The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Chapman
IN THE APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS FIFTH DISTRICT
Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County.
Honorable Robert L. Craig, Judge, presiding.
This case arises from a claim by Local 1220 of the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers (the Union) that the East St. Louis School District #189 Financial Oversight Panel (Panel) exceeded its statutory authority under Article 1B of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/1B-1 et seq. (West 1996)). The Union complains that beginning with the 1995-1996 school year, the Panel hired personnel to perform business office functions which had previously been performed by Union members. The Panel claimed that the hiring of these personnel was statutorily authorized because the Panel's purpose is to exercise financial control over the board of education's accounts. Both the Union and the Board of Education of East St. Louis School District #189 filed motions for a declaratory judgment that the Panel exceeded its statutory authority. On April 8, 1997, upon cross-motions for summary judgment, the circuit court agreed with the Union that the Panel lacked statutory authority to contract with outside personnel to perform routine business office functions. From this judgment, the Panel appeals. We affirm as modified.
Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party's right to judgment is clear and free from doubt. In re Estate of Hoover, 155 Ill. 2d 402, 615 N.E.2d 736, 739 (1993). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the affidavits, depositions, admissions, exhibits, and pleadings on file, and it has a duty to construe the evidence strictly against the movant and liberally in favor of the nonmoving party. Outboard Marine Corp. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., 154 Ill. 2d 90, 102, 607 N.E.2d 1204, 1209 (1992).
In May 1995, the Panel was appointed pursuant to the School District Financial Oversight Panel and Emergency Financial Assistance Law (the Act) (105 ILCS 5/1B-1 et seq. (West 1996)). The Act is designed to provide for the continued operation of public school systems threatened with serious financial difficulty. 105 ILCS 5/1B-8 (West 1996).
An oversight panel is empowered by the statute to appoint a financial administrator to provide professional and technical financial assistance and advice. 105 ILCS 5/1B-6(c), 1B-7 (West 1996). The Panel in this case appointed as its financial administrator the accounting firm of McGladrey & Pullen/Williams, Adley & Co. (MWAC). MWAC hired outside personnel to perform various school district office functions. The parties agree that the Panel, through MWAC, assumed exclusive administration of the district's financial accounts. MWAC hired persons to perform business office functions that had been previously performed by school district employees.
It is uncontested that the circuit court viewed the Panel's statutory powers narrowly. The Panel maintains that the Act expressly confers upon it the right to hire personnel to perform the business office functions. The Panel argues that the legislature possesses plenary power over the Illinois school system. See Board of Education of School District No. 150 v. City of Peoria, 76 Ill. 2d 469, 478, 394 N.E.2d 399, 402 (1979). The Panel also asserts that the Act is a means by which the legislature's power over financial matters, which had been delegated to the districts, can be reasserted by the State. Thus, the Panel argues, to perform its function of exercising financial control over the board of education, the legislature granted the Panel all powers necessary to carry out its task, unless expressly limited by the statute. See 105 ILCS 5/1B-6 (West 1996).
The Panel refers specifically to section 22(c) of the Act, as expressly conferring the right to appoint employees as necessary to carry out the Panel's purposes. 105 ILCS 5/1B-22(c) (West 1996). The Panel argues that this section alone gives the Panel the right to do what it did here.
The Panel also refers to sections 1B-6 and 1B-16:
"Except as expressly limited by this Article, the Panel shall have all powers necessary to meet its responsibilities and to carry out its purposes ***." (Emphasis added.) 105 ILCS 5/1B-6 (West 1996).
"The Panel shall have the power to assume exclusive administration of the cash accounts and bank accounts ***." (Emphasis added.) 105 ILCS 5/1B-16(b) (West 1996).
The Panel argues that the emphasized portions of the statute establish that the Panel has the authority to directly manage and control all aspects of the school district's finances. Thus, the Panel argues, it was within its power to hire outside personnel to perform the business office ...