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Pension Credit Statute Does Not Apply Retroactively

October 6th, 2014

White v. Retirement Bd. of the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of the City of Chicago, 2014 IL App (1st) 132315

In a recent decision, the First District Appellate Court affirmed the circuit court’s reversal of a pension board’s refusal to approve pension credit for prior service periods.   The officer applied for pension credit under Sections 5/5-214(b) and 5/5-214(c) of the Pension Code for two (2) prior service periods.  The officer was seeking credit for  time spent employed as a legal investigator with the City of Chicago’s Corporation Counsel’s office and as a police aide with the City of Chicago Police Department.  The officer originally applied for the credits in February 2010.  At the initial hearing, the officer was cautioned that she may want to hire an attorney.  An attorney filed an appearance on behalf of the officer in February 2012, and a hearing was conducted in March 2012.

Prior to the continued hearing date, Section 5-214(b) of the Pension Code was amended (effective January 5, 2012).  Section 5-214(c) remained unchanged. The following language was appended to the end of Section 5-214(b):

“…provided that, in each of these cases and for all periods specified in this item (b), including those beginning before the effective date of this amendatory Act of the 97th General Assembly, the police officer is on leave and continues to remain in sworn status, subject to the professional standards of the public employer or those terms established in statute.”

At the hearing, the officer provided testimony regarding the duties she performed as a police aide with the police department.  Her duties included assisting citizens and conducting investigations.  All of the officer’s investigations occurred within the police station.  The pension board voted to deny the officer’s claims for pension credits for both the period as a legal investigator with the Corporation Counsel and as a police aide with the police department.  The pension board stated that it was required to follow the law in existence at the time of the hearing.  The pension board also decided that the investigative work performed by the officer as a police aide was not the type of investigative work contemplated by §5-214(c).

After reviewing the statutory language, the Appellate Court determined that §5-214(b) was not expressly intended to be applied retroactively.  The Appellate Court further found the amendment was substantive in nature, as it limited certain pension credits available.  Therefore, the pension board’s retroactive application of the statutory amendment was improper.  The Appellate Court held that the pension board should have made its determination based on application of the 2010 version of §5-214(b).  The Appellate Court further found that the evidence and testimony presented related to the investigative work performed by the officer as a police aide demonstrated that the officer had indeed performed investigative work within the meaning on §5-214(c).   The Appellate Court held that the officer had done more than simply passing along information to other officers.  The pension board was found to have improperly applied the definition of “investigative work” under §5-214(c), and that the pension board’s ruling was clearly erroneous.  The Appellate Court confirmed that the officer had presented sufficient evidence to meet the requirements under §5-214(c) to receive pension credits for her time employed as a police aide.

In confirming the circuit court’s reversal of the pension board’s denial of the officer’s claim for pension credits, the Appellate Court remanded the matter to the pension board for a determination of the appropriate pension credits to be granted to the officer in accordance with §§5-214(b) and (c).