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Goodwin v. McHenry County Sheriff's Department Merit Commission

October 24, 2000

BRENDA GOODWIN, JOSEPH COLDITZ, AND BENJAMIN ESSEX, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
MCHENRY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT MERIT COMMISSION; FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE LODGE NO. 119; AND FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE LABOR COUNCIL, DEFENDANTS (THE COUNTY OF MCHENRY; GEORGE H. HENDLE, AS SHERIFF OF MCHENRY COUNTY; WILLIAM MULLEN, AS SHERIFF OF MCHENRY COUNTY; AND KEITH NYGREN, AS SHERIFF OF MCHENRY COUNTY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS).
BRENDA GOODWIN, JOSEPH COLDITZ, AND BENJAMIN ESSEX, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
MCHENRY COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT MERIT COMMISSION; THE COUNTY OF MCHENRY; GEORGE H. HENDLE, AS SHERIFF OF MCHENRY COUNTY; WILLIAM MULLEN, AS SHERIFF OF MCHENRY COUNTY; KEITH NYGREN, AS SHERIFF OF MCHENRY COUNTY; FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE NO. 119; AND FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE LABOR COUNCIL, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. No. 96--MR--156 Honorable Terrence J. Brady, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Inglis

In appeal No. 2--99--1244, plaintiffs, Brenda Goodwin, Joseph Colditz, and Benjamin Essex, appeal both the judgment of the circuit court of McHenry County granting summary judgment in favor of defendants, McHenry County Sheriff's Department Merit Commission (Merit Commission), McHenry County, the sheriff of McHenry County (Sheriff), and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 119 and Labor Council (FOP), on defendants' motion directed against plaintiffs' complaint and the judgment of the circuit court granting partial summary judgment in favor of defendants on defendants' motion for summary judgment on defendants' counterclaim. In appeal No. 2--99--1330, McHenry County and the Sheriff appeal the judgment of the circuit court insofar as it failed to grant them the full relief they sought in their motion for summary judgment on defendants' counterclaim.

FACTS

Plaintiffs are or were deputy sheriffs employed as jail officers by McHenry County. Each plaintiff was subject to the Merit Commission and each had been employed by McHenry County before February 16, 1988, the date of the passage of McHenry County Ordinance No. 0--8802--1200--14 (Ordinance) excluding jail officers from the merit system. After February 16, 1988, jail officers were excluded from the merit system and, instead, were hired pursuant to a nonmerited system administered by the Sheriff. In 1995, the Sheriff created a nonmerited supervisory position for jail officers titled "sergeant of corrections."

The Sheriff determined that, in order for a merited deputy to be eligible for promotion to sergeant of corrections, the merited deputy would be required first to resign or obtain a leave of absence from his or her merited status. Plaintiffs protested this requirement.

The Sheriff subsequently notified all merited deputies assigned to the jail that they would be transferred to law enforcement positions within the sheriff's office and that the Sheriff had scheduled basic law enforcement training for those deputies. Plaintiffs sought and received a temporary injunction barring the Sheriff from transferring them from the jail and requiring any further training.

On April 25, 1996, plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging a number of violations of the Sheriff's Merit System Law (Merit System Law) (55 ILCS 5/3--8001 et seq. (West 1994)). Plaintiffs sought an order enjoining the sheriff's department from hiring new officers to the rank of deputy sheriff and an order directing the department to pay plaintiffs at the rate earned by the deputy sheriffs.

The trial court initially granted defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint, holding that it was time-barred under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Tort Immunity Act) (745 ILCS 10/1--101 et seq. (West 1994)) and the doctrine of laches. The trial court then partially granted plaintiffs' motion to reconsider, reinstating only plaintiffs' claims for equitable relief. The trial court encouraged defendants to stipulate to allowing plaintiffs to participate in all promotional examinations for which they were eligible for the rank of merited or nonmerited sergeant, as that would be the relief it would grant if plaintiffs proved their claims.

Defendants stipulated to those terms and moved to dismiss the remainder of plaintiffs' complaint, contending that the stipulation provided the equitable relief to make plaintiffs whole. The trial court dismissed the remainder of plaintiffs' complaint, and plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, this court held that plaintiffs' claims prior to April 25, 1995, were barred by the limitations period and that only the June 4, 1995, claim survived. Goodwin v. McHenry County Sheriff's Department Merit Comm'n, No. 2--97--0485 (1998) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23) (Goodwin I). This court also held that the stipulations violated the Merit System Law and were therefore invalid and remanded the case for further proceedings. Goodwin I, No. 2--97--0485.

On remand, defendants Sheriff and McHenry County both filed counterclaims seeking declaratory relief from the trial court by applying the law of the case to the staffing of the jail and to the disposition of plaintiff Goodwin (as plaintiffs Colditz and Essex had retired by that time). Defendants also filed motions for summary judgment on the remaining viable counts of plaintiffs' complaint, as well as on their counterclaims. On September 16, 1999, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants against all plaintiffs on all counts of plaintiffs' complaint. On October 22, 1999, the trial court ruled on defendants' counterclaims, holding that the jail could be fully staffed by nonmerited deputies while "grandfathering" Goodwin's status as a merited correctional officer. The court also found that Goodwin's appointment to the nonmerited sergeant of corrections position was voided by this court's order in Goodwin I and held that Goodwin was ineligible to retain the nonmerited position of sergeant of corrections and was ineligible for future promotion within the corrections division unless she relinquished her merited status. The trial court also cautioned that the Sheriff should consider Goodwin's wishes in determining whether to reassign her to a new position. Plaintiffs and defendants both timely appealed.

ARGUMENT

1. Motions Taken with the Case

Before addressing the merits of the two appeals, we must first address several motions we ordered to be taken with the case. Both plaintiffs and the Merit Commission filed motions to supplement the record on appeal. After careful consideration of each motion and response, we grant both motions. Additionally, the Sheriff and McHenry County each filed motions to strike plaintiffs' appellate brief in appeal No. 2--99--1244 for failure to comply with Supreme Court Rules 341 and 342 (177 Ill. 2d R. 341; 155 Ill. 2d R. 342). While plaintiffs' appellate brief is deficient, we nevertheless deny defendants' motions. We note, however, that we will consider only those arguments that are supported by proper legal and factual support and that we will disregard those portions of plaintiffs' statement of facts that are argumentative or unsupported by the record.

2. Appeal No. 2--99--1244

We first turn to plaintiffs' contentions in appeal No. 2--99--1244. Plaintiff initially appears to argue that "defendants'" (presumably the Merit Commission and, possibly, the Sheriff and McHenry County) policies for hiring and promoting jail officers conflict with the Merit System Law and (presumably) should be invalidated. We find that plaintiffs have waived this argument. In essence, plaintiffs argue that the Merit Commission's rules and procedures conflict with this court's decision in Greco v. McHenry County Sheriff's Department Merit Comm'n, 267 Ill. App. 3d 303 (1994). Plaintiffs fail to note, however, that the Merit Commission's rules were amended in 1997 in light of the conclusions of the Greco court. In Greco, the Merit Commission was operating under a dual entry system in which deputies were hired either as a deputy sheriff or deputy sheriff (jailer). Greco, 267 Ill. App. 3d at 306. This court held that the Merit Commission was violating the law by utilizing a dual entry system. Greco, 267 Ill. App. 3d at 306-07. Plaintiffs appear to merely reiterate the arguments raised, and settled, in Greco. Further, plaintiffs offer neither factual nor legal support for ...


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