APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD
F. HEALY, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE STAMOS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This action was brought under the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.), to review a decision of the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA) which reduced plaintiff's public aid grant. The circuit court of Cook County entered judgment affirming the administrative decision and plaintiff appeals from that judgment. It is plaintiff's contention that the reduction in aid resulted from an administrative decision that plaintiff was living with and receiving support from her allegedly estranged husband. She further contends that the decision is unsupported by findings of fact and is against the manifest weight of the evidence because it is predicated upon hearsay evidence. The State, on the other hand, contends that the reduction in plaintiff's assistance grant was not predicated upon a finding that she was living with or receiving support from her husband, but rather, was grounded upon the finding that plaintiff had refused to provide information which was necessary for the County Department to determine plaintiff's eligibility for aid. The record, in pertinent part, reveals the following:
Plaintiff commenced receiving public assistance in September of 1968 to meet both her own needs and those of her child. As a result of her marriage to Lee Jamison in May of 1970, plaintiff's individual public aid grant was terminated although she continued to receive a grant for her eligible child. In September of 1970, plaintiff advised the County Department that her husband had deserted her and was not furnishing any support. Her grant was then reinstated. On April 25, 1972, the County Department sent written notification informing plaintiff that:
"It is necessary for us to delete your needs from the Grant until such time as you can establish your eligibility for further assistance. This will be effective for the month of May 1972.
As you know, your husband lists your address with his employer, your address appears on his car registration, he has frequently answered the phone in your home. We have talked with him by phone in your home, asking both, you and Mr. Jamison to come to the office to talk with us. Mr. Jamison told us he could not do this because he is fully employed. As you know, a husband is responsible for the support of his wife.
We need to know about the financing of your college education. To date you have not given us permission to contact the University. You have also refused to show us a copy of your 1971 income tax return."
From this decision of the County Department, plaintiff originally filed an appeal on May 11, 1972. After several continuances, a hearing was scheduled for July 17, 1972. Plaintiff failed to appear at the hearing and her appeal was dismissed. Effective as of August 1972, plaintiff's individual aid grant was terminated, *fn1 and on August 11, 1972, plaintiff appealed from the decision of the County Department in terminating her individual aid grant and from the dismissal of her prior appeal. *fn2 A hearing was scheduled for August 28, 1972.
At that hearing, Gale Geiser, plaintiff's former caseworker, testified that she was informed in September of 1970, by plaintiff that her husband had deserted her and was not furnishing any support. Over vigorous objection on the grounds of hearsay, caseworker Geiser further testified that in December of 1970, she was told by Margaret Carson, plaintiff's building manager, that Mr. Jamison resided with plaintiff, that he had never left plaintiff, and furthermore, that the two were never legally married.
Mrs. Aldona, plaintiff's caseworker, was not present at the hearing but her case notes were read into the record by Joan Frankel, a supervising caseworker. Again, hearsay objections were made and overruled. The notes revealed that on January 24, 1972, the caseworker endeavored to visit plaintiff at her residence. A man answered through the speaker, but would not admit the caseworker into the apartment. On January 27, 1972, plaintiff was seen by the caseworker driving a small red car, license number VM 9373. According to the notes, public records indicate that the vehicle was registered in the name of Lee Jamison residing at 920 West Lakeside, Chicago, Illinois.
On January 28, 1972, Mrs. Aldona's notes indicated that she was informed by a Mrs. Rushing, plaintiff's building manager at the time, that the same man had been living with the plaintiff since they moved into the building 2 years previously. Mrs. Rushing informed the caseworker that the first lease was signed by both Lee Jamison and Baila Jamison, but the second lease, by plaintiff's request, was in plaintiff's name alone. On January 31, 1972, caseworker Aldona had a conversation with a Gerry Baloan, the assistant manager for plaintiff's building, who advised the caseworker that Lee Jamison was living with Baila Jamison, and that Mrs. Jamison had requested parking privileges for a red Toyota, license number VM 9373.
In February of 1972, an investigation of Mrs. Jamison's current employment was requested by the County Department. Through an interview with an employee of the Four Torches Restaurant on April 28, 1972, it was ascertained that Lee Jamison was presently employed at the restaurant as a cook, that he began his employment in September of 1971, and that his employment application stated that he resides with Baila Jamison at 920 West Lakeside. On April 11, 1972, the caseworker's notes indicate that she telephoned plaintiff's residence; the telephone was answered by Lee Jamison who stated that he was visiting plaintiff because she wasn't feeling well.
On cross-examination, Mrs. Frankel admitted that in February of 1972, plaintiff informed the caseworker that her husband was living at 4802 Winthrop Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. The caseworker visited the premises and noticed Lee Jamison's name on the mailbox; she was unable, however, to contact him at this time. The caseworker did not attempt to talk to the building manager nor did she further endeavor to ascertain whether Lee Jamison resided on the premises.
Mrs. Jamison testified that Lee Jamison deserted her in September of 1970. On occasion, however, he visited her when she was ill. Other than some money which she received from him in January of 1971, she did not receive support from her husband. Mrs. Jamison further stated that her husband occasionally allowed her use of his automobile for transporting her daughter to the doctor, etc. She also explained that a male friend, Ernest Harris, constantly visits her at home, and probably was the "man" referred to in the caseworker's notes. She further stated that one week prior to the present hearing, the County Department processed a nonsupport complaint and warrant against Mr. Jamison in her name for which Mr. Jamison was arrested. *fn3
Without objection, two documents were admitted into evidence. Plaintiff submitted the lease for her apartment at 920 West Lakeside for the term of August 1, 1971, to July 31, 1972. The lease indicates that the only occupants of the apartment are Baila Jamison, who is listed as head of the house, and Marne Brown, her daughter. The lease is signed by Baila Jamison as lessee and Mrs. Rushing for the lessor. Additionally, ...