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Meadows v. Grabiec

JUNE 6, 1974.

ALFRED MEADOWS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

BARNEY J. GRABIEC ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT J. DOWNING, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MEJDA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Alfred Meadows, brought action in the circuit court of Cook County under the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.), seeking reversal of a decision of defendant Board of Review of the Illinois Department of Labor, dated September 23, 1971, wherein plaintiff was held not eligible for unemployment benefits. Barney J. Grabiec, Director of the Illinois Department of Labor, is also made a defendant. Plaintiff appeals from an order of the trial court affirming the decision of defendant Board of Review.

On appeal, plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in holding as to sections 900 and 901 of the Unemployment Compensation Act (hereinafter sections 900 and 901) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 48, pars. 490 and 491), that: (1) defendants properly interpreted such statutes; (2) such statutes, as interpreted, do not conflict with the pertinent provisions of the Federal Social Security Act and the Internal Revenue Code; and (3) such statutes, as interpreted, do not deprive plaintiff and other similarly situated indigents of the equal protection of law and due process of law as guaranteed by article I, section 2, of the Illinois Constitution and the fourteenth amendment of the United States Constitution.

The facts follow.

On April 27, 1959, plaintiff filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Unemployment Compensation Division, Illinois Department of Labor. He was paid full weekly benefits of $33.50 for each of the consecutive weeks ending June 8, June 15, June 22, June 29 and July 6, 1959. During that period plaintiff neither reported any employment nor the receipt of any wages. In August 1960, the Division received information from the Evanston Hotel that plaintiff had been in its employ as a bellboy from June 1 to July 15, 1959. A notice was mailed to plaintiff on October 24, 1960, at his last known address at 1609 South Sawyer Avenue, Chicago, to notify him that a hearing would be held on November 14, 1960, concerning the alleged overpayment. Plaintiff failed to appear at the hearing. On December 28, 1960, a further notice was sent to him at the same last known address, that the claims deputy had determined plaintiff had knowingly failed to disclose his employment and wages for the purpose of obtaining benefits for which he was not eligible; and further, that he was ineligible for benefits from that date, under section 901 of the Act, until he repaid the amount of $104.50 and also a penalty of $104.50. No reply was received from plaintiff.

On December 12, 1970, plaintiff again applied for unemployment compensation. On January 12, 1971, while making a required periodic visit to his local unemployment office he was told that there was a "fraud stop order" on his benefit check and that he could not receive any benefits until it was removed. Upon inquiring, he was further told that he would be ineligible until he repaid the $104.50 overpayment and the penalty of an equal amount. At this time plaintiff requested that the $104.50 overpayment be recouped from accrued benefits then payable to him, but he was informed that section 901 made no provision for recoupment of benefits fraudulently obtained.

On January 20, 1971, a hearing was held before a claims deputy of the Unemployment Compensation Division, in which plaintiff did not deny being employed nor receiving wages for the 1959 period in question. He stated that he was not employed full time at the Evanston Hotel and that he believed he did not have to report wages from "part time" work. He also stated that he had moved from the last known address prior to the dates on which the notices had been sent, without leaving a forwarding address with the Post Office and did not receive the notice of hearing or the December 28, 1960, notice of ineligibility. Plaintiff further testified that he did not have occasion to reapply for benefits until December 1970, and only after January 12, 1971, did he become aware of the prior determination of ineligibility. No correspondence was returned, according to the agency records. On February 2, 1971, the deputy issued another determination which held that plaintiff had knowingly failed to report the 1959 employment and earnings for which he was ineligible, and that he was ineligible for benefits from December 28, 1960, and thereafter until he repaid $104.50 and in addition, paid a penalty of $104.50.

Plaintiff appealed the deputy's determination, and on March 25, 1971, a hearing was held by a referee of the Division in which plaintiff contended that he should not be held continuously ineligible from December 28, 1960, because he had not previously received notice of the overpayment, and that the statute of limitations had run against the penalty imposed. The referee issued a decision on April 6, 1971, affirming the determination of the deputy. The plaintiff appealed to the Board of Review.

On September 23, 1971, the Board of Review rendered a decision which held, inter alia, that the initial determination made on December 28, 1960, was final that under section 901 of the Act plaintiff was no longer subject to the additional penalty since more than 3 years had elapsed from the date of ineligibility; and that the decision of the referee is modified to hold that plaintiff is not subject to the penalty but is subject to the repayment of the overpayment, either by restitution or recoupment from benefits otherwise payable to him. On October 6, 1971, plaintiff received a letter from the Unemployment Compensation Division advising that the overpayment of benefits could not be recouped and had to be repaid in full before any benefits could be released to him. A subsequent request by plaintiff for reconsideration and clarification of the decision was declined by the Board of Review.

On October 27, 1971, plaintiff requested and was given leave to file as a poor person his complaint for administrative review in the circuit court, seeking a reversal and remandment of the decision of the defendant Board of Review. The trial court rejected plaintiff's contentions as raised in the instant appeal and affirmed the decision rendered by the Board of Review. The instant appeal therefrom resulted.

The pertinent provisions of the Unemployment Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 48, par. 300 et seq.) are as follows:

"490. § 900. Recoupment.) A. Whenever an individual has received any sum as benefits for which he is found to have been ineligible, the amount thereof may be recovered by suit in the name of the People of the State of Illinois, or, from benefits payable to him, may be recouped:

1. At any time, if, to receive such sum, he knowingly made a false statement or knowingly failed to disclose a material fact.

2. Within one year from the date he has been found to have been ineligible for any other reason, pursuant to a reconsidered ...


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