Fitness for duty

Sangirardi was in need of a psychological fitness for duty examination. Any disciplinary actions would be handed down following the completion of that evaluation.

Sangirardi and his wife testified that they were home asleep at the time of the phone call. He denied making a threat to Cleary.

Sangirardi admitted refusing to release the fitness for duty report. He acknowledged that he refused to obey the order to do so and that on October 12, 1998, he had officially refused.

Chief Zitek testified that he did not seek the results of the exam but only Dr. Gunn's recommendation as to Sangirardi's fitness for duty. Furthermore, he indicated that he had requested the document on several occasions.

The board concluded that Sangirardi was guilty of insubordination and of threatening Cleary. The charges were in violation of policy and procedure, and potentially, criminal charges could have been filed. On February 11, 1999, the board concluded that Sangirardi's employment should be terminated with the Village of Stickney.

Sangirardi appealed the decision and eventually filed suit on several counts. At issue in this article is the disclosure of the fitness for duty exam. Sangirardi contended that Chief Zitek's order to release the exam violated his right to confidentiality under the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Confidentiality Act (740 LLCS 110/1 et seq. West 1998). Also, the insubordination charge violated his right to due process under the Uniform Peace Officers' Disciplinary Act (50 ILCS 725/1 et seq. West 1998). The act allowed that an officer could not be disciplined for invoking a statutory or constitutional right.

The court disagreed with both stances. The Act exempted fitness for duty examinations. It "provided that any party to the proceeding or other interested person [***24] may request an in camera review of the record or communication to be disclosed. 740 ILCS 110/10(b) (West 1998). The Act did not specifically address the disclosure of fitness for duty exams."

However, Illinois statues were clear that Chief Zitek had the authority to order Sangirardi to submit to the examination. Police officers are in a unique category in that their psychological fitness for duty is of critical importance to the public health and safety. Chief Zitek had received statements from a detective, citizen, police officer, and a sergeant of misconduct on the part of Sangirardi. His order was reasonable and he was entitled to review the results. Furthermore, the board had the right to discharge Sangirardi.

This case stressed the importance of an officer's psychological fitness for duty. It also ruled that we as police officers are held to that higher standard of conduct. Fitness for duty examinations are an essential part of police operations. The actions by Chief Zitek and the Village of Stickney were lawful and in order.

Thanks to Dr. Heather McElroy for her assistance in this article.
Heather McElroy PHD.
Stone and Associates
4015 S. Cobb Drive, Ste. 265
Smyrna, GA 30082
770-431-6858 (office)
205-246-1452 (mobile)

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