An Illinois Appellate Court recently reversed a trial court order that a firefighter pension fund board of trustees (Pension Board) must hold a new
hearing, finding that the Pension Board had provided sufficient due process to the former deputy chief. Ibrahim
v. Romeoville Firefighters’ Pension Fund

A month before the deputy fire chief retired, the mayor and village board increased the deputy chief’s salary from approximately $125,000 to $150,000. When the deputy chief applied to the Pension Board to receive his pension, the Pension Board approved payouts based on
the chief’s $125,000 salary. The deputy chief filed a request with the Pension Board to base the pension on his final $150k
salary. The Pension Board reviewed the deputy chief’s request at a Pension Board meeting, where the matter was included on the agenda and the deputy chief’s attorney was permitted an opportunity to speak on the deputy chief’s behalf. The Pension Board ultimately denied the request, finding that basing the pension on an “unauthorized pension spike” would be against public policy and the regulations of the Illinois Department of Insurance, and would conflict with the Pension Board’s fiduciary duties to the Fund and its members. The deputy chief then filed a
lawsuit against the Pension Board, and the trial court ruled in the deputy chief’s favor and ordered the Pension Board
to hold a new hearing on the matter. The Pension Board then appealed.

The Appellate Court determined that the trial court could only order
a new hearing if the deputy chief’s due process rights were violated. Here, the Appellate Court noted that due process
required the deputy chief to be provided notice of the Pension Board meeting and a meaningful
opportunity to be heard at that meeting. The Appellate Court noted that the deputy chief had prior notice of the meeting because he discussed the matter with the Pension Board’s attorney, and it was a listed
agenda item at the Pension Board meeting. Additionally, the Appellate Court found that the deputy chief’s
attorney spoke on the deputy chief’s behalf at the Pension Board meeting, providing the deputy chief with a sufficient
opportunity to be heard. As a result, the Appellate Court determined that the deputy chief’s due
process rights were not violated, and as a result, the trial court had no authority to
order a new Pension Board hearing.

Post Authored by Daniel Lev, Ancel Glink