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12/30/87 Jan Van Blommesteyn, v. the Department of Children

December 30, 1987





518 N.E.2d 649, 164 Ill. App. 3d 1094, 116 Ill. Dec. 27 1987.IL.1948

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Simon L. Friedman, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE GREEN delivered the opinion of the court. LUND and SPITZ, JJ. concur.


Prior to April 1986, plaintiff Jan van Blommesteyn was employed by defendant Department of Children and Family Services (Department) as chief of its office of personnel and labor relations. On July 17, 1986, defendant Civil Service Commission (Commission) ruled that the Department had established cause for plaintiff's discharge. Plaintiff subsequently filed in the circuit court an action for administrative review of the Commission's decision. On June 19, 1987, the circuit court reversed the Commission's decision and ordered plaintiff reinstated on the basis of purported procedural irregularities in the manner in which plaintiff was suspended from his job and then dismissed. The Department appeals the circuit court order.

The evidence presented at the hearing before the Commission's hearing officer established that plaintiff ordered his subordinates to process an improper retroactive adjustment to his salary and subsequently deposited a State payroll warrant, the gross amount of which included the amount of the improper adjustment, in a bank account. The Commission held that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the Department's charges of misconduct, and plaintiff does not contend that that portion of the Commission's decision is erroneous. Rather, plaintiff asserts that the Department violated applicable procedural rules and statutes during the course of the events which culminated in his dismissal.

On January 10, 1986, the Department placed plaintiff on administrative leave. That action was, however, almost immediately rescinded, and plaintiff returned to work on January 13. On January 27, plaintiff was presented with a copy of written charges of misconduct, to which he submitted a response on February 10. On the following day, the Department suspended plaintiff pending discharge. The suspension terminated on March 13, 1986. The evidence was undisputed that on that date, the Department's director handed plaintiff a discharge notice and a copy of charges against him but told him that he could "tear this up." The notice of discharge which was handed plaintiff on March 13 bore a typewritten effective date of March 13, 1986. On March 19 or 20, plaintiff received by certified mail a notice of discharge and a copy of the charges against him. On the copy of the notice of discharge which plaintiff received by certified mail, the original typewritten effective date for the discharge of March 13, 1986, was crossed out and replaced by a handwritten date of March 18, 1986. This change was initialed.

Pursuant to a written request submitted by plaintiff on March 21, 1986, a hearing before a Civil Service Commission hearing officer was scheduled for April 15, 1986. Plaintiff subsequently consented to defendants' request that the hearing be rescheduled for April 28, 1986.

Following the hearing, the Commission's hearing officer ruled that in dealing with plaintiff's misconduct, the Department violated the following portion of the Illinois Administrative Code:

"Discharge of Certified Employee

The agency head or his/her designee may initiate discharge of a certified employee by filing written charges for discharge with the Director in the form and manner prescribed by the Director. Written charges shall be signed by the head of the agency, and shall contain a clear and concise statement of facts showing good cause for discharge, and shall be accompanied by a copy of the employee's performance records. No discharge of a certified employee shall be effective without the approval of the written charges for discharge by the Director." (80 Ill. Adm. Code 302.720 (1985).)

The hearing officer held, however, that this violation did not require dismissal of the charges against plaintiff. Instead, the hearing officer ruled that the Department's failure to fully comply with the applicable rules during the period preceding plaintiff's dismissal could be remedied by plaintiff's being paid his salary for the period between the expiration of his suspension and the service upon him of notice of discharge. The hearing officer concluded that plaintiff's misconduct warranted his dismissal, but that plaintiff should receive his salary for the period between the expiration of his 30-day suspension and the service upon him of the notice of discharge. In a decision entered July 17, 1986, the Commission adopted the hearing officer's decision.

On administrative review, the circuit court apparently concluded that but for procedural irregularities, plaintiff's discharge would have been proper. As the basis for its reversal of the Commission's decision and its order that plaintiff be reinstated, the circuit court stated that plaintiff's discharge "was defective and in violation of the provisions of the Illinois Personnel Code" and that "[the] remedy for the defective discharge proposed by the Commission is inadequate." The circuit ...

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