Cook County Record

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Fired Melrose Park firefighter can't dodge residency rules by owning a home rented to someone else in village

State Court

By John Breslin | Jul 18, 2019

Downtown melrose park
Downtown Melrose Park | Dennisyerger84 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

CHICAGO -- 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. 

Cannici, in his testimony, admitted he rented 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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Illinois First District Appellate CourtVillage of Melrose ParkCircuit Court of Cook County

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