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July 23, 1996


Petition for Review of an Order of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Released for Publication August 29, 1996.

The Honorable Justice Burke delivered the opinion of the court: Hartman, P.j., and DiVITO, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke

JUSTICE BURKE delivered the opinion of the court:

Petitioner SEDOL Teachers Union, Lake County Federation of Teachers, Local 504, IFT-APT, AFL-CIO (SEDOL Union) appeals from an order of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) dismissing its complaint alleging an unfair labor practice claim against respondent Barrington Community Unit School District No. 220 (Barrington) and charging Barrington with refusing to follow a binding arbitration award, in violation of section 14(a)(8) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (Labor Act)(115 ILCS 5/14--(a)(8) (West 1992)). On appeal, SEDOL Union argues that the IELRB erred in: (1) finding that the arbitration award in this matter was not binding; and (2) allowing respondent Barrington Education Association, IEA-NEA (Barrington Union) to intervene in the proceedings before the IELRB. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

The Special Education District of Lake County (SEDOL) is a cooperative special education district, consisting of 37 school districts, created pursuant to a joint agreement in 1973 under section 22.31 of the Illinois School Code (School Code). 105 ILCS 5/10--22.31 (West 1992). SEDOL provides special education services to handicapped students in its 37 member districts, each of which is located in Lake County, Illinois, and includes Barrington. SEDOL is an entity separate from its member districts and has its own governing board which is comprised of one representative from each of its 37 member districts. SEDOL's powers, policies, and procedures are outlined in its "Articles of Joint Agreement." SEDOL hires its own teachers, who are represented by SEDOL Union, which is the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit consisting of SEDOL'S certified teachers, speech therapists, prevocational counselors, social workers, educational diagnosticians, nurses and psychologists.

SEDOL, "with the approval of the SEDOL Governing Board," and "on its own behalf, and on behalf of its member boards," and SEDOL Union entered into a collective bargaining agreement and a supplement to the agreement (Supplement) for the period January 1, 1990, to August 15, 1992. The member districts, including Barrington, did not individually sign the agreement or the Supplement; 24 representatives of the member districts on SEDOL's governing board voted in favor of the agreement and Supplement, including Barrington's representative, allegedly without the authorization of Barrington, three voted against and 11 were absent. The Supplement provisions apply when a member district votes to "take back" a special education program from SEDOL. "'Taking back' a program from SEDOL involve[s] a decision by a member district to offer certain special education classes which had been offered by SEDOL" and staffed by SEDOL employees; the member district would assume the fiscal and operational control over the program/classes previously administered by SEDOL. According to the Supplement, after a member district votes to "take back" a program, it must notify SEDOL of "any vacant and/or new positions created in a member district" resulting from the "take back." SEDOL is then required to advertise the vacant positions to tenured SEDOL employees.

In January 1992, Barrington voted to "take back" three programs from SEDOL. On January 13, Barrington notified SEDOL that it would be "taking back" these programs and that no vacant teaching positions would be created as a result of the "take backs." Based on Barrington's original notification, SEDOL did not post any vacancies resulting from Barrington's "take backs." However, Barrington subsequently posted three teaching vacancies, based on its belief that "[it] was entitled to post and fill the three positions internally, before reporting them to SEDOL as vacancies under the Supplement" *fn1 and, additionally, pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement between Barrington and Barrington Union to fill "nonpromotional" vacancies with qualified Barrington Union teachers.

On February 11, 1992, SEDOL Union filed a grievance with SEDOL pursuant to their collective bargaining agreement. SEDOL Union's grievance alleged that SEDOL violated the Supplement when it issued a list of vacant positions created by the "take backs" in member districts without including the vacant positions created by Barrington's "take backs." As a remedy, SEDOL Union demanded that Barrington immediately stop the hiring process.

On February 27, SEDOL filed a response to SEDOL Union's grievance, arguing that since Barrington did not notify SEDOL of any vacant teaching positions created by the "take backs," SEDOL had complied with the provisions of the Supplement by not listing any vacant Barrington teaching positions.

On May 2, 1992, Barrington filed a two-count complaint in the circuit court of Lake county seeking a declaratory judgment that it had complied with its contractual responsibilities to SEDOL in "taking back" the programs, and seeking to stay the arbitration proceedings or enjoin the arbitrator from granting an award against Barrington. On May 13, the trial court dismissed both counts of Barrington's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. *fn2 The arbitration hearing also proceeded on May 13 on SEDOL Union's grievance. Although SEDOL had requested that Barrington participate in a joint defense, Barrington did not do so and was not a party to the arbitration proceedings. During the arbitration hearing, SEDOL and SEDOL Union conceded that none of SEDOL's teachers "who had taught in Barrington classrooms were reduced in force because of the take-backs." SEDOL argued, however, that the arbitrator should render the arbitration award against Barrington, and not against SEDOL, because SEDOL was merely an agent for its principal, Barrington. SEDOL further argued that Barrington authorized the Supplement through its representative who was a member of SEDOL's governing board. SEDOL Union argued that Barrington was a party to the Supplement and that both SEDOL and the member districts, including Barrington, "were principals in the Supplement."

The arbitrator determined that he had jurisdiction over Barrington based on the fact that Barrington is a participating school district in SEDOL and Barrington had notice of the arbitration proceeding as indicated by its attempt to enjoin the proceeding. The arbitrator further stated:

"Moreover, based on the language of the Supplement and the SEDOL Governing Board meeting of December 13, 1989, it would be difficult for Barrington to argue that they did not understand the Supplement or that they were not obligated to abide by the agreement."

The arbitrator accordingly concluded that under the provisions of the Supplement, Barrington was SEDOL's principal and SEDOL was Barrington's agent. Based on this relationship, the arbitrator further concluded that Barrington was liable for the acts of its agent, SEDOL. With respect to SEDOL's liability, the arbitrator concluded that SEDOL could not be held liable because Barrington failed to notify SEDOL of the vacant positions. The arbitrator issued his award on July 27, 1992, stating:

"The grievance is sustained with respect to Barrington and denied with regard to SEDOL. Barrington is directed to post the three vacancies which were not filled according to the collective bargaining agreement's requirements and to provide an opportunity for SEDOL teachers to apply for the positions. Jurisdiction is retained with respect to the remedy."

Barrington refused to comply with the arbitration award because it maintained that the award was not binding against it. As a result, on August 17, 1992, SEDOL Union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Barrington with the IELRB. On December 3, 1992, the IELRB issued a complaint against Barrington. The complaint charged Barrington with engaging in unfair labor practices in violation of section 14(a) (8) and 14(a) (1) of the Labor Act (115 ILCS 5/14(a) (8), (a) (1) (West 1992)), prohibiting educational employers from "refusing to comply with the provisions of a binding arbitration award" and "interfering, restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed under [the Labor Act]." The complaint also notified Barrington that there would be a public hearing before an administrative law judge of the IELRB.

At the hearing before the administrative law judge, Barrington Union moved to intervene in the proceedings as an interested party. SEDOL Union objected, and the administrative law judge denied the motion. This motion was subsequently overturned by the IELRB following Barrington Union's interlocutory appeal from the denial of its ...

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