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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Appellate Court Upholds Revocation of Firefighter’s Pension Benefits for Felony Conviction

An Illinois Appellate Court recently upheld a pension board’s decision rescinding a firefighter’s retirement pension benefits due to a felony conviction. Trapp v. City of Burbank Firefighter’s Pension Fund.

A city firefighter retired in 2017 after allegations were raised that he had an inappropriate relationship with a high school intern cadet at the fire department. The Pension Fund Board (Board) approved the firefighter's application for a retirement pension in 2017. In 2020, the firefighter pled guilty to knowingly possessing child pornography by soliciting sexually explicit photos and videos from a high school cadet while he was employed as a city firefighter.

The Board held a hearing to determine if the firefighter’s felony conviction forfeited his right to pension benefits under the Pension Code. The firefighter argued the Board lacked jurisdiction to hold a revocation hearing since the Board did not appeal its initial decision awarding the firefighter pension benefits in 2017. The Board rejected that argument, finding that the felony conviction was related to firefighter’s service as a city firefighter, and issuing a decision revoking the firefighter’s pension benefits.

On appeal, the Illinois Appellate Court upheld the Board’s decision revoking the firefighter’s pension benefits. The Court rejected the firefighter’s argument that the Board lacked jurisdiction to hold the revocation hearing, determining that the revocation hearing was a new hearing authorized by the Pension Code and not an appeal of the initial hearing. Based on the Pension Code, the Appellate Court held that a pension board has the authority to hold new hearings to divest a firefighter of pension benefits for conviction of service-related felonies without needing to appeal the initial award of pension benefits.

Post Authored by Tyler Smith, Ancel Glink


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