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09/22/87 Delores Bell, v. the Civil Service

September 22, 1987





515 N.E.2d 248, 161 Ill. App. 3d 644, 113 Ill. Dec. 439

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur L. Dunne, Judge, presiding. 1987.IL.1400


JUSTICE BILANDIC delivered the opinion of the court. SCARIANO, P.J., and HARTMAN, J., concur.


Plaintiff, Delores Bell, appeals from an order of the circuit court affirming the Civil Service Commission's (Commission's) decision to discharge plaintiff from her employment with the Illinois Department of Registration and Education (Department). Plaintiff contends that the court erred in affirming the Commission's decision. We agree.

In this appeal, plaintiff challenges the sanction of discharge imposed by the Commission over the recommendation of the administrative hearing officer that she be suspended for 30 days.

Plaintiff was employed by the Department as a licensing investigator II for the real estate section. The Department brought charges against her alleging that she falsified her technical time reports by attributing hours of work to cases that were closed, cases which had no documentation to substantiate the work or which belonged to other investigators.

The evidence shows that plaintiff was a State employee since 1969. She was transferred to the Department in August 1973 and was assigned, through a series of promotions, as an investigator in the real estate section. The real estate section is an investigative unit responsible for receiving and investigating complaints about licensed real estate brokers, salesmen and corporations. Plaintiff was employed by the Department continuously from August 1973 until November 1982, when she was discharged.

The Director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services sought discharge of plaintiff after an internal audit of employee time reports was conducted. Subsequently, hearings were held on the charges before a hearing officer for the Commission. The officer, after making extensive findings of fact, recommended a 30-day suspension rather than discharge. The Commission rejected the officer's recommendations for suspension and ordered plaintiff discharged. Plaintiff filed a complaint for administrative review in the circuit court. The court affirmed the decision of the Commission and plaintiff brought this appeal.

Several witnesses testified at the hearing. The testimony shows that in 1981, the Department initiated a new system of time reporting and instituted a new form to be used by employees. The form, called a technical time report, was to be used to monitor what work was done on case files and record how investigators spent their time. It was designed to insure the accountability of investigators' time. No policy manuals, employee manuals or directives concerning investigators' use of time existed prior to the institution of these forms. There was no previous requirement that the investigators account for their time on a case-by-case basis.

The new forms provided a space for the investigators to record, on a daily basis, the amount of time they worked on each case. There was also a space provided for reporting time spent on administrative, supervisory and miscellaneous matters.

An audit of employee time reports was conducted by the Department. Plaintiff was charged with falsifying her time reports as a result of this audit.

Plaintiff testified that a substantial amount of her time was spent on administrative matters unrelated to specific case files. She claims that she erroneously labeled the time that she devoted to administrative matters as investigative time. She was never warned that this was improper prior to her discharge, no effort was made to correct the problem, and each of her time reports had been approved by Mr. Teckteil, her supervisor. His approval led her to believe that she was completing the forms properly.

The evidence shows that plaintiff was an assistant supervisor in her section in addition to being an investigator. She assisted Mr. Teckteil and took his place in his absence. Plaintiff performed administrative, supervisory and clerical duties for Mr. Teckteil. Witnesses testified that Mr. Teckteil was often absent from the office and had an insurance business in addition to his employment with the Department.

Plaintiff claimed that Mr. Teckteil advised her to credit the time that she spent performing some of his duties to her own cases. Other witnesses confirmed that Mr. Teckteil was out of the office a great deal and ...

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