection clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const.
1970, art. XIII, § 5), common law breach of contract,
and the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution
(Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 2). According to their
complaint, several disabled Chicago police officers
"recently" learned that their monthly disability
benefits had been paid without the statutorily mandated duty
availability allowance being included in the calculation of
their salary, though some disabled officers had the allowance
included. The complaint stated that, at present time, the
duty availability allowance was a quarterly $900 payment
8 The complaint asserted that, in December 2017, defendant
was asked to explain the inconsistency. Defendant's
executive director responded the following month, stating the
" 'The Fund's staff, in determining whether to
include duty availability allowance in a particular
officers['s] salary for purpose[s] of calculating his/her
duty disability benefits, ascertains whether the officer
actually received the duty availability allowance as
part of his/her last payroll check from the Chicago Police
Department. If [the officer] received it, the Fund includes
it as part of the officer['s] salary; if [the officer]
did not ...