A former Cook County correctional officer who had been terminated in 2015 has asked a judge to order the county to reinstate him and others like him, after a state appeals court found the board that fired them included a member who was never validly appointed.
Joseph Acevedo lost his job on Jan. 12, 2015, through a decision of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department Merit Board. But in a class action lawsuit filed May 18 in Cook County Circuit Court, he said that decision must be reversed in light of a May 12, 2017, First District Appellate County opinion in Percy Taylor v. Thomas J. Dart, et al, in which the justices determined board member John R. Rosales was not validly appointed to the board. Since the opinion in Taylor voided the termination of Taylor, a Cook County Sheriff’s deputy, Acevedo argued the same should be true for him.
According to Acevedo’s complaint, Dart appointed Rosales to the board in June 2011, to replace former member Daniel Lynch, with a term to expire March 19, 2012. However, Rosales served until early 2015. Acevdeo said his class would include anyone terminated during Rosales’ time on the board. He argued such workers are “entitled to reinstatement, back pay and make whole relief” dating back to their dates of termination.
In addition to Dart and the county, Acevedo named as defendants merit board officers Chairman James P. Nally, Vice Chairman Byron Brazier and Secretary John J. Dalicandro and members Gray Mateo-Harris, Vincent T. Winters, Jennifer Bae, Patrick Brady and Kim R. Widup.
Acevedo started with the county on Dec. 27, 1999. His complaint said Dart sought to have him fired with a Jan. 30, 2014, complaint alleging he had too many unauthorized absences in 2012 and 2013. There was a board hearing on Aug. 5, 2014, at which Acevedo testified he encountered “significant medical issues” preventing him from working. Further, since Dart “forced him out of the workplace on in improper fitness-for-duty leave prior to 2012 (for which he was found fit), he could not meet the 1,250-hour requirement to qualify for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.”
Rosales participated in deliberation on Acevedo’s case and signed off on the termination decision. Acevedo appealed to Cook County Circuit Court, which upheld the merit board’s decision under the Administrative Review act in a Feb. 24, 2016, decision.
In addition to class certification, Acevedo seeks a declaratory judgment nullifying his termination and those of similarly situated employees. He also said the terminations violate the Illinois Constitution’s due process clause because the merit board hearings he and other employees received took place before “an improperly and illegally constituted board.” Acevedo also alleged violation of the Illinois Constitution’s equal protection clause on the same grounds.
“There is no rational bases or adequate justification for such irrational differentiation and discrimination,” the complaint stated.
Representing Acevedo in the matter are attorneys from Kurtz Law Ofices, Ltd., and Talon Law LLC, both of Hinsdale.