APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, THIRD DIVISION
543 N.E.2d 190, 187 Ill. App. 3d 304, 134 Ill. Dec. 907 1989.IL.1223
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James Murray and the Hon. Thomas O'Brien, Judges, presiding.
JUSTICE RIZZI delivered the opinion of the court. FREEMAN, P.J., and WHITE, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE RIZZI
Defendant, Glenda Hunter, appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County remanding her case to the Illinois Civil Service Commission (Commission) for consideration of previously excluded testimony and from a separate order, affirming the decision of the Civil Service Commission, discharging her from service. On appeal, Hunter argues that (1) the circuit court erred when it remanded the case for consideration of previously excluded testimony because the meaning of a regulation is not a proper subject for expert testimony and the interpretation provided by the testimony was not in accordance with the plain meaning of the regulation's terms; (2) the circuit court erred in affirming the Commission's discharge decision since the plain meaning of Regulation 208 did not prohibit Hunter's conduct; and (3) the penalty of discharge is unreasonable, unjustly harsh, and unrelated to the needs of the Department of Corrections. We reverse and remand.
The following facts were revealed during the administrative hearing. On May 4, 1982, Hunter's employment with the Department of Corrections was terminated and she was charged with violation of the Department's Administrative Regulations 213, 208 and 107. The charges also alleged that Hunter's conduct was unbecoming a State employee and in violation of Department of Corrections policies. It was alleged that Hunter violated these provisions when she accepted $3,000 from Willie Spears, a Cook County jail inmate.
Hunter met Spears in 1969 when she worked at St. Leonard House, a facility for ex-offenders. From 1971 to 1974, Hunter worked for the Department of Corrections as a counselor at the Duncan Half-way Community Center. While at Duncan, Hunter counseled Spears on employment and financial matters. At the Duncan Center, the counsel or position entailed, among other things, parolee interviews, job placement, the provision of transportation fees and referrals to resources for clothing. It was an accepted practice for Duncan counselors to visit former parolees who had returned to incarceration as well as to loan money or post bond for them.
After Hunter left the Duncan Center, Spears was never placed directly under her supervision. She was never his parole officer. However, Spears continued to call upon Hunter for assistance. Hunter provided bond fees on Spears' behalf in 1971, twice in 1972 and once in 1973. Hunter gave Spears clothing, and paid his rent and hotel expenses on a few occasions in 1974 and 1975. Hunter provided similar assistance to other parolees. No one ever advised her that this type of assistance was prohibited.
From 1974 to 1975, Hunter worked with the Adult Work Release Program. From 1975 until the time of her discharge, Hunter was employed as a parole counselor. In 1978, Hunter was assigned to the position of Parole Counselor III and assisted parolees in their transition from the institution to the community by counseling the parolees and their families and helping them obtain employment. As a parole officer, Hunter was required to come to the jail several times a week. Once or twice a month Hunter would see Spears when she was visiting her assigned parolees. Generally, Hunter would speak to Spears for 5 to 10 minutes in the same fashion that she spoke to him as his counselor at the Duncan Center. In May 1980, Spears was released from Cook County jail. His parolee status was terminated in July 1980.
In 1972, Hunter assisted Spears in obtaining an attorney for a matter which resulted in criminal and civil litigation. The civil rights action resulted in a substantial recovery to Spears. When Spears received his judgment, he authorized his attorney to tender $1,000 to Hunter as repayment for the total amount of money that she had advanced him over the years. The check was dated January 30, 1980, and stated that acceptance of the check constituted full settlement of all loans and monies advanced for bond on behalf of Willie Spears.
During one of Hunter's routine visits to Cook County jail, Hunter and Spears discussed automotive difficulties that she was experiencing. Spears offered to loan her $2,000 for the automobile repair costs. After Hunter reviewed the regulations, she agreed to accept the loan. Spears instructed his attorney to lend Hunter $2,000. On March 19, 1980, Hunter received a $2,000 check from Spears' attorney and signed a receipt indicating that the transaction was a loan to be repaid without interest beginning in August 1980 at the rate of $25 per month.
The hearing officer determined that the $1,000 payment to Hunter constituted reimbursement and that the second payment of $2,000 constituted a loan. The hearing officer also determined that of the alleged charges, the $2,000 loan exceeded the boundaries of the professional relationship between the parties and as such was a violation of Regulation 213, the socializing provision. According to the hearing officer, neither the $1,000 reimbursement nor the $2,000 loan constituted a bribe, gift or gratuity in violation of Regulation 208. The hearing officer dismissed the Regulation 107 charge. Regulation 107 prohibited an employee from receiving any form of payment from any person or corporation doing business with the institution or with any resident. The hearing officer did not find that Hunter's conduct was unbecoming a State employee or that the money was lent with the expectation that Hunter would take certain action with respect to her official duties. The hearing officer found that Hunter was a 13-year employee of the Department of Corrections, who was highly valued by her superiors and had never received an oral warning or any type of discipline.
On October 19, 1983, the Illinois Civil Service Commission adopted the hearing officer's decision which determined that the amended charges against Glenda Hunter warranted a 90-day suspension. The Department of Corrections sought judicial review of that decision, alleging that the decision was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence ...