The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Cousins
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County
Honorable Albert J. Green, Judge Presiding
Three Cicero police officers were given notice that they were to be fired for violation of an ordinance requiring employees of the town to live in Cicero. The officers sought to have their cases heard before a neutral arbitrator, as they said was provided for in the collective bargaining agreement between the town and their union. The town refused to go to arbitration based on its view that the collective bargaining agreement did not obligate it to do so. The union filed suit to compel arbitration pursuant to the Uniform Arbitration Act (710 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (West 1994)). The Cicero Board of Fire, Police and Public Safety Commissioners intervened as a defendant, claiming that the officers' cases could not be heard before an arbitrator since it alone had authority to determine cause for dismissal of police officers in the town. The town filed a section 2-615 motion to dismiss, which the Judge granted. 735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1994). The union now appeals this dismissal.
The union claims the trial court erred by: (1) finding that the town and the union did not have the authority to provide for termination procedures other than those set out in the ordinance establishing the Board of Fire, Police and Public Safety Commissioners; (2) finding that, even if the arbitration procedure agreed upon by the town and the union was not ultra vires, the officers' cases would not qualify as arbitrable grievances under applicable state and local law; and (3) ruling that the collective bargaining agreement itself contained a provision barring arbitration of grievances relating to residency requirements.
The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council (Union), the plaintiff in this suit, is a labor organization that serves as the exclusive bargaining representative of full-time peace officers of the rank of patrolman employed by the Town of Cicero (Town). The Town, the original defendant, is a home rule municipal corporation in Cook County. The Board of Fire, Police and Public Safety Commissioners of the Town of Cicero (Board), an intervening defendant, is a governmental unit given the authority for discipline and discharge of Cicero firefighters and police officers.
In 1994, the Union entered into a collective bargaining agreement (Agreement) with the Town, pursuant to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (the Act) (5 ILCS 315/1 et seq. (West 1994)).
In May and June of 1997, three patrolmen working for the Town of Cicero were notified that charges seeking their discharge had been filed before the Board due to their violation of the Town's residency ordinance, which reads:
"(a) All persons accepting appointment or employment with the town as officers, or employees, certified or non-certified, must make their residence and maintain their domicile within the Town of Cicero no later than six (6) months after commencing their employment and keep such domicile during the term of their appointment or employment.
(b) All persons presently appointed or employed with the town as officers, officials, or employees, certified or non-certified, must make their residence and maintain their domicile within the Town of Cicero no later than six (6) months after the effective date of this section and keep such domicile during the term of the appointment or employment.
(c) Failure of any above-described person to comply with the residency and domicile requirements will be sufficient cause for termination of employment or removal from service in a manner prescribed by law." Code of Ordinances of the Town of Cicero §2-123(a)(b)(c) (1988).
Each patrolman filed a grievance, electing to have his case heard before a neutral arbitrator rather than the Board, pursuant to article 9, section 9.3 of the Agreement, which reads: "If the Superintendent recommends a suspension for any period of time in excess of five (5) days (including a recommendation for discharge) the affected Officer shall have the right to have such action heard either by the Board of Fire and Police Commission (BOFPC) or by a neutral arbitrator, but not by both. Within five (5) business days after receipt of the Superintendent's recommendation, the Officer must select the venue for the hearing. If the Officer fails to select the venue within five (5) business days, the Superintendent shall have the right to make the selection. In the event arbitration is selected, a grievance shall be filed at Step Three of the grievance procedure."
After receiving the grievances, the Town notified the Union that each of the patrolmen's discharge hearings would be heard before a neutral arbitrator as requested. In each case, however, the Town changed its position and refused to go to arbitration.
The plaintiff then filed this suit to compel arbitration against the Town pursuant to the Uniform Arbitration Act (710 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (West 1994)). The Town filed a motion to dismiss, under section 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (735 5/2-615 (West 1994)). A few days later, the Board filed a motion to intervene, which the trial Judge granted. Subsequently, the trial Judge granted the motion to dismiss on the grounds that the Town had expressly reserved the right not to arbitrate residency issues under article 30 of the Agreement:
"The Town of Cicero reserves the right to adopt a residency rule for Employees covered by this collective bargaining Agreement, subject to bargaining with the Lodge, about the decision and the effects of such a rule; and provided further, that no such rule, if adopted and agreed upon, shall be enforced unless it is uniformly applied to all Employees and officers of the Town of Cicero, except where such employment requires technical training, knowledge or special expertise. Any language herein to the contrary notwithstanding, the Town reserves its right not to submit the issue of residency to arbitration pursuant to 5 ILCS 315/14." Furthermore, the court ruled, the Town could not delegate the Board's authority to make hiring and firing decisions to an arbitrator.
The Union appeals this dismissal, claiming that: (1) the trial court erred by ruling that a collective bargaining agreement could not alter the statutory power of a police and fire commission to determine cause for termination; (2) the trial court erroneously found that residency issues did not qualify as arbitrable grievances under the Act since they did not relate to an employee's wages, hours or working conditions and did not involve the meaning, interpretation or application of the agreement; and (3) the trial court erroneously interpreted the Agreement as allowing the Town not to submit grievances, as opposed to collective bargaining impasses, concerning residency to arbitration.
The defendants contend that the Town and the Union had no power through a collective bargaining agreement to vary procedures established by ordinance for discipline or termination of employees. Therefore, no dispute concerning discipline or ...