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posted: 3/15/2010 12:01 AM

Court: Police chief's drinking problem wasn't reason for firing

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A former police chief for the Kane County Forest Preserve District has lost his appeal in a discrimination lawsuit claiming he was fired because of his drinking problem.

Charles H. Budde, 66, of Batavia, had contended the district violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by firing him in June 2005, three months after he was arrested in a drunken-driving crash that injured two people.

On March 4, a federal appellate court sided with Budde's employer by affirming a district court's previous finding that Budde was "terminated for his misconduct, not because he had a disability."

Budde, who did not respond to a request for comment, was sentenced to 17 months' court supervision, 50 hours' community service, and alcohol treatment in 2006 after he was found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident.

Police said Budde's blood-alcohol level was 0.23, nearly three times the legal threshold, on March 11, 2005, when he rear-ended a car on Route 31, sending the other vehicle's driver and passenger to the hospital. The crash happened after Budde consumed four or five glasses of wine at a Moose Lodge, according to court records.

In Budde's complaint against the district, he argued his firing was "retaliation" for seeking accommodations for his disability, which he said was alcoholism.

But the court ruled the ex-chief hadn't been entitled to ADA protection because he violated clearly established work rules that prohibit public intoxication and was no longer capable of performing one of his basic job functions - driving.

"Budde's inability to operate a vehicle is not the result of a disability," the court said. "It is a consequence of choosing to drive his car after consuming four or five glasses of wine."

Guard resigns: In another DUI case involving a public employee, Reginald Hearon was resigned from his job as a corrections officer at the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, officials said.

Hearon, 50, of Plano, is charged with reckless homicide and driving under the combined influence of alcohol and codeine in an Oct. 2, 2008 crash in Blackberry Township that killed Craig Smith of St. Charles. He has pleaded not guilty.

After Hearon was indicted earlier this month, state corrections officials said he had been put on administrative leave pending the outcome of his case.

But Januari Smith, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections, said Thursday that Hearon had since resigned.

Hearon, who faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted of the most serious offenses, returns to court Friday. He's asked the judge to reduce his $500,000 bond.