JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Freeman, Garman,
Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Kilbride took no part in the decision.
1 At issue in this case is whether defendants, Salvador Lopez
and Policemen's Benevolent Labor Committee, Inc., are
precluded from seeking grievance arbitration of Lopez's
termination from his employment with plaintiff Village of
Bartonville's police department. The trial court granted
summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on its complaint for
declaratory judgment and to stay arbitration. The appellate
court, with one justice specially concurring and one justice
dissenting, reversed the trial court and remanded the case to
the trial court with directions to order the parties to
proceed to arbitration. 2016 IL App (3d) 150341. This court
allowed plaintiff's subsequent petition for leave to
appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Mar. 15, 2016).
3 This case has a complicated history, so we will set forth
the facts in some detail. Defendant Salvador Lopez was a law
enforcement officer employed by the plaintiff's police
department from February 2012 until October 3, 2014.
Defendant Policemen's Benevolent Labor Committee, Inc.
(the Union), is the exclusive representative and bargaining
agent for all of plaintiff's police officers. At all
relevant times, a labor contract was in effect between
plaintiff and defendants.
4 Article V of the labor contract addressed the grievance
procedure. Section 5.1 of the labor contract defined
"grievance" as "a dispute or difference of
opinion raised by an Officer covered by this Agreement or by
the Union involving the meaning, interpretation or
application of provisions of this Agreement." Section
5.2 sets forth a three-step grievance procedure. Section 5.3
provides that the Union may refer the grievance to
arbitration if it is not settled within the three-step
procedure. Section 5.6 states that the grievance procedure
set forth in section 5 "shall be the sole and exclusive
procedure for resolving any grievance or dispute which was or
could have been raised by an Officer covered by this
Agreement or the Union."
5 Article VI of the labor contract addressed discipline.
Section 6.1 of article VI provided that "[d]iscipline
shall be progressive and corrective and shall be designed to
improve behavior and not merely punish it. No employee
covered by this Agreement shall be suspended, relieved from
duty or disciplined in any manner without just cause."
Section 6.2 of article VI stated that "[d]isciplinary
actions with just cause shall be limited to verbal reprimand,
written reprimand, suspension and, in extreme cases,
6 In August 2014, plaintiff's police chief, Brian Fengel,
signed a complaint for termination against Lopez. That
complaint was filed with plaintiff's board of fire and
police commissioners (the Board). The complaint alleged that
Lopez violated certain police department procedures and field
training directives during and immediately after a July 7,
2014, traffic stop.
7 With regard to termination, section 10-2.1-17 of the
Illinois Municipal Code (Municipal Code) provides:
"Except as hereinafter provided, no officer or member of
the fire or police department of any municipality subject to
this Division 2.1 shall be removed or discharged except for
cause, upon written charges, and after an opportunity to be
heard in his own defense. The hearing shall be as hereinafter
provided, unless the employer and the labor organization
representing the person have negotiated an alternative or
supplemental form of due process based upon impartial
arbitration as a term of a collective bargaining agreement.
Such bargaining shall be mandatory unless the parties
mutually agree otherwise. Any such alternative agreement
shall be permissive.
*** The board of fire and police commissioners shall conduct
a fair and impartial hearing of the charges, to be commenced
within 30 days of the filing thereof, which hearing may be
continued from time to time. *** In the conduct of this
hearing, each member of the board shall have power to
administer oaths and affirmations, and the board shall have
power to secure by its subpoena both the attendance and
testimony of witnesses and the production of books and papers
relevant to the hearing." 65 ILCS 5/10-2.1-17 (West
8 Counsel for defendant Union represented defendant Lopez
throughout the proceedings. On August 28, 2014, counsel for
the Board spoke with defendants' counsel by telephone and
proposed that a hearing on the termination complaint take
place between September 2 and 5, 2014. Defendants'
counsel responded that those dates would not work, as he
would not have enough time to prepare. On September 2, 2014,
the Board's counsel sent an e-mail to defendants'
counsel stating that the next available hearing date was
September 25, 2014. Defendants' counsel responded that
same day, suggesting that the hearing be set for October 3 or
10, 2014. On September 3, 2014, counsel for the Board
confirmed that the hearing would be set for October 3, 2014.
9 On September 29, 2014, prior to the agreed upon October 3
hearing, Lopez filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in
Peoria County circuit court arguing that the Board was
divested of jurisdiction over the termination complaint
because the Board had failed to commence a termination
hearing within the mandatory 30-day time limit for a hearing
under section 10-2.1-17 of the Municipal Code. The Board
responded that it did not lose jurisdiction because it was at
Lopez's request that the hearing was set more than 30
days after the filing of the charges against Lopez.
10 Both parties filed motions for summary judgment in
Lopez's declaratory judgment action in January 2015. The
trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Board
and denied Lopez's motion for summary judgment. The trial
court also denied Lopez's postjudgment motion to vacate
the judgment, finding that the delay in the commencement of
the hearing was attributable to Lopez. The appellate court,
with one justice dissenting, affirmed the trial court. 2016
IL App (3d) 150520. Lopez has not petitioned this court for
leave to appeal that decision.
11 Although Lopez had filed a complaint for declaratory
judgment contesting the Board's jurisdiction to conduct
the termination hearing, the hearing nonetheless proceeded on
October 3, 2014. At the outset of the hearing,
defendants' attorney noted he had filed a complaint with
the circuit court contesting the Board's jurisdiction to
conduct the hearing because more than 30 days had passed
since the charge against Lopez had been issued. Defense
counsel stated that if the Board determined that it had
jurisdiction despite the passing of the 30-day time limit,
defendants would participate without waiving the issue of
jurisdiction. Counsel also stated that the Union's
presence did not waive its contractual right to grieve a
suspension or termination, if ordered by the Board.
12 At the hearing, five witnesses testified, as well as
Lopez. Defense counsel participated in the hearing. Defense
counsel cross-examined the witnesses and made a closing
argument. Defendants' counsel again reiterated in his
closing argument that the presence of the Union and of Lopez
did not waive defendants' argument that the Board lost
jurisdiction by failing to commence a hearing within 30 days
and did not waive defendants' right to grievance
arbitration under the contract if discipline was issued.
13 At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board issued an
order of discharge. The Board found that it had jurisdiction
of the subject matter of the charges and of Lopez. The Board
then found that cause existed for Lopez's termination
from his position as a police officer and as a member of the
plaintiff's police department. The Board therefore
ordered that Lopez be discharged and removed from his
position as a police officer and as a member of
plaintiff's police department as of October 3, 2014.
14 Section 10-2.1-17 of the Municipal Code provides for
review of Board decisions. The statute provides that:
"The provisions of the Administrative Review Law [735
ILCS 5/3-101 et seq. (West 2014)] and all amendments
and modifications thereof, and the rules adopted pursuant
thereto, shall apply to and govern all proceedings for the
judicial review of final administrative decisions of the
board of fire and police commissioners hereunder. The term
'administrative decision' is defined as in Section
3-101 of the Code of Civil Procedure." 65 ILCS
5/10-2.1-17 (West 2014).
Defendants never sought judicial review of the Board's
final decision pursuant to the Administrative Review Law.
15 However, on October 10, 2014, defendants filed a grievance
with plaintiff's police department. The grievance
asserted that Lopez was terminated without just cause in
violation of article VI, section 6.1, of the parties'
labor contract. The grievance stated that pursuant to article
VI, section 6.2, of the labor contract, plaintiff was
required to reserve termination solely for "extreme
cases" and Lopez's case was not an extreme case. The
termination also violated the labor contract because the
termination was not progressive or corrective as required by
article VI, section 6.1. Finally, the grievance alleged that
in conducting a hearing before the Board, plaintiff violated
article V, section 5.6, which states that the contractual
grievance procedure "shall be the sole and exclusive
procedure for resolving any grievance or dispute which was or
could have been raised by an Officer covered by this
Agreement or the Union." When the grievance was not
resolved by the three-step grievance process identified in
the parties' labor contract, defendants referred the
grievance to grievance arbitration on October 28, 2014.
16 Plaintiff then filed a complaint for declaratory judgment
and for stay of arbitration on November 21, 2014, alleging
that Lopez's termination and subsequent grievance were
not arbitrable matters. Plaintiff noted that defendants'
September 29, 2014, complaint for declaratory judgment sought
an injunction solely on the grounds that the 30-day time
period for conducting the termination period had run, in
violation of section 10-2.1-17 of the Municipal Code.
Plaintiff argued that in relying on section 10-2.1-17, which
granted the Board the authority to hear disciplinary
proceedings, defendants essentially admitted that the Board
initially had jurisdiction to conduct the termination
procedure but lost that jurisdiction when it did not conduct
the hearing within 30 days. Because the Board had
jurisdiction and issued a final decision on the merits, any
review of the Board's decision was subject to the
Administrative Review Law, which was the exclusive means to
review the Board's decision to terminate Lopez. Plaintiff
contended that by attempting to grieve and arbitrate
Lopez's termination, defendants were improperly seeking
review of the Board's final decision in violation of the
Municipal Code and the Administrative Review Law.
17 Plaintiff also argued that the grievance and arbitration
provisions in the labor contract did not apply to termination
or discharge proceedings because the parties did not
negotiate an alternative form of due process based upon
impartial arbitration in their labor contract. Plaintiff
sought an order declaring that Lopez's grievance was not
arbitrable and staying any arbitration proceedings requested
18 Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on January
14, 2015, noting that defendants had failed to file a timely
answer or appearance in response to its complaint for
declaratory judgment. Plaintiff also sought summary judgment
on the basis that defendants had failed to review the
Board's decision under Administrative Review Law and on
the basis of res judicata.
19 On February 25, 2015, defendants were given leave to file
their answer and affirmative defenses to plaintiff's
complaint for declaratory judgment, as well as a counterclaim
setting forth a motion to compel arbitration of their
grievance. On March 11, 2015, plaintiff filed a second motion
for summary judgment and a motion to dismiss defendants'
20 The motions proceeded to a hearing on April 1, 2015. The
parties agreed to focus their argument on plaintiff's
January 14, 2015, motion for summary judgment, as a ruling in
favor of plaintiff on that motion would render the remaining
motions moot. Plaintiff argued that it was entitled to a
declaratory judgment and a permanent stay of arbitration
based on the fact that a full hearing had been held before
the Board. Because defendants did not seek administrative
review of the Board's decision terminating Lopez, that
decision became final, and the doctrine of res
judicata barred defendants from proceeding with further
arbitration of the matter.
21 Defendants responded that under the parties' labor
contract, as well as Illinois statute, the issuance of
discipline by plaintiff is subject to the arbitration
procedure set forth in the labor contract. Defendants relied
on the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (5 ILCS 315/1
et seq. (West 2014)), as well as the Uniform
Arbitration Act (710 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (West 2014)),
in support of their argument.
22 Defendants asserted that there was no adverse disciplinary
action until the Board issued its decision terminating Lopez.
Once the Board terminated Lopez, it was up to the arbitrator
to decide whether the termination violated the labor
contract. Defense counsel stated that the arbitrator would
not be limited to reviewing the findings of the Board, as
would happen in an administrative review, but rather could
look at the termination itself and determine whether the
labor contract applied. Defense counsel agreed with the trial
court that in such a case, the ...