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University Professionals of Illinois v. Stukel

December 08, 2003

THE UNIVERSITY PROFESSIONALS OF ILLINOIS, LOCAL 4100 OF THE ILLINOIS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, A LABOR ORGANIZATION, AND MITCH VOGEL, A TAXPAYER AND A CITIZEN OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
JAMES STUKEL, SYLVIA MANNING, NANCY CANTOR, RICHARD RINGEISEN, JAMES WALKER, WALTER WENDLER, DAVID WERNER, JOHN PETERS, VICTOR BOSCHINI, LOUIS HENCKEN, DONALD SPENCER, ELNORA DANIEL, SALME STEINBERG, AND STUART FAGAN, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County 01 CH 19168 Hon. Gay-Lloyd Lott, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McBRIDE

UNPUBLISHED

Plaintiff, University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100 of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is a labor organization that represents workers employed by state universities (Local 4100). Plaintiff, Mitchell Vogel, is the president of Local 4100. The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) is a public body that coordinates educational, research, and public service programs for the state universities in Illinois. Defendants, James Stukel, Sylvia Manning, Nancy Cantor, Richard Ringeisen, James Walker, Walter Wendler, David Werner, John Peters, Victor Boschini, Louis Hencken, Donald Spencer, Elnora Daniel, Salme Steinberg, and Stuart Fagan, are all presidents or chancellors of various state universities in Illinois. The defendants formed an organization called the Council of Presidents (Council) to give advice and to make recommendations to the IBHE. The Council of Presidents meets prior to IBHE meetings and designates one of its members to speak on behalf of the Council.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that the Council, which held meetings closed to the public, was meeting as a public body and was subject to the provisions of the Open Meetings Act (Meetings Act) (5 ILCS 120/1 et seq. (West 2000)). Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint under section 2-615 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure on the ground that the Council was not a public body under the Meetings Act. 735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2000). On October 9, 2002, the trial court granted their motion to dismiss.

The only issue on appeal is whether the trial court properly granted defendants' section 2-615 motion to dismiss. An order granting a section 2-615 motion to dismiss is reviewed de novo. Wakulich v. Mraz, 203 Ill. 2d 223, 228, 785 N.E.2d 843 (2003). In reviewing a motion to dismiss:

"We take as true all well-pled facts and reasonable

inferences therefrom and consider only those facts in the pleading and included in attached exhibits. [Citation.] We will not affirm dismissal of a complaint unless it is clear that a plaintiff cannot prove a set of facts that will entitle him to the relief sought. [Citation.] However, legal conclusions and factual conclusions that are unsupported by allegations of specific facts will be disregarded in ruling on a motion to dismiss. [Citation.]" Safeway Insurance Co. v. Daddono, 334 Ill. App. 3d 215, 218, 777 N.E.2d 693 (2002).

After reviewing the complaint, we agree that the Council is not a public body under the Meetings Act and we therefore affirm.

The following facts are alleged in the complaint. The IBHE was set to meet in Chicago on December 11, 2001. At this meeting, one of the topics to be discussed was IBHE budget recommendations for the 2002-2003 academic year. The complaint alleged that these budget recommendations would have a substantial impact on the salaries of faculty members represented by Local 4100.

According to Local 4100, the Council was to give advice and recommendations to the IBHE concerning the positions of the presidents and the chancellors of the state universities in regard to annual budget and appropriations issues as well as other subjects that related to affording higher education to the citizens of Illinois. The complaint alleged that the Council met prior to the IBHE meetings and designated one of its members to speak on its behalf at the IBHE meeting. According to Local 4100, the meetings of the Council are paid for out of funds appropriated by the state. It also alleged that at its meetings, the Council discussed issues relating to public higher education in the state and to the funding thereof.

The complaint also alleged that the meetings of the Council were closed to the public, that the Council published no agenda for the meetings, and that no notice of the meetings was given to the public. According to Local 4100, the Council published no minutes or other public record of its meetings.

Paragraph 22 of the complaint alleged:

"The meetings of public bodies in Illinois are governed by the Open Meetings Act, 5 ILCS Section 120/1, et seq. The policy behind the Open Meetings Act is 'that public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of people's business and that the people have a right to be informed as to the conduct of their business.' Exceptions to this policy are permitted 'only in those limited circumstances where the General Assembly has specifically determined that the public interest would be clearly endangered or the personal privacy or guaranteed rights of individuals would clearly be in danger of unwarranted invasion.' "

The complaint went on to state that the definition of the term "public body" in the Meetings Act included advisory bodies to state boards such as the IBHE. The complaint then stated that the Council constituted an "advisory body" to the IBHE and was supported by tax revenues. As a result, the Council fell within the definition of public body in the Meetings Act.

The complaint claimed that the failure of the Council to publish its meeting agendas or to open the meetings to the public constituted a violation of the Meetings Act. Local 4100 additionally asserted that, unless enjoined, the Council would continue to hold its meeting in secret.

Section 1.02 of the Meetings Act states, in pertinent part:

" 'Public body' includes all legislative, executive, administrative or advisory bodies of the State *** and all *** boards, bureaus, committees or commissions of this State, and any subsidiary bodies of any of the foregoing including but not limited to committees and subcommittees ***." 5 ILCS 120/1.02 (West 2000).

Section 2 of the Meetings Act states, in pertinent part:

"Openness required. All meetings of public bodies shall be open to the public unless excepted in subsection (c) and closed in accordance with ...


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