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Robert K. Campbell v. the Department of Personnel

May 3, 2013


Appeal fromCircuit Court of Sangamon County Honorable John Schmidt, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Pope

Carla Bender 4th District Appellate Court, IL

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

Presiding Justice Steigmann and Justice Holder White concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 On September 2, 2011, a hearing officer for the Illinois Secretary of State (Secretary) Merit Commission (Merit Commission) issued a recommended decision denying plaintiff Robert Campbell's grievance regarding the promotional process used by the Secretary's departments of personnel and police for the position of investigator-sergeant. Later that same month, the Merit Commission adopted the findings and rulings of the hearing officer. On administrative review, the circuit court concluded the findings of the Merit Commission were not against the manifest weight of the evidence and denied Campbell's petition for administrative review. Campbell appeals, arguing the Merit Commission erred in denying his grievance. We affirm the circuit court's denial of Campbell's challenge to the decision of the Merit Commission.


¶ 3 In December 2009, Campbell filed a grievance with the Merit Commission, alleging specific violations by the Secretary of State's departments of police and personnel of the Secretary of State Merit Employment Code (Merit Code) (15 ILCS 310/1 to 19 (West 2008)) and administrative rules and regulations in connection with the failure of the departments of police and personnel to promote him to the position of investigator-sergeant.

¶ 4 On September 2, 2011, the hearing officer issued a 30-page written order denying the claim. According to the order, Campbell alleged the following violations of the Merit Code, personnel rules, and/or the rules of the department of police:

"a. Section 10b of the Merit Employment Code and Section 420 of the Personnel Rules were violated, because the Department failed to create an eligibility list for a vacancy announcement dated October 15, 2007 and later;

b. Section 10b of the Merit Employment Code and Section 1000.70(d)(8) of the Rules of the Department of Police were violated, because the process lacked standardized procedures for promotions; and

c. Section 10b.7 of the Merit Employment Code was violated, because [defendants] failed to honor veteran's preference."

A pretrial hearing officer summarized the issues as follows:

"a. Was an appropriate eligibility list created;

b. Did [defendants] use appropriate standardized procedures for the promotion; and

c. Was the personnel action treated as an appointment or promotion?"

¶ 5 The hearing officer summarized the evidence presented as follows. Campbell was a certified employee holding the title of investigator for the Secretary's department of police. On December 7, 2009, Campbell filed a grievance letter, which he later amended on December 14, 2009, alleging the Secretary's departments of personnel and police violated the Merit Code.

¶ 6 Campbell testified he began working for the department of police in July 2000 as a road investigator in the Macomb area. In 2002, Campbell assumed a full-time position as trainer with the same department. Later, he left the trainer position and returned to the road as a full-time investigator. Prior to working for the Secretary, Campbell was a campus police officer at Western Illinois University for 3 1/2 years. Prior to that, Campbell was a military police officer in the United States Army.

¶ 7 In 2007, after seeing a notice for the open-exam schedule for the investigator-sergeant title and two job openings for investigator-sergeant, Campbell submitted his resume and application for the investigator-sergeant positions to Toni Bentel, who worked in human resource management for the Secretary's department of police. Campbell took the exam and received an "A." After the exam, Campbell appeared for a structured interview before the interview board. Campbell answered prepared questions from a list. After appearing before the board, Campbell interviewed with Brad Demuzio, the director of the Secretary's department of police. Campbell testified no one was promoted to investigator-sergeant. From July 2008 to July 2009, Campbell functioned as an interim sergeant.

¶ 8 In 2009, public notice was given for a permanent investigator-sergeant position. Campbell submitted a memorandum expressing interest in the open position along with a copy of his application and resume and information regarding veteran's points and preferences. Campbell was selected for an interview with the board, which consisted of Captain David Allen, Lieutenant Joan Willenborg, and Lieutenant David Dellert. Campbell also met again with Demuzio. Campbell testified he told Demuzio the following:

"I'm the best qualified guy. I'm the only applicant that has a master's degree. I'm basically the only applicant that had a bachelor's degree. My test scores were the highest. My oral-I didn't know at the time what my oral scores were, but I figured I did pretty good on it. But my written exam was the only 'A' in the department. I've got almost two full decades of supervisory experience, at least minimal of 15. And then I had a year with-15 years military-excuse me, let me rephrase it-[14] years actual supervisory time in the military. I had a year of interim here. I had a year of shift supervisor at Western. I've been a supervisor for a long time and I don't believe any of the other applicants have any type of experience close to mine."

When he did not receive the promotion, Campbell filed a grievance and requested the eligibility lists for the two promotional opportunities in 2007 and 2009. The director of the Secretary's department of personnel told Campbell no lists were kept as these were promotions. Campbell testified Demuzio interviewed three people in 2007 and five people in 2009.

¶ 9 Toni Bentel, who was an executive III supervisor of human resources for the Secretary's department of police during the promotional period in question, testified the Secretary's department of personnel was required by the administrative code to establish and maintain eligibility lists of qualified applicants for jurisdiction "B" positions, which included the position at issue here. However, Bentel testified eligibility lists did not need to be prepared for the promotion process from investigator to investigator-sergeant. The hearing officer quoted Bentel as follows:

" 'Because of my understanding of a [sic] eligible list is something that is controlled by the Department of Personnel. And my understanding is that when applicants come in to take like a written exam for a certain position, they are-whatever the result is from their exam, they obtain a grade for that position. And that is information that goes on this eligible list. So if we were to hire an individual from outside the Secretary of State's office, the Department of Personnel would call when they generate this eligible list of applicants that would be allowed an interview, come into the Personnel Department for that oral interview. Promotional process was an internal process, so we did not ask the Department of Personnel to call an eligible list.' " Bentel testified the Secretary's department of personnel does not maintain an eligibility list for promotion to sergeant.

¶ 10 According to Bentel, section 10b.3 of the Merit Code (15 ILCS 310/10b.3 (West 2008)) did not apply to situations for promotions from investigator to investigator-sergeant. The list of eligible applicants she receives from the personnel department is not the same as an "eligibility list" referred to in the regulations. Bentel testified Campbell had the second-highest score in District 3 on the structured interview. According to Bentel, veteran's points were applied in the application but not the promotional process.

¶ 11 Richard Hortberg testified he is an executive III administrator in the standards and testing division of the Secretary's department of personnel. This division oversees personnel operations related to the classification and job title system used by the Secretary of State's office. Hortberg agreed an eligibility list would be generated when a position was to be filled from an open-competitive process. Hortberg also testified "calling an eligibility list" occurs when someone queries the eligibility database kept by the Secretary's department of personnel. Hortberg testified eligibility lists are not created when filling a position by promotion, i.e., where a department is making an internal decision to advance an employee. According to Hortberg's testimony, with regard to the promotion process in this case, the department of personnel's role was to ensure the person selected for promotion met the minimum title qualifications. Although a written exam with a graded system is given for the position of investigator-sergeant, a higher grade does not create an advantage in the promotion process. Hortberg testified veteran's preference applies to the hiring process, not the promotional process. Hortberg was unaware of any provision requiring an eligibility list to be prepared in the promotion process.

ΒΆ 12 Demuzio testified he selected, as the director of the Secretary's department of police, the interview panel for the sergeant promotional process. After the panel recommended candidates, Demuzio performed one-on-one interviews with the recommended candidates and made the final promotion decision. Demuzio testified he did not remember seeing actual test scores, believing the scores were not important at that point because all of the candidates had been screened and found minimally qualified. The interview ...

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