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Wheeling Park Dist. v. Arnold

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

February 26, 2014

WHEELING PARK DISTRICT, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARGIE ARNOLD, Defendant-Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 10 CH 14792. The Honorable Peter Flynn, Judge Presiding.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

In an action by plaintiff park district to enforce the severance agreement terminating defendant's employment by the district, the trial court properly upheld the enforceability of the agreement over defendant's contentions that the agreement was not approved by the district's board as required by section 4-6 of the Park District Code, and that she revoked the agreement, since the agreement was an agreement settling and compromising an existing dispute, no debt, obligation, claim or liability was created, and as such, no board approval was required pursuant to section 4-6, and, furthermore, there was no revocation where the record showed defendant signed and delivered the agreement and the park district fully performed.

FOR APPELLANT: Michael Lee Tinaglia, Ltd., of Park Ridge, IL.

FOR APPELLEE: Edward F. Dutton, of Lisle, IL; Laner Muchin, Ltd., of Chicago, IL, (Joseph M. Gagliardo, Gregory R. James, Jr., Devlin J. Schoop).

JUSTICE PUCINSKI delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hyman and Justice Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

PUCINSKI, JUSTICE

Page 78

[¶1] In this case we address whether an executive director of a park district has the authority to enter into a binding severance agreement terminating an employee without prior written approval of the board pursuant to section 4-6 of the Illinois Park District Code (70 ILCS 1205/4-6 (West 2008)). We hold the resignation agreement entered into by the executive director of the district was not subject to section 4-6 because, as a settlement agreement, it did not create any debt, obligation, claim or liability but, rather, settled and compromised an existing dispute. Thus, approval of the board was not required. The agreement was also a binding and valid contract and there was no effective revocation, as the terminated employee signed and delivered the contract to the board and the board fully performed.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] The Wheeling Park District (the District) is governed by the Wheeling Park District Board of Commissioners (the Board). The Board's executive director is Jan Buchs. Plaintiff Margie Arnold, the former director of enterprise services for the District, was discharged effective December

Page 79

7, 2009. Although Buchs had decided to discharge plaintiff for reasons of documented poor performance, Buchs offered plaintiff the opportunity to voluntarily resign in lieu of a discharge. Buchs offered plaintiff a written severance agreement. The District was to pay plaintiff three months of severance payments in installments and other benefits (including COBRA payments) in exchange for a complete release of any claims against the District. The agreement also provided in paragraph 15 that if plaintiff breached the agreement, then the District would be entitled to a return of 90% of the money paid by the District for both her severance pay and insurance/COBRA benefits (upon demand), and plaintiff would be required to pay the District's costs and attorney fees as a result of her breach. Plaintiff signed the resignation letter on December 7, ...


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