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Board of Trustees v. Burris

OPINION FILED MAY 27, 1986.

THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT NO. 508, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE,

v.

ROLAND W. BURRIS, STATE COMPTROLLER ET AL., DEFENDANTS (MICHAEL T. WOELFFER, DIRECTOR OF COMMERCE AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur L. Dunne, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE STAMOS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The plaintiff appeals from an order of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants. One of the defendants, the Director of the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs (DCCA), cross-appeals from a motion for summary judgment granted in the plaintiff's favor. The trial court found that the Director was liable to the plaintiff under the State Mandates Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 85, par. 2201 et seq.).

The plaintiff in this case is the board of trustees of Community College District 508, the Chicago city colleges. In July 1984, the plaintiff brought an action in the circuit court against the Comptroller of the State of Illinois and the Director of the DCCA. In count I of its complaint, the plaintiff asked for a declaratory judgment which would provide that under the State Mandates Act, plaintiff is entitled to be reimbursed by the Comptroller for the cost of providing veterans' scholarships. Alternatively, plaintiff asked for a declaratory judgment which would provide that the Director of the DCCA is required by the State Mandates Act to notify the General Assembly that the plaintiff is entitled to be reimbursed for the cost of veterans' scholarships. In count II of its complaint, the plaintiff asked that the court order the Comptroller to reimburse the plaintiff for the cost of veterans' scholarships. Plaintiff also requested that the Director of the DCCA be ordered to notify the General Assembly of the need for an additional appropriation to provide reimbursement to the plaintiff.

On August 17, 1984, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. In their motion, the defendants claimed that the plaintiff's complaint was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity; that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before bringing a claim in circuit court; and that the State Mandates Act did not apply to this case, so that the State was under no obligation to reimburse the plaintiff for the cost of veterans' scholarships.

On October 30, 1984, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff's complaint as to the Comptroller, but not as to the Director. The order of dismissal provided that the plaintiff was free to pursue its action against the Comptroller in the Court of Claims.

On November 16, 1984, the plaintiff amended its complaint, but asked for the same relief against the Comptroller and Director as it had in its first complaint. The Director answered the plaintiff's complaint, and the plaintiff moved for summary judgment against him. The Director also moved for summary judgment against the plaintiff.

On June 7, 1985, the court granted partial summary judgments in favor of both parties. The court determined the following in plaintiff's favor: (1) that the State Mandates Act applies to the supplemental fiscal acts which fund the veterans' scholarship program; (2) that the Director of the DCCA has a duty to notify the General Assembly that a supplemental appropriation is needed to fund the veterans' scholarship program; (3) that there was no need for plaintiff to appeal the decision of the Illinois Community College Board to the Mandates Board of Appeals.

The court's order reflected the following findings in favor of the Director: (1) that the State's payment of at least 50% of the cost of veterans' scholarships satisfied the State's duty under the Mandates Act for 1982 and 1983; (2) that the Comptroller is not required to disperse funds when an amount sufficient to cover the dispersal has not been appropriated by the legislature.

The plaintiff now appeals from that part of the court's order which granted the Director partial relief in the form of a summary judgment. Plaintiff objects to the following findings: (1) that payment of 50% of the cost of veterans' scholarships has satisfied the State's duty under the Mandates Act; (2) that the Comptroller is not required to disperse funds without a sufficient appropriation.

The Director of the DCCA has cross-appealed from the court's order granting plaintiff part of the relief that it requested in its motion for summary judgment. The Director objects to the following findings: (1) that the State Mandates Act applies to supplemental fiscal enactments which fund the veterans' scholarship program; (2) that the Director must notify the General Assembly of the need for additional funding; (3) that there was no need for plaintiff to appeal to the Mandates Board of Appeals.

• 1 The first issue presented by this case is whether the plaintiff should have appealed the decision of the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) to the Mandates Board of Appeals before bringing a claim in circuit court. The Director contends that since the plaintiff failed to appeal to the Mandates Board of Appeals, it did not exhaust its administrative remedies.

The Director seems to misapprehend the nature of the administrative review process set up in the State Mandates Act. It is true, as the Director notes, that where the legislature creates a specific statutory remedy, persons aggrieved by an agency action must exhaust that remedy before seeking judicial relief. (Kreis v. Olsen (1982), 111 Ill. App.3d 47, 50, 443 N.E.2d 752.) Exhaustion of administrative remedies is required in situations where a party seeks judicial review of an administrative decision. The plaintiff must have been injured by the administrative action, and there must be an administrative remedy available to address the plaintiff's problem. Ginn v. Consolidated Coal Co. (1982), 107 Ill. App.3d 564, 567, 437 N.E.2d 793.

• 2 In the present case, the plaintiff was not aggrieved by an administrative action, so that the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies is inapplicable. The plaintiff submitted a claim to the ICCB for reimbursement for the cost of providing scholarships to veterans. The plaintiff's claim was filed pursuant to the State Mandates Act, which requires the State to reimburse units of local government when they comply with a State directive. A community college must submit its claim for reimbursement to the ICCB. The ICCB can then accept the claim and order the Comptroller to pay it, or it can reduce the claim to an amount it finds more reasonable. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 85, par. 2208(c).) If the community college is dissatisfied with the ICCB's decision, it can appeal to the Mandates Board of Appeals. That body's decision is then subject to judicial review. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 85, par. 2208(d).

Since, in this case, the ICCB accepted the plaintiff's request for reimbursement, there was no reason for the plaintiff to press its claim any further at the administrative level. Moreover, the plaintiff did not seek judicial review of an administrative decision, which is the typical situation triggering the doctrine of exhaustion of administrative remedies. Rather, plaintiff filed a claim against two State officials, seeking to compel them to act in accordance with an ...


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