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Norris v. Commission On Human Relations

FEBRUARY 6, 1975.

HUBERT NORRIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RELATIONS ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD F. HEALY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MEJDA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Hubert Norris, filed a complaint pursuant to the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.) to review his discharge from a position with the defendant, Illinois Commission on Human Relations (sometimes referred to as "ICHR"), by the defendant, Illinois Civil Service Commission. Plaintiff appeals from the order of the circuit court affirming his dismissal. The pertinent facts follow.

On August 17, 1970, plaintiff was employed as Director of the Housing Department of ICHR. ICHR was comprised of four departments; Community Services, Police-Community Relations, Education, and Housing, each headed by a director. Policy objectives are formulated through an Executive Committee consisting of the Executive Director and the four individual department directors. At all times herein Mrs. Beatrice Young was the Executive Director of ICHR.

Plaintiff was a certified employee with the position title of Human Relations Consultant III. The Department of Personnel job description for his position provided in pertinent part:

"DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF WORK:

Subject to administrative approval, plans, develops and directs the State-wide human relations program in the fields of education, community development, communications, housing services, or police and community relations, or plans and directs all phases of the commission's human relations program in a branch office; exercises major responsibility for effectively working with State and local human relations organizations or education officials on problems of racial, religious, or ethnic discrimination and prejudice.

ILLUSTRATIVE EXAMPLES OF WORK:

3. Plans, organizes, and directs a comprehensive program designed to assure the achievement of full equality of opportunity in housing; consults with representatives of the housing industry, local civil rights commissions and other interested groups relative to the development of programs designed to eliminate discrimination in housing.

9. Performs other duties as required or assigned."

The job description was written prior to enactment of the commonly designated anti-solicitation act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 70-51, and ch. 127, par. 214.4-1), although prior to employment plaintiff was informed that implementation of the law would be included in his duties as Housing Director. The duties under the new law required compiling lists of homeowners who did not wish to be solicited for the sale of their home, the publication of booklets containing such names and mailing such lists of real estate brokers. Thereafter, any complaint by a listed homeowner of a subsequent solicitation by such broker was to be documented by plaintiff and referred to the Attorney General's office for possible prosecution. Plaintiff was not assigned any assistants or clerical help on a regular basis, although temporary clerical help was occasionally provided to assist in the antisolicitation functions.

On August 6, 1971, plaintiff was involved in a heated argument with Mrs. Young in her office. In the following days a dispute existed between them as to whether the argument had culminated in the resignation of plaintiff. The dispute was resolved in favor of plaintiff by the Department of Personnel which ruled that he had not resigned. Thereafter, Mrs. Young suspended plaintiff, pending discharge, which was followed by written charges filed with the Illinois Civil Service Commission. The formal charges against plaintiff may be summarized as follows:

"A. Failure to adequately perform the duties in the job description, including (1) work with the Community Services Department in developing necessary housing services; and (2) work with Local Human Relations Commissions, their directors, as well as real estate brokers.

B. Negligent in administering the Anti-Solicitation Law, in

(1) removing original complaint files from office without informing supervisor or Attorney General as to their disposition, resulting in delay in prosecution of alleged violators;

(2) unable to provide necessary information in an efficient manner to the Assistant Attorney ...


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