Cannici, a firefighter in Melrose Park, purchased a duplex in Melrose Park in 2000, about the same time he began working at the Village. He continued to live there with his wife and two children until 2008, when he purchased a home in Orland Park. His wife and two children moved into the new home, and he claims he stayed in the Melrose Park duplex and visited his family in Orland Park on the weekends. For a couple of years, he attempted to sell the Melrose Park house but a sale never happened. Instead, he entered into a lease to rent out the home in 2013 to another family who stayed until 2016.
In 2016, the Village sought to terminate Cannici for violating the residency requirement. The Board of Fire and Police Commission held a hearing, heard testimony from Cannici, and at the conclusion of the hearing, voted to terminate Cannici, finding that he had abandoned the Melrose Park residency when he leased the home in 2013. Cannici sued to challenge the Board’s decision. The circuit court upheld the Board’s decision to terminate, and he appealed to the First District Appellate Court.
On appeal, the Appellate Court first reviewed the municipal ordinance requirement and held that the ordinance clearly defined “residency” for purposes of the employment residency requirement to require a village employee to occupy a dwelling place used as a home as the employee’s principal place of residence and abode. In this case, the court found that Cannici did not occupy the Melrose Park home for three years while it was being rented out, and his primary residency and abode was in the Orland Park home where his family lived. The court rejected Cannici’s argument that the court should have applied the residency test used by the Appellate Court in the Maksym case involving the challenge to former Chicago Mayor Emanuel’s residency, which examined the person’s intent to return to the home. The court acknowledged that the court in the Maksym case had to craft a definition of residency because the statute at issue in that case (residency for purposes of eligibility for municipal office) did not define “residency.” Here, however, the court noted that Melrose Park’s ordinance at issue did, in fact, define residency, and that definition required actual occupancy rather than intent.
Municipalities with residency requirements may want to look at their own ordinances to determine whether they have a clear definition of residency, as that could be helpful in defending any challenge to the application of the ordinance.