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Quincy School District No. 172 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board

August 2, 2006

QUINCY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 172, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
THE ILLINOIS EDUCATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD AND QUINCY EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION, LOCAL NO. 809, IFT/AFT, AFL-CIO, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



Direct Administrative Review of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board No. 01-CA-0035-S.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Turner

Published opinion

Petitioner, Quincy School District No. 172 (School District), seeks direct review of a November 2005 order of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB), finding the School District had violated section 14(a)(1) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (Labor Act) (115 ILCS 5/14(a)(1) (West 2004)) as alleged in the August 2001 unfair-labor complaint filed by the Quincy Educational Association, Local No. 809, IFT/AFT, AFL-CIO (Association).

On review, the School District argues (1) the IELRB erred in not following this court's directive to hold a hearing on the merits following remand and (2) the IELRB erred in not holding the Association had waived or was estopped from bringing a motion to deem all allegations of the complaint admitted. We reverse and remand.

I. BACKGROUND

In January 2001, the Association filed an unfair-labor- practice charge with the IELRB, asserting the School District had violated the Labor Act by failing and refusing to submit a grievance to arbitration as demonstrated by the School District's filing of a lawsuit to enjoin a scheduled arbitration hearing. On August 8, 2001, the IELRB's executive director issued a complaint and notice of hearing. On August 28, 2001, the School District filed its answer, along with a motion for leave to file the answer one day out of time.

In January 2002, an administrative law judge (ALJ) denied the School District's motion for leave to file a late answer. In its July 2002 recommended decision and order, the ALJ found the School District's answer was in fact late and the School District failed to show "good cause" for the late filing. Because of the School District's failure to file a timely answer, the ALJ deemed admitted the complaint's allegations. In doing so, the ALJ saw no need to require the Association to file a motion to have the complaint's allegations deemed admitted.

In January 2003, the IELRB affirmed the ALJ's recommended decision and order, finding, inter alia, the School District had failed to show "good cause" for its filing an untimely answer, and thus it need not address whether the School District presented a meritorious defense. The IELRB also found the Association's response to the School District's motion to reconsider, in which it only argued the School District should not be granted leave to file a late answer, was the equivalent of a motion to have the complaint's allegations deemed admitted. Thus, the IELRB deemed admitted the complaint's allegations and then found the School District had violated section 14(a)(1) of the Labor Act. Based on that violation, the IELRB ordered the School District to cease and desist from certain actions and to take certain affirmative actions. The School District's appeal followed.

This court affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the cause to the IELRB for further proceedings. Quincy School District No. 172 v. Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, No. 4-03-0181 (March 2, 2004) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We affirmed the IELRB's holding that good cause did not exist for the School District's late answer. However, we reversed the IELRB's decision deeming the complaint's allegations admitted even though no motion had been filed, finding the IELRB's interpretation of section 1120.30(d)(3) of Title 80 of the Administrative Code (80 Ill. Adm. Code §1120.30(d)(3) (Conway Green CD-ROM January 2001) (eff. January 5, 1990)) was clearly erroneous, arbitrary, and unreasonable. Specifically, we noted section 1120.30(d)(3) expressly required a party to file a motion when seeking to have the allegations of a complaint admitted when the other party failed to file a timely answer. As the Association never sought to have the complaint's allegations deemed admitted, the IELRB's interpretation of section 1120.30(d)(3) would render the "[o]n motion of a party" language meaningless. Thus, we reversed the IELRB's finding that the complaint's allegations should be deemed admitted and vacated that portion of its order based on the admission of the allegations. We then concluded as follows:

"Since no party filed a motion to have the complaint's allegations deemed admitted, we remand the cause for a hearing on the merits." Quincy School District No. 172, slip order at 14.

This court issued its mandate on March 30, 2004.

On April 21, 2004, the Association filed a motion pursuant to section 1120.30 to deem the allegations of the complaint admitted. On April 26, 2004, the IELRB ordered the case remanded to the ALJ for a hearing on the merits. On April 29, 2004, the ALJ ordered the School District to show cause why the Association's motion should not be granted. In May 2004, the ALJ granted the Association's motion and recommended that the allegations of the complaint be deemed admitted.

In November 2005, the IELRB, in a 3 to 2 decision, affirmed the ALJ's recommended decision and order. The IELRB majority concluded the ALJ correctly declined to conduct a hearing on the merits and instead determined that the School District had admitted to violating section 14(a)(1) of the Labor Act by failing to file a timely answer to the complaint. The majority acknowledged this court's order requiring a hearing on the merits "[s]ince no party filed a motion to have the com- plaint's allegations admitted." However, the IELRB read this court's "direction to have a hearing on the merits was conditioned on the fact that no such motion had been filed." Since the Association filed a motion to have the allegations of the complaint deemed admitted after this court's order was handed down, "a ruling that there should be no hearing on the merits because the [Association] has filed a motion to have the allegations of the [c]omplaint be deemed admitted does not conflict with the [a]ppellate [c]court's ruling."

The IELRB also responded to the School District's argument that the Association waived or was estopped from having the allegations in the complaint deemed admitted because the Association delayed in filing its motion and stated during a January 15, 2002, conference call that it had no other motions to raise. The IELRB found the Association filed its motion "with reasonable promptness" after this court's decision and before the Association received the IELRB's order scheduling a hearing. In finding the School District admitted the allegations of the complaint by failing ...


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