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Davis v. Board of Control for Lake County High Schools Technology Campus

July 21, 2009

DR. MARY DAVIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE BOARD OF CONTROL FOR LAKE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOLS TECHNOLOGY CAMPUS AND DR. LINDA JEDLICKA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Judge

Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case is before the court on the motion of defendants The Board of Control for Lake County High Schools Technology Campus ("the Board") and Dr. Linda Jedlicka ("Jedlicka") (collectively "defendants") for summary judgment. Plaintiff Dr. Mary Davis ("Davis") worked as a substitute at the Lake County High Schools Technology Campus and filed this action for declaratory judgment, mandamus, and damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based upon allegations that the defendants deprived her of retirement benefits. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

BACKGROUND

The undisputed facts indicate that Davis is a former public school administrator and substitute teacher. She served as a substitute during the 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 school years in various classes at the Lake County High Schools Technology Campus. The Board is a body politic and corporate that is organized pursuant to the Illinois School Code, 105 ILCS 5/1 et seq. Lake County High Schools Technology Campus provides technical and vocational education to high school students in Lake and McHenry counties. Jedlicka is the Executive Director of Lake County High Schools Technology Campus. The gist of Davis' complaint is her claim that she is entitled to early retirement pension benefits pursuant to the Illinois Pension Code and that defendants unlawfully deprived her of that right.

Davis' last day of employment at Lake County High Schools Technology Campus was June 1, 2006. On or about July 27, 2006, Davis contacted Jedlicka and informed her of her intent to retire under the "Early Retirement Option" provided by the Teacher's Retirement System of Illinois. Davis also informed Jedlicka that she intended to list Lake County High Schools Technology Campus as her last employer for purposes of the early retirement option. Through the creation of the Teacher's Retirement System, the Illinois Pension Code provides for a monthly retirement annuity to retired teachers or members who meet certain criteria . See 40 ILCS 5/16-101. The early retirement option provided by Teacher's Retirement System permits teachers to retire "early" without their annuity being discounted provided that they meet certain conditions. The relevant portions of the statute governing this early retirement option states,

Early retirement without discount. (a) A member retiring...and applying for a retirement annuity within 6 months of the last day of teaching for which retirement contributions were required, may elect at the time of application for a retirement annuity, to make a one time member contribution to the System and thereby avoid the reduction in the retirement annuity for retirement before age 60...The exercise of this election shall also obligate the last employer to make a one time non-refundable contribution to the System. Substitute teachers wishing to exercise this election must teach 85 or more days in one school term with one employer, who shall be deemed the last employer for purposes of this Section. The last day of teaching with that employer must be within 6 months of the date of application for retirement. All substitute teaching credit applied toward the required 85 days must be earned after June 30, 1990.

The one time member and employer contributions shall be a percentage of the retiring member's highest annual salary rate used in the determination of the average salary for retirement annuity purposes. However, when determining the one-time member and employer contributions, that part of a member's salary with the same employer which exceeds the annual salary rate for the proceeding year by more than 20% shall be excluded. The member contribution shall be at the rate of 7% for the lesser of the following 2 periods: (1) for each year that the member is less than age 60; or (2) for each year that the member's creditable service is less than 35 years. If a member is at least 55 and has at least 24 years of creditable service, no member or employer contribution for the early retirement option shall be required. The employer contribution shall be at the rate of 20% for each year the member is under age 60.

40 ILCS 5/16-133.2.

Accordingly, pursuant to the statute, in order to take advantage of the early retirement option, a member must be between the ages of 55 and 60 and must have at least 20 but fewer than 35 years of service. Id. Additionally, under the early retirement option, the member and the member's last employer must each make a one-time non-refundable early retirement option contribution to the Teacher's Retirement System. The contribution is a percentage of the highest annual salary rate used to calculate the member's average salary. Id. Therefore, if Lake County High Schools Technology Campus was Davis' last employer and Davis was eligible to take the early retirement option, Lake County High Schools Technology Campus would be responsible for the employer contribution to the Teacher's Retirement System. At a hearing held on this matter, the parties estimated that this contribution would be between $200,000 and $300,000. See 6/9/2009 Oral Argument Transcript at 11.

If a member attempts to establish eligibility for the early retirement option through a substitute or part-time basis, that member is required to substitute teach for 85 or more days with the same employer within six months of the effective date of retirement. Id. At the time Davis informed Jedlicka of her intent to exercise the early retirement option, Lake County High Schools Technology Campus had reported to the Teacher's Retirement System that Davis had worked 94 creditable days at Lake County High Schools Technology Campus during the 2005- 2006 school year. If that number were correct, Davis would be eligible for the early retirement option. However, after Jedlicka learned of Davis' intent to exercise the early retirement option, Jedlicka reviewed the number of creditable days that Davis had worked. According to the defendants, Jedlicka then determined that 37 of the 94 days reported to Teacher's Retirement System as creditable service days had been reported in error. Defendants claim that Davis worked 29 days in Lake County High Schools Technology Campus's Infant Toddler Center as a substitute aide, six days in the cosmetology program, and two days as a hallway supervisor. Therefore, defendants allege that in these positions Davis was not serving as a substitute teacher, but rather was serving as a substitute aide and, as such, these 37 days cannot be counted as Teacher's Retirement System creditable days. Accordingly, defendants assert that Davis acquired only 57 days of creditable service during the 2005-2006 school year, fell shy of the 85 day requirement, and was ineligible for the early retirement option.

Davis alleges that defendants' attempts to classify her as a "teacher's aide" for those 37 days are inaccurate for several reasons, including that she maintained her teacher's certification during this entire time, that the record does not support the conclusion that Davis did not meet the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services requirements to be a substitute teacher in the Infant Toddler Center, that it is defendants' unilateral classification that she was an aide and there is no evidence in the record to support it, and that the duties of the teacher and assistant teacher are substantially similar.

On August 23, 2007, Davis filed a three-count complaint in the Circuit Court of Lake County asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 (Count I), as well as an action for declaratory judgment pursuant to Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 2/2-701 (Count II) and a request for issuance of a writ of mandamus pursuant to Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/14-101 et seq. (Count III). The defendants ...


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