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Compton v. School Directors of Dist. No. 14

DECEMBER 16, 1955.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Whiteside county; the Hon. DAN H. McNEAL, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


Rehearing denied January 10, 1956.

The defendants appeal from a judgment in favor of the plaintiff in the sum of $2,089.10. The case involves an alleged breach of a teacher's contract and was heard by the Trial Court without a jury.

The plaintiff, Mrs. Irene Compton, a teacher, on December 29, 1953, filed her complaint, alleging that she entered into a written contract with the defendant school directors on June 13, 1953, to begin on September 1, 1953 to teach school at the Defendants' Riverdale School in Whiteside County, for the ensuing school year, at a salary of $333 for eight months and $336 for the ninth month and that she continued in the employment until November 6, 1953 when she was discharged by the defendants without cause.

The contract purported to be subject to the school laws of Illinois and the reasonable and lawful regulations of the School Board, purported to have been executed pursuant to a lawful meeting of the Board of Directors held May 6, 1953, and by order of the Board of Directors, and is signed by Louis Schwarz, President, and R.D. Myers, Clerk, Directors, and Mrs. Irene Compton, teacher. The contract recites that she is a legally qualified teacher, and provides, so far as material, that she shall "teach, govern and conduct the common school of said district to the best of (her) ability; — see that the school house, grounds, furniture, apparatus, and such other district property as may come under the immediate care and control of said teacher is not unnecessarily damaged or destroyed; — give playground supervision to all students directly in your (her) charge."

The answer, in substance, so far as material, denied the allegations of the complaint and alleged certain affirmative defenses to the effect the plaintiff breached the contract by not performing it according to the school laws and the reasonable and lawful regulations of the Directors, and that she was dismissed for incompetency or insubordination or other good and sufficient cause. The reply denied the allegations of the affirmative defenses.

The plaintiff received $765.90 for salary through November 6, pursuant to the contract, and following her dismissal and after January 1, 1954 she received $145 from other sources, — Sterling and Rock Falls Schools, — for substitute teaching. The amount of the judgment is for the unpaid balance on the contract, pursuant to its terms, less, in mitigation of damages, the $145 the plaintiff so received for substitute teaching.

The only issues involved on the appeal are (1) was there a valid contract, — the defendants urging that the "ayes" and "nays" were not recorded in the minutes of the Board at the time of awarding the contract, — and (2) was the plaintiff lawfully discharged for insubordination, or incompetency, or other good and sufficient cause, — the defendants urging that the contract, if valid, was terminated for sufficient cause. The plaintiff's position is that the contract is valid, she was discharged without cause, and is entitled to damages for breach of contract.

As appears from the written opinion of the Trial Court, the case was tried below on the theory the plaintiff should prevail unless the defendants sustained their burden of proving she was discharged for reasonable and just cause, — in other words, the first issue on this appeal, as to whether there was a valid contract, was not too seriously or vigorously urged by the defendants in the Trial Court.

It is apparent that the contract was executed pursuant to action taken at a regular or special meeting, regularly held, of the Directors on May 6, 1953, and by order of the Board; that the plaintiff was discharged within the contractual period; and that she was ready, willing, and able to continue her employment at the time she was discharged. Besides her testimony and that of certain other witnesses, this last is particularly further evidenced by the fact that she refused to resign and did not obtain other employment for a couple of months or so after the dismissal. The contract was admitted in evidence, without objection, and, in addition to the testimony of all the Directors to this effect, it was further stipulated that it was executed pursuant to a meeting of the Directors, regularly held, at which all Directors were present, and at which all voted aye. We are of the opinion that, under the circumstances, she has proved a valid existing contract.

[1-3] The statute (Ch. 122, Ill. Rev. Stats., 1953, pars. 6-9 6-10 [Jones Ill. Stats. Ann. 123.783, 123.784]) provides, so far as material, that no official business shall be transacted by the Directors except at a regular or a special meeting, that the Clerk shall keep in a punctual, orderly, and reliable manner a record of the official acts of the Board, and that on all questions involving the expenditure of money, the yeas and nays shall be taken and entered on the records of the proceedings of the Board. The presumption of law is that public officers, including the Clerk of the Board, have done their duty and that their official required acts have been regularly performed, until the contrary appears: Leddy v. Board of Education School Dist. No. 99 (1911) 160 Ill. App. 187. There is no evidence here that the Clerk did not keep a record of the official acts of the Board at the May 6th meeting when the plaintiff's employment was considered or that he did not take and enter the yeas and nays on the question of her employment on the records of the proceedings of the Board, and we cannot assume he did not perform his official required acts. On the contrary, the presumption of law is that he performed his duties. The burden of going forward with some proof to the contrary, if such was their view and position, was on the defendants.

Furthermore, according to the Clerk, all he says is that if there were no actual minutes of the meeting of May 6, that is a mere ministerial or clerical omission by inadvertence. If that is what occurred, then the Clerk's record does not correctly state the facts, and such is a matter which is not chargeable to the plaintiff, and does not void an otherwise valid contract properly entered into as a matter of official business in fact transacted at a regularly held meeting. An inaccurate or incomplete Clerk's record cannot alter or control the fact of the official business actually transacted by the Directors at a regularly held meeting. The duties of the Clerk, as such, are purely clerical and ministerial and in subordination to the official action and direction of the Directors. The failure of the Clerk, if such occurred, to make a minute of the official business and action of the Board, there being no dispute as to what the action was, does not defeat the action of the Board or the plaintiff's cause of action; the statute does not make the record supposed to be kept by the Clerk the only evidence of the action of the Directors, — and unless the law expressly and imperatively requires all matters to appear of record and makes that record the only evidence thereof, which it does not here, parol proof is admissible to prove things omitted to be stated on the record; while official business can only be transacted at a regular or special meeting of the Directors, as was done here, it does not follow that only the record kept or supposed to be kept by the Clerk can be used as evidence to prove that a contract was, in fact, properly entered into: School Directors v. Kimmel (1889) 31 Ill. App. 537; County of Vermilion v. Knight (1833) 1 Scam. 97; Ryan v. Dunlap et al. (1855) 17 Ill. 40; Bartlett et al. v. Freeport School Dist. Board of Education (1871) 59 Ill. 364; Jackson v. School Directors Dist. No. 85 (1924) 232 Ill. App. 102; Pollard v. School Dist. No. 9 (1895) 65 Ill. App. 104.

In Muehle v. School Dist. No. 38, County of Lake and State of Illinois (1951) 344 Ill. App. 365, one of the principal cases cited by the defendants on this, the teacher had been orally employed by another teacher-principal, there was no prior interview or official action of any kind by the Board of Directors, and there was no written contract. The case is vastly different on its facts from the case at bar and is not in point. In People v. Chicago & N.W.R. Co. (1947) 396 Ill. 466, the other case cited by the defendants, the adoption by a city council of an appropriation ordinance was held invalid on an objection by a taxpayer to certain city taxes because no yea-nay vote had been taken and recorded as required by statute, the Court saying that nothing short of a record showing a roll call with each individual's vote will constitute a yea-nay vote as required, — the council minutes there in evidence indicating on the adoption of the ordinance "Voting Aye 5. Nay — none. Carried." The present case, of course, does not involve a taxpayer's objection to some tax, — whether some additional considerations would be involved in a taxpayer's suit we need not now consider. Further, there is here no dispute but that at the May 6th official meeting each Director specifically and individually voted aye. There is no evidence the Clerk did not keep a proper statutory record thereof or that he did not take and enter the yeas and nays on the record. We can only presume and assume that he performed his official duties, there being no proof to the contrary.

We have read the record, as well as the abstract and briefs, and, although the evidence is to some extent somewhat conflicting, we believe the facts to be found therefrom are generally fairly set forth in the carefully prepared written opinion or statement of reasons for decision of the Trial Court, which opinion or statement is, unfortunately, not abstracted by either the plaintiff or defendants and can be found only by ...

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