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February 16, 1994


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County. No. 92 CH 10585. Honorable VINCENT J. CERRI and HERMAN HAASE, Judge, Presiding.

Rehearing Denied and Released for Publication March 22, 1994.

Present - Honorable Peg Breslin, Justice, Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Justice, Honorable Tobias Barry, Justice

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barry

JUSTICE BARRY delivered the opinion of the court.

Plaintiff Lori L. Quist appeals from judgment of the Circuit Court of Will County dismissing her complaint for wrongful termination of employment as a non-tenured psychology instructor for defendant Joliet Junior College and denying her post-judgment motion for reconsideration. For reasons that follow, we affirm.

According to plaintiff's complaint, plaintiff entered into a contract of employment with defendant college in November, 1990, for employment as an instructor for the 1991 spring semester. Theparties' agreement is expressly subject to the Illinois Public Community College Act (110 ILCS 805/1-1 et seq. (West 1992)), the School Code (105 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq. (West 1992)), and the policies, rules and regulations of the Board of Community College District No. 525 (Board). As a member of the Joliet Junior College Faculty Council, AFT-Local 604, plaintiff's contract was also subject to her union's collective bargaining agreement with defendant college.

Plaintiff alleges that in February, 1991, the Board moved to reappoint her for the 1991-92 academic year. On January 13, 1992, defendant requested that plaintiff furnish a summary of her progress on instructional objectives agreed upon the prior spring and informed her that her annual review meeting would be conducted during the week of January 27. According to plaintiff's complaint no such meeting was conducted, and on February 7, 1992, plaintiff was given notice by the school's director of human resources that she would not be recommended to the Board at its next scheduled meeting for reappointment for the 1992-93 academic year. On February 11, plaintiff filed a grievance pursuant to her union's bargaining agreement, reciting as follows:

"Not provided with an annual review as required by contract. Recommendation for dismissal inappropriate and premature without annual review. Annual review is a contractual basis for non-retention of non-tenured appointment. Academic freedom also denied."

As relief, plaintiff requested "annual review of non-tenured faculty member prior to any recommendation of non-renewal as required by contract."

At its meeting on February 11, 1992, the Board unanimously resolved to dismiss plaintiff from her duties as a faculty member upon the completion of the 1991-92 academic year. The record does not indicate that the Board was in receipt of plaintiff's grievance prior to its action. However, on March 6, 1992, plaintiff sent a letter to Dr. James Lepanto, vice president of academic affairs, stating that on advice of legal counsel she was withdrawing her February 11 grievance. In her complaint plaintiff alleges that the next Board meeting was scheduled for March 10, and that no action was taken to afford her an annual review prior to the Board's meeting on that date.

On March 20, plaintiff's attorney, Stephen McClary, wrote a letter to Attorney Fred Lifton, counsel for defendant college, asserting that legal action would be initiated unless defendant met the following demand:

"We must receive, in writing, from the administration of JolietJunior College, that a recommendation for renewal of Lori's contract for the 1992-93 academic year will be presented to the Board of Trustees at that body's next meeting. (i.e. April). Said letter must be received by Friday March 27, 1992."

Counsel for the college responded in writing on April 2, informing plaintiff's husband that the college had determined to relieve plaintiff of her teaching duties effective "immediately," but the college would honor its financial obligations pursuant to the parties' contract. Dr. Lepanto also sent a letter to plaintiff on April 2 confirming her immediate "relief" from teaching duties and directing her to meet with Dean Richard Brandolino on April 6 "to discuss [her] assignment for the remainder of the spring semester." Plaintiff failed to appear for the April 6 meeting, whereupon Dr. Lepanto sent another letter to plaintiff directing her to report to the school on April 9 for her assignment and to turn over student records, grades, assignments, etc., at that time. Plaintiff failed to respond to this letter or subsequent notices to meet with defendant's representatives in May. On May 12, the Board gave plaintiff final notice in writing of its resolve to dismiss plaintiff for cause pursuant to the Public Community College Act unless plaintiff requested a hearing in writing within 10 days.

It appears that plaintiff took no further action before filing her complaint in four counts in the circuit court on June 9, 1992. In Count I, plaintiff asserts breach of contract and requests that defendant be enjoined from dismissing her and ordered to reinstate her as an instructor for the following academic school year. Count II seeks declaratory judgment defining the parties' rights and duties pursuant to their contract of employment. Count III complains of "tortious interference with prospective business relationships" for failure to reemploy her without affording her an annual review and demands punitive damages. Plaintiff alleges that the College's recommendation that she not be rehired ...

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