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Meana v. Morrison

MAY 6, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiffs, three examinees and candidates for the position of Electrical Instrument Mechanic in the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago (hereinafter "District"), brought this action for declaratory judgment, seeking a determination that the action of Donald R. Morrison, director of personnel of the District (hereinafter "Director"), in canceling the eligible register for said position, was void and illegal. The trial court found that the action of the Director, in purporting to void the examination and resultant eligible list, was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable, and ordered defendants to re-establish the eligible list as of its original date of posting. From that judgment, defendants appeal and contend that the trial court erred in ordering the reinstatement of the eligible list. In support of the judgment below, plaintiffs assert that the Director had no authority to cancel the eligible list; alternatively, that the rule relied upon by the Director in canceling the eligible list is void and unconstitutional; and that, in any event, the examination was competitive and the Director was guilty of an abuse of discretion in canceling the eligible register. The facts follow.

On September 11, 1973, the District posted an announcement that a civil service examination for the position of Electrical Instrument Mechanic would be given on October 27, 1973. *fn1 The announcement explained that the duties of an Electrical Instrument Mechanic are to repair, calibrate, and maintain various types of instruments used by the District in the process of treating sewage and industrial wastes, and further specified that the examination would consist of a written test weighted 70% and an education and experience evaluation weighted 30%. Candidates were informed by the announcement that the examination would test their knowledge in the areas of electricity, meter and flow theory, their mathematical and verbal skills, and their ability to use various types of tools.

By letter dated October 19, 1973, the District directed 28 of the candidates to report for the examination to Room 1303 at DePaul University, and directed 25 of the candidates to report to Room 1301 at the same location on October 27, 1973. The last sentence of each letter stated that "[n]o books or other aids will be permitted."

Plaintiffs Rafael Meana and James Tamburrino and defendants' witnesses, Richard Ackol and Maddix Moore, reported to Room 1303. Plaintiff John Groeneveld reported to Room 1301. They did not bring electronic calculators or slide rules to the examination.

After all the candidates in Room 1303 were seated and just prior to the time that they commenced the examination, a candidate, James Lippert, asked the proctors for permission to use an electronic pocket calculator. The proctors did not know whether calculators were permitted, therefore one of them departed the room and inquired of the District's special examiner, Dale Smith. Mr. Smith entered Room 1303 and announced that calculators and slide rules could be used because the test was designed so that these devices would not make any difference and in fact, they might be detrimental. Mr. Smith was not authorized by the Director to grant permission to use outside aids.

James Lippert, who ranked sixth on the eligible list, testified that after the special examiner had authorized the use of calculators, his fellow examinees objected and there were "boos and hisses" in the room. He stated that the numbers and arithmetic were fairly simple, but that he utilized the calculator for approximately 25 questions. He was positive in his belief that he could have scored just as well without a calculator.

John Markovich, who ranked 13th on the eligible list, stated that as he entered Room 1303, he inquired of the proctors if he could use a slide rule and when they said no, he placed his slide rule in his coat. He testified that when the announcement was then made that outside aids could be used, the class manifested its dismay and chagrin by loud and uproarious objections. Permission was then given, so he retrieved his slide rule from his coat and returned to his seat. Although he relied upon the slide rule for one to three questions, he felt reassured with the knowledge that it was available to him.

Maddix Moore, who ranked 17th on the list, testified that he saw James Lippert and another candidate with calculators, and also observed others possessed of slide rules. He believed it to be unfair that the special examiner had authorized the use of outside aids despite the prohibition in the letter, and he joined with the rest of the class and objected vigorously when permission was granted. He stated that the announcement "shook me up really bad" because he realized that to be permanently appointed as an Electrical Instrument Mechanic, he not only had to score at the top of the list but he had to do so while competing against people who could use calculators on the examination. He further stated that he completed the test about 5 minutes before the time was up and that consequently he was unable to check his answers; if he had used a calculator, he would have finished the test earlier and thus would have been able to review his paper.

Richard Sackol, who ranked 12th on the eligible list, testified that when the special examiner stated that calculators would provide no advantage on the examination, the majority of the class, himself included, protested and expressed their dissatisfaction. He observed two persons in possession of calculators and became more disturbed as he labored on the test, realizing that almost one-half of the examination consisted of math problems. While he was taking the examination, he felt at a disadvantage because he believed that anyone who had an aid would perform with greater speed and accuracy.

Plaintiffs, Rafael Meana, who ranked fifth on the list, and James Tamburrino, who ranked second, both protested the announcement that calculators would be used on the examination. Mr. Meana felt disturbed and joined in the "loud negative protest" voiced by the room. Both testified that the arithmetical computations involved division, long division, addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Generally, the numbers involved in the computations were whole numbers or two- to three-digit decimals. Both witnesses stated that a calculator would not have assisted them in the examination.

Plaintiff John Groeneveld, who placed ninth on the list, took the examination in Room 1301. In that room, no question arose concerning the use of outside aids, nor was there evidence that outside aids of any type were used. Consequently, there was no disturbance in Room 1301.

The examination consisted of 135 questions, for each of which four multiple choice answers were supplied. Louis Margolin, a college instructor in electrical engineering who prepared the examination, testified that 60 questions involved mathematical computations. According to Margolin, the amount of arithmetic which a candidate would have employed in solving a problem would have varied considerably depending upon the method which the individual relied upon to arrive at an answer. The candidates would also have used arithmetical computations to prove a problem. He himself, however, did not find the calculator as an advantage or disadvantage in either making up or solving the problems.

Shortly after the eligible list for the position of Electrical Instrument Mechanic was posted on January 21, 1974, Maddix Moore called his union representative to complain that some of the candidates had the benefit of being able to use outside aids during the test. On or about January 30, 1974, the union's business representative telephoned defendant Donald R. Morrison, and asked him whether calculators had been allowed during the examination and if so, whether that was contrary to the instructions contained in the District's letter of October 19, 1973. The Director replied that the letter sent to the candidates prohibited calculators. He further stated that he did not know if such devices had been permitted ...

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