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Ill. Educ. Ass'n v. Ill. Fed. of Teachers

OPINION FILED JULY 7, 1982.

ILLINOIS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

ILLINOIS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. SIMON L. FRIEDMAN, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

We deal here with the theory of conversion.

Specifically, did defendant members of the Spring Valley Elementary Teachers Association convert dues belonging to the Illinois Education Association?

No.

The denial of plaintiffs' request for injunction and dismissal of their complaint for money damages were proper and we affirm.

Sometime in the late 1960's, a group of teachers at Spring Valley Elementary School District No. 99 formed the Spring Valley Elementary Teachers Association (SVETA) for the purpose of collectively bargaining with the district's school board. In April 1972, SVETA became affiliated with the Illinois Education Association (IEA) and was issued a charter as one of the IEA's local education associations.

In May 1977, the members of the SVETA voted to disaffiliate from the IEA and to affiliate with the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT). Five of the Spring Valley teachers apparently decided not to join the IFT, retained affiliation with the IEA, and operated a local chapter chartered with the IEA. This association was also called the Spring Valley Elementary Teachers Association. When the trial in this case took place, this IEA local was still in existence, but had only one member.

At the time of disaffiliation, the treasury of the SVETA consisted primarily of dues paid to it by its members either through cash payments or by authorized deductions from the members' paychecks. Prior to disaffiliation, SVETA made payments from its treasury of $1,800 and $858.25 to the IEA for the IEA dues of SVETA members. An additional payment of $190.25 was later submitted to the IEA by SVETA for the balance of the membership dues owed by those five members who retained affiliation with the IEA after the disaffiliation vote. This left a balance of $1,378.50 owed by Spring Valley teachers for IEA dues for the remainder of the 1976-77 membership year.

An IEA representative informed SVETA that the IEA "fully expected them to live up to their obligations of their membership dues for the remainder of the year," and asked that the SVETA immediately transmit the funds.

In June 1977, the officers of the IFT affiliate met and decided to refuse further payment of dues to the IEA. As a result of the meeting, checks were issued to Daniel Marenda in the amount of $500 for "expenses"; to David Hepner in the amount of $400; to Mick Finn in the amount of $500 for "negotiating expenses"; and to Lynn Nimee in the amount of $434.70 for "P.R. expenses." The checks were all signed by Beverly Kimble, the treasurer of SVETA. Her authorization came from the executive committee of the association. At the time the checks were issued, all of the parties involved knew that no expenses had actually been incurred. Nor were the funds thereafter expended for the purposes for which they were disbursed. Rather, the persons to whom the checks had been issued immediately cashed them and placed the money in a safety deposit box rented by Daniel Marenda and David Hepner. The funds were subsequently returned intact to the treasury of the IFT affiliate.

IEA and its local affiliates filed a complaint in the circuit court alleging that Daniel Marenda, David Hepner, Michael Finn, Noralyn Nimee, and Beverly Kimble had illegally converted the funds of the IEA. Damages sought were $1,378.50, the alleged balance of dues owing for the 1976-77 membership year. The complaint also sought to enjoin the IFT from using the name Spring Valley Elementary Teachers Association.

Trial was held and at the close of plaintiffs' case, defendants made an oral motion for a directed verdict on both counts. The trial court did not adopt this unfortunate and erroneous terminology, but did grant the relief requested. The trial judge denied plaintiffs' request for an injunction and dismissed the remainder of their complaint. Plaintiffs originally contended that both rulings were incorrect. However, they no longer pursue their appeal as to injunctive relief, and that portion of it is dismissed.

As to the remainder of plaintiffs' appeal, the decision below was not governed by the standards set forth in Pedrick v. Peoria & Eastern R.R. Co. (1967), 37 Ill.2d 494, 229 N.E.2d 504 — as both parties seem to assume. Rather, the trial court's decision is to be reviewed to determine whether it comports with the requirements of section 64(3) of the Civil Practice Act, which provides:

"In all cases tried without a jury, defendant may, at the close of plaintiff's case, move for a finding or judgment in his favor. In ruling on the motion the court shall weigh the evidence, considering the credibility of the witnesses and the weight and quality of the evidence. If the ruling on the motion is favorable to the defendant, a judgment dismissing the action shall be entered. If the ruling on the motion is adverse to the defendant he may proceed to ...


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