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Cox v. Bd. of Fire & Police of Danville

OPINION FILED JULY 8, 1982.

MICHAEL COX, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE BOARD OF FIRE AND POLICE COMMISSIONERS OF THE CITY OF DANVILLE ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. PAUL M. WRIGHT, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE GREEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Michael Cox, filed notice of appeal from two orders of the circuit court of Vermilion County, each purporting to dismiss, as not having been timely commenced, plaintiff's suit brought under the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.) seeking review of a decision of defendant, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the City of Danville (Board), discharging him from his employment as a police officer of that city.

The first notice of appeal was filed October 14, 1981, and was from an order entered by pronouncement in open court on September 16, 1981. The second notice of appeal was filed November 16, 1981, and was from a written order filed October 20, 1981, giving a slightly different rationale for the dismissal. The appeals have been consolidated. We conclude the case is properly before us on one of the notices of appeal. We affirm.

The facts bearing upon the timeliness of the institution of the suit are not in dispute. Prior to May 12, 1981, defendant Board had before it a petition requesting plaintiff's discharge. After the Board had originally found plaintiff not guilty of charges made against him, the decision had been appealed to the circuit court and then remanded to the Board for further proceedings. On May 12, 1981, the Board reconsidered the matter and on May 13, 1981, entered an order discharging plaintiff. On May 13, 1981, copies of the order were placed into the United States mail in envelopes with proper postage thereon and addressed to plaintiff and his attorney. They received the documents on May 15, 1981. On June 17, 1981, at about 9:30 a.m., plaintiff's attorney presented his complaint in administrative review to the office of the clerk of the circuit court of Vermilion County together with unsigned summonses directed to each of the proper parties defendant to the administrative review sought. Affidavits as to the addresses of all of the parties were presented. The summonses were not signed on behalf of the clerk until the next day, June 18, 1981, at which time the summonses were sent by mail to the respective defendants.

Section 4 of the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 267) states that an action for review under the Act "shall be commenced by the filing of a complaint and the issuance of summons within 35 days from the date that a copy of the decision sought to be reviewed was served upon the party affected thereby." (Emphasis added.) The parties are in dispute concerning the legal questions as to (1) when was a copy of the decision "served" on plaintiff, and (2) when was the proceeding for review in the circuit court "commenced."

With reference to the decisions of administrative agencies such as the Board, section 4 of the Administrative Review Act states in part:

"The method of service of the decision shall be as provided in the Act governing the procedure before the administrative agency, but if no method is provided, a decision shall be deemed to have been served either when personally delivered or when deposited in the United States mail, in a sealed envelope or package, with postage prepaid, addressed to the party affected thereby at his last known residence or place of business." (Emphasis added.) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 267.)

The Act governing procedure before the Board (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 24, par. 10-2.1-17) makes no provision for method of service. Thus, it would appear that, here, the parties affected were "served" by the Board's decision and the 35-day period to "commence" review started on May 13, 1981, when copies of the Board's order were placed in the mail. However, plaintiff presents two arguments to support his contention that he was not "served" until he received a copy of the order on May 15, 1981.

First, plaintiff relies upon dictum in Pearce Hospital Foundation v. Illinois Public Aid Com. (1958), 15 Ill.2d 301, 154 N.E.2d 691, where the court held that a party could not extend its time for seeking review under the Administrative Review Act by filing a petition with the administrative agency for reconsideration of its order. In the course of the opinion, the court stated:

"Had judicial review been sought within 35 days after appellees had received the administrative decision, the court in which relief was sought would have had the power to affirm or reverse the decision, or to remand it to the commission for further hearing if the need therefor was found to exist." (Emphasis added.) 15 Ill.2d 301, 306, 154 N.E.2d 691, 694.

Plaintiff points out that the quoted language from Pearce was cited in A-1 Security Services, Inc. v. Stackler (1978), 61 Ill. App.3d 285, 377 N.E.2d 1199, but that case concerned the administrative review of a decision of the Department of Registration and Education revoking detective licenses. There, the legislation governing the procedure before the agency (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 201-21) provided for service of the decision by personal delivery or registered mail and made no statement as to when the service was deemed to have taken place. Date of receipt was held to be the date of service.

Plaintiff also relies upon Varnes v. Lentz (1975), 30 Ill. App.3d 806, 332 N.E.2d 639, where the issue before the court was whether an administrative order was final. The opinion noted that Pearce had held that proceedings for review under the Administrative Review Act had to be started within 35 days of "the date that a copy of the final decision sought to be reviewed was served upon the party affected thereby." (Emphasis added.) (30 Ill. App.3d 806, 810, 332 N.E.2d 639, 643.) Not only was the foregoing statement dictum but it used the word "served" rather than received. Thus, the statement did nothing to resolve the question of whether a copy of the decision is served when mailed or when received.

On the other hand, Chin v. Department of Public Aid (1979), 78 Ill. App.3d 1137, 398 N.E.2d 135, and Thompson v. Illinois Civil Service Com. (1978), 63 Ill. App.3d 153, 379 N.E.2d 655, directly hold that unless the Act governing the procedure provides for other method of service than that provided in the Administrative Review Act, the copy of the administrative order is served when mailed. Plaintiff argues that we should follow the statement in Pearce as appropriate authority rather than Chin or Thompson. However, as the statement in Pearce was dictum, we need not follow it. We do not consider A-1 Security Service or Varnes to be on point. We consider Chin and Thompson to be logically reasoned and to follow the expressed meaning of section 4.

In arguing that the copy of the Board order was not served when mailed, plaintiff also seeks support from Supreme Court Rule 12(c) (73 Ill.2d R. 12(c)), which states that "[s]ervice by mail is complete four days after mailing." He contends that rule is applicable because of section 14 of the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 110, par. 277) stating that the Supreme Court Rules "apply to all proceedings" under that Act, but that same sentence further states, "except as otherwise provided in this Act." Section 4 of the Act provides ...


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