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09/29/88 David Hoffman, v. Board of Fire and Police

September 29, 1988





529 N.E.2d 790, 175 Ill. App. 3d 219, 124 Ill. Dec. 809 1988.IL.1484

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. Robert McLaren, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE REINHARD delivered the opinion of the court. INGLIS and DUNN, JJ., concur.


Plaintiff, David Hoffman, brought suit against defendants, the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners of the City of Naperville (Board) and various individual members of the Naperville police department, seeking a declaration of the invalidity of a promotional eligibility list for sergeant prepared by the Board and a mandamus and injunctive relief to promote plaintiff to the rank of sergeant in the Naperville police department. Following a bench trial, the circuit court enjoined the Board from conducting any further promotional examinations until a definition of a passing grade is adopted by the Board but denied all other relief sought by plaintiff.

On appeal, plaintiff contends that the circuit court's decision to deny him relief was erroneous and that we should reverse the judgment against him and grant him affirmative relief which would promote him to sergeant or, alternatively, declare the eligibility list and promotions invalid and order that they be redetermined.

On September 10, 1985, the Board administered a written examination for promotion of patrol officers on the Naperville police department to the rank of sergeant. Twenty-four officers, including plaintiff, took the examination.

One of the rules previously adopted by the Board governing the promotion process states that, "A 'passing grade' of '70' must be received on the written and oral examinations for promotion. Examinees who do not obtain such a grade in any part of the examination are thereby eliminated from further examination."

The examination was proctored by Barbara Byard, personnel administrator for the City of Naperville. At the sergeants test, Byard told the examinees that a minimum score of 70 was required in order to go on to the next level of the testing process. After the sergeants examination, Byard counted the number of correct answers on each examination answer sheet out of the total 145 questions on the sergeants examination, and then matched the answer sheets with the officers taking the test. Byard then asked Mary Jo Lenert, chairman of the Board, how many names should appear on a list of officers eligible to proceed to the next stage of the examination process. Chairman Lenert told Byard to take the top one-third, which was eight names. The day after the examination, a list of eight names, including plaintiff's, was posted at the police department.

During the administration of a lieutenants examination given two days after the sergeants examination, a question was raised as to the passing grade. Byard responded that due to problems encountered during the sergeants examination, the lieutenants examination would be graded on a curve. Byard noticed that Sergeant Zittnan looked puzzled by that announcement and so she checked with Marvin Glink, attorney for the City of Naperville. Byard then told the examinees that according to Glink, "70" in the rules meant 70%. After the examination, as with the sergeants examination, Byard determined the number of correct answers on each examination and matched these raw scores with the examinees' names.

After the lieutenants examination, Byard telephoned Chairman Lenert and informed her that a question as to grading had arisen during the lieutenants examination. On the Monday following the examinations, a meeting was held to discuss grading the examinations to determine a passing score. Present at the meeting were Chairman Lenert, Barbara Byard, Francis Cuneo, attorney for the Board, and his associate, Thea Armstrong. During the meeting, Lenert said that there was no real basis for her original decision that the top one-third should pass. Various methods of grading the examinations were discussed. The method eventually decided upon was to subtract the lowest raw score (number of correct answers) achieved from the highest; multiply the difference by .7; and subtract that product from the highest raw score. The number arrived at would be the passing raw score. Chairman Lenert instructed Byard to revise the list of officers passing the sergeants examination and to prepare the list of those passing the lieutenants examination based on this formula. The formula was applied to both examinations, resulting in 22 out of 24 examinees passing the sergeants examination and 7 out of 10 examinees passing the lieutenants examination. A revised sergeants list containing 22 names and a list of those passing the lieutenants test containing 7 names were prepared.

Those passing the written examination were eligible to continue on to oral examination. After the completion of the testing process, final lists of those eligible for promotion were compiled. The final eligibility list for promotion to sergeant contained 16 names, including plaintiff's. On January 6, 1986, the Board promoted defendants Bruce Longino and Keith Dwyer to the rank of sergeant. On May 5, 1986, the Board promoted defendants Robert Marshall, Paul Shafer, and Paul Ruffolo to the position of sergeant. Plaintiff was not promoted.

Only three of the officers who took the sergeants examination answered correctly more than 70% of the questions (101.5 out of 145). They were Keith Dwyer, who answered 108 correctly; John Ott, who answered 104 correctly; and plaintiff, who answered 103 questions correctly. Out of these three, only Dwyer and plaintiff appeared on the final eligibility list containing 16 names. Chairman Lenert testified that, at the time of the meeting at which grading methods were discussed, she ...

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