Was Time Limit Waived Because Letter of Retirement Notifying Board Decision Was Misleading
In Keller v. Retirement Board of the Fireman's Annuity & Benefit Fund, 245 Ill. App. 3d 48, 53-54, 614 N.E.2d 323, 327, 185 Ill. Dec. 189 (1993), the Court affirmed the circuit court's decision to invoke its jurisdiction over the cause notwithstanding that more than three years elapsed from the representative plaintiff's receipt of the Board's decision and commencement of her suit, because the Board failed to provide fair and adequate notice. Keller, 245 Ill. App. 3d at 53-54, 614 N.E.2d at 327.
In Keller, the notice merely stated that at a regular meeting of the Board, their application for annuity benefits was "granted," but failed to apprise plaintiffs of the Board's decision to terminate their 75% annuity benefits. Keller, 245 Ill. App. 3d at 53, 614 N.E.2d at 327.
The Court further held the plaintiffs' action was not barred because the Board failed to give plaintiffs notice of their right to appeal the decision within 35 days. Keller, 245 Ill. App. 3d at 54, 614 N.E.2d at 327.
Such notice, we observed, was required by Johnson v. State Employees Retirement System, 155 Ill. App. 3d 616, 508 N.E.2d 351, 108 Ill. Dec. 190 (1987), a holding subsequently overruled by Carver v. Nall, 186 Ill. 2d 554, 714 N.E.2d 486, 239 Ill. Dec. 567 (1999).
In Barry v. Retirement Board of the Fireman's Annuity & Benefit Fund, 357 Ill. App. 3d 749, 761-62, 828 N.E.2d 1238, 1249-50, 293 Ill. Dec. 740 (2005), the letters notifying the plaintiffs of the decisions on their applications were similarly misleading because they stated that "your application for widow's annuity was granted in the amount of. Barry, 357 Ill. App. 3d at 762, 828 N.E.2d at 1249-50.
The letters did not specify what kind of annuity had been granted; rather, they simply informed the plaintiffs of the respective amounts that they would receive each month. Barry, 357 Ill. App. 3d at 762, 828 N.E.2d at 1250.
Also, as in Keller, none of the letters told the plaintiffs that the duty-related 75% widow's annuity would not be awarded. Barry, 357 Ill. App. 3d at 762, 828 N.E.2d at 1250.
More recently, in Coleman v. Retirement Board of the Firemen's Annuity & Benefit Fund, 392 Ill. App. 3d 380, 911 N.E.2d 493, 331 Ill. Dec. 672 (2009), the Court determined that the Board's letter to the plaintiff failed to meet due process obligations necessary to activate the 35-day time limit because it stated her "application for widow's annuity was granted," but did not inform her that she was being awarded lesser benefits under section 6-141.1 of the Pension Code, rather than the higher benefits available under section 6-140. Coleman, 392 Ill. App. 3d at 386, 911 N.E.2d at 499.
The Court found problematic that the Board's 2003 award letter "failed to inform plaintiff that the annuity awarded essentially constituted a denial of the alternative and higher benefit available to her under section 6-140." Coleman, 392 Ill. App. 3d at 386, 911 N.E.2d at 499.