Posts Tagged Firefighter fired for violating residency ordinance

Melrose Park Fire Department news more)

Excerpts from the

A former Melrose Park firefighter has lost his appeal to overturn the decision to terminate his employment for his failure to abide by residency requirements. 

John Cannici argued that he maintained a home in Melrose Park and, therefore, satisfied the requirements under the municipal code that certain employees must live within the boundaries.  In his testimony, he admitted to renting out the house in Melrose Park and lived full time with his family in Orland Park during the three years in question.

Nevertheless, the former firefighter argued that he used the Norwood Street house in Melrose Park as his mailing address, as it was where he would call to pick up bills, bank statements, and his voter registration documents. This argument was rejected by Melrose Park’s board of fire and police commissioners, as well as by Cook County Judge Neil H. Cohen and by a three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court. 

Cannici sued the Village of Melrose Park, the board, two of its commissioners, Fire Chief Richard Beltrane, and Mayor Ronald Serpico. He requested that the appeals court overturn the board’s decision, order his reinstatement with back pay, and award him attorney fees, all of which were rejected.

In an opinion written by Justice Cynthia Cobbs, with justices James Fitzgerald Smith and David Ellis concurring, the court found in favor of the board that “cause existed for Cannici’s termination where he admitted that he did not live at the Norwood house for this period of three years.”

The board ruled that “[t]he residency ordinance is not satisfied by virtue of ownership of the property” where “ownership of the property is not required by the ordinance at all.”

In the opinioin, Cobbs wrote: “The Melrose Park ordinance clearly defines resident and residence, and it requires its employees to maintain their status as residents during their employment.” She further stated that the court, in its reasoning, was not going to apply tests in previous residency cases that “conflict with the clearly expressed legislative intent” of the municipality.

“We find that the board properly interpreted and applied the village ordinance and correctly found Cannici in violation of the ordinance due to the three-year period he did not live in his Norwood house during his employment as a village firefighter,” Cobbs wrote.

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Melrose Park Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

A federal appeals court has ruled that the village of Melrose Park was within its rights to fire a firefighter for failing to abide by its residency requirements, dismissing an attempt by the firefighter to claim his termination violated his due process rights. 

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago affirmed the dismissal of due process and equal protection claims filed by John Cannici, a former Melrose Park firefighter, after he was terminated from his position for violating the village’s residency ordinance. Cannici was discharged from his position after Melrose Park found that he was not living in the village full-time.

According to Melrose Park’s village code, each and every officer and employee of the village, unless exempted by this chapter, must be a resident of the village.

The judges found Melrose Park offered Cannici exactly what Illinois law requires in cases of just cause termination: “written charges, a hearing and the opportunity to present evidence” before being fired.

Cannici lived in Melrose Park until 2008, when he bought a home in Orland Park, where his wife and two children lived. Cannici lived in Melrose Park while on duty and spent time with his family on the weekends, thus violating the village’s residency ordinances, according to the village’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners’ review.

The court disagreed with Cannici’s claims that the review deprived him of a protected interest or violated his equal protection rights.

“In fact, [Cannici’s] counsel brought to our attention that the state court judge has found the administrative review claim in his favor and deferred further proceedings pending this court’s decision,” Judge William J. Bauer wrote in the decision. “Thus, we have no reason to believe Cannici has been deprived of his due process rights.”

The court cited a Supreme Court ruling in its opinion that states that the court has never found the Equal Protection Clause implicated in the specific circumstance where, as here, government employers are alleged to have made an individualized, subjective personnel decision in a seemingly arbitrary or irrational manner.

Thus, the court agreed Cannici’s equal protection clause argument failed.

thanks Dan

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