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Theodore Dallas v. Chicago Teachers Union

March 22, 2011


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 08 CH 20671 Honorable Dorothy K. Kinnaird, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Harris


JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice Cunningham and Justice Connors concurred in the judgment.


Plaintiff Theodore Dallas sued the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), Marilyn Stewart, Gail Koffman and Patti Walsh, alleging they engaged in a conspiracy to damage his reputation and have him removed as vice president of the CTU. Prior to trial, the parties entered into a settlement agreement. Plaintiff subsequently moved to enforce the agreement, asserting the CTU violated paragraph 2.1, which contains a confidentiality provision. The circuit court of Cook County granted the motion and ordered the CTU to pay plaintiff $100,000 in liquidated damages. Defendants filed this appeal. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.


The circuit court's order granting plaintiff's motion to enforce the settlement agreement was entered on March 30, 2010. Defendants timely filed their notice of appeal on April 8, 2010. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 303 (eff. May 30, 2008).


In June 2008 plaintiff filed his original complaint against the CTU; Stewart, who was then the president of the CTU; and Koffman and Walsh, who were CTU members. In the complaint and subsequent pleadings, plaintiff alleged defendants conspired to damage his reputation and force him from his elected position as vice president of the CTU. Plaintiff alleged defendants fabricated claims that he misused union funds, as a pretext for removing him from office. In August 2008, following a "trial" before the union's executive committee, plaintiff was found "guilty" of the charges against him. The union's appeals committee affirmed. Plaintiff was expelled from the CTU and terminated from his position as vice president. In his second amended complaint, plaintiff asserted claims for breach of the CTU's constitution and bylaws; tortious interference with plaintiff's rights under the constitution and bylaws; false light; and conspiracy.

In December 2008, following a motion by defendants to compel settlement negotiations, the circuit court entered a stipulation and order of referral directing the parties to submit to mediation. In May 2009, the parties entered into a confidential settlement agreement. Relevant portions include paragraphs 1.3, 2.1 and 4.

Paragraph 1.3 provides, in pertinent part:

"Upon acceptance of the payment indicated in Paragraph 1, Plaintiff also agrees that at no time before January 1, 2011[,] will he make a request for membership with the Chicago Teachers Union or be reinstated as a member with the Chicago Teachers Union. Plaintiff further agrees that at no time before 2011 will he run for or hold an elected position in the Chicago Teachers Union ***. Plaintiff may hold an appointed position provided he has been appointed by the President of the CTU and approved by the Executive Board in place at the time of the appointment." Paragraph 2.1 provides: "The CTU, including through its elected officers, employees and agents acting on its behalf, will not make any written or oral statement concerning [plaintiff] or the settlement in any of its publications or publicly at any CTU or union event, which includes without limitation publishing any editorials, letters, articles, etc. in any CTU or CTU related publication, including without limitation newsletters, mailings, delegate workshops, conventions, Executive Board Meetings, District Supervisor Meetings, and House of Delegates meetings. Each of Marilyn Stewart, Leslie Barron, Patti Walsh, Gail Koffman and [plaintiff] agrees not to issue any written statement disparaging any of the Defendants and/or [plaintiff]. Likewise, the parties agree that violation of this provision would cause substantial damage to [plaintiff] or the Union for which either would be entitled to damages depending on who violated this or any other provision of this Agreement. The parties mutually agree that such damage would be a minimum of One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000.00) and that if such a violation occurs, [plaintiff] or the CTU[] will be entitled to a minimum of such damages and attorney's fees if [plaintiff] or the CTU successfully establish a violation of this provision. Both parties represent and warrant that neither party has issued such a statement since at least February 1, 2009[,] through the execution of this Agreement."

In paragraph 4, titled "CONFIDENTIALITY,' the parties agreed that "the terms of the settlement agreement shall remain confidential but the parties may acknowledge that the case has been settled and dismissed."

Five months later, in October 2009, the Chicago Union Teacher, the official publication of the CTU, published an article which notified CTU members of three items scheduled to be voted on in an ...

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