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Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Discussion of Elected Officials in Closed Session Violated OMA

In its 15th binding opinion for 2018, the PAC found a public body in violation of the Open Meetings Act when it discussed the performance and salaries of two elected officials in closed session. PAC Op. 18-015

The county auditor filed a complaint with the PAC alleging that the finance committee of a county board improperly went into closed session to discuss the salaries of two elected officials. Her complaint raised allegations about three separate meetings. The PAC found that her allegations with respect to a May 2, 2018 meeting were outside its jurisdiction because the complaint was not filed within 60 days of that meeting. Allegations relating to a meeting scheduled for August 1, 2018, were also outside of the PAC's jurisdiction because that meeting had not yet taken place when the complaint was filed. The PAC did, however, review the allegations relating to a June 6, 2018 meeting of the finance committee.

The PAC reviewed the minutes of the June 6th meeting as well as the verbatim recording of the closed session. According to the opinion, the committee had cited 2(c)(1) of the OMA as the basis for going into closed session. That exception authorizes the discussion of, among other things, the performance and salaries of specific employees of a public body. The PAC found that the cited exemption did not apply in this case because the committee discussed the duties and salaries for two elected officials, the county coroner and the county auditor, and not employees. 

The OMA defines "employee" as "a person employed by a public body whose relationship with the public body constitutes an employer-employee relationship under the usual common law rules, and who is not an independent contractor." The PAC first determined that the county does not have an employer-employee relationship with the county auditor or county coroner because neither the committee nor the county board has the authority to direct and control the manner in which the auditor and coroner perform their duties. Second, the PAC determined that a public officer such as the county auditor or coroner cannot simultaneously be an "employee" of the county. Third, the PAC determined that state statute determines the duties and responsibilities of these elected officials, which statute prevails over any county ordinance. Finally, the PAC stated that the board has no authority to terminate the county auditor or coroner based on performance which would generally be the case were the two employees of the county. As a result, the PAC found that the cited exception 2(c)(1) did not apply.

The PAC also reviewed the exception contained in 2(c)(3) which allows a closed session discussion of public officers. The PAC noted that this exception only applies if the public body has the authority to remove the public officers being discussed, which is not the case with these two elected officials. So, the PAC determined that this exception also did not apply.

In sum, the PAC determined that the county board committee violated the OMA in discussing the performance and salaries of the county auditor and county coroner in closed session.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Court Addresses Fees for Zoning Violations

The Second District Appellate Court recently considered the fines that a municipality may impose for violations of a zoning ordinance in the case of City of Kankakee v. Ellington-Snipes. 

The controversy began on April 20, 2016, when the city issued a notice of violation to the property owner for various code violations relating to property maintenance issues. After the property owner failed to remedy the code violations, the city issued a citation.  However, the city subsequently dismissed the citation without prejudice.

Approximately 10 months later, on July 20, 2017, the city served the property owner with a lawsuit alleging that a tent that had been erected on the property violated the city’s zoning ordinance.  The city asked the court for an injunction and for payment of fines not exceeding $500 per day.  The property owner failed to answer the lawsuit or otherwise appear in court, and the city obtained a default judgment. The court issued an injunction requiring the property owner to bring the property into compliance with the zoning ordinance, and assessed fines against the property owner at $500 per day beginning on April 20, 2016, the date the city issued the notice of violation for the property maintenance issues. After the judgment had been entered, the property owner filed a motion to vacate the judgment, which was denied by the trial court.

On appeal, the property owner argued that the trial court should have set aside the injunction when he filed his motion to vacate.  The appellate court, however, found that the property owner had ample time to file an answer or appearance in response to the city’s lawsuit, and that the property owner had provided no reasonable excuse for the failure to timely respond. As a result, the appellate court upheld the injunction requiring compliance with the city’s zoning ordinance.

However, the appellate court reduced the amount of fines assessed against the property owner by the trial court. The appellate court noted that the city’s lawsuit only referenced the tent that violated the zoning ordinance, and did not include any of the property maintenance violations that the property owner was previously cited for.  Based on that distinction, the appellate court found that the fines had been improperly calculated beginning from the April 20, 2016 notice of violation. Instead, the appellate court reduced the fines to $500 per day beginning on July 20, 2017, the date that the property owner was served with the lawsuit for the zoning ordinance violation reducing the $49,500 fine imposed by the trial court to $20,500.

Post Authored by Kurt Asprooth, Ancel Glink

Monday, October 29, 2018

Nursing Home Had No Standing to Challenge Proposed Development of New Senior Residential Facility

Recently, an Illinois appellate court dismissed a case filed by one senior citizen facility operating in the municipality challenging the municipality's authority to approve a new senior citizen facility. Cedarhurst of Bethalto v. Village of Bethalto, 2018 IL App (5th) 170309.

Cedarhust operates a residential nursing home in the Village of Bethalto. When Unique Homes filed an application with the Village to build a new senior citizen residential facility, Cedarhust sued the Village claiming that it did not have authority to approve Unique Home's facility because the Village's comprehensive plan restricted development near the airport. The case was dismissed by the trial court, and Cedarhurst appealed.

On appeal, Cedarhurst argued that the Village was prohibited from approving or taking any action on Unique Homes' development applications because of the Village's comprehensive plan. The Village argued that the case had been properly dismissed because Cedarhust did not allege any special injury or individualized harm that Cedarhust would suffer if the Village approved the new development. The Village also argued that the comprehensive plan was advisory only, and the Village was under no obligation to implement any part of the plan in considering a development proposal. 

The appellate court agreed with the Village, and rejected Cedarhurst's claims. First, the court determined that Cedarhurst had no standing to challenge the Unique Home development proposal because it did not show how it would be directly injured by the development approval. Cedarhurst's nursing home was not near the proposed development, and Cedarhurst would suffer no direct, personal injuries if the Unique Homes' development were approved. Second, the court rejected Cedarhust's request for a court order to mandate that the Village follow its comprehensive plan, finding that the comprehensive plan is advisory only, and under state law"shall not be construed to regulate or control the use of private property in any way." In short, because Cedarhust did not have standing to sue the Village or Unique Homes, the case was properly dismissed.

Friday, October 26, 2018

PAC Finds Another Public Body in Violation for Failure to Respond to FOIA Request

In its 14th binding opinion of 2018, the PAC found a public body in violation of FOIA for failing to respond to a FOIA request. PAC Op. 18-014.  A requester had filed a FOIA request with the county assessor's office requesting records relating to tax exemptions for a particular property. When the requester did not receive a response, he filed a request for review with the PAC office of the Attorney General. The Attorney General contacted the county, which stated it would provide a response. However, when no response was forthcoming, the PAC found the public body in violation of FOIA.

As we have reported before, public bodies are obligated to respond to FOIA requests.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Court Rejects Constitutional Challenge to City's Weed Ordinance

The City of Chicago sells vacant lots that it deems of "minimal value" to residents for $1 per lot. One of those lots was sold to Tucker, who intended to turn it into a community garden. Some time after she purchased the lot, the City inspected her property under the City's weed ordinance which prohibits the average height of weeds to exceed 10 inches in height. Six months later, the City served her with a citation for the condition that it found on the property six months prior. She appeared at an administrative hearing to contest the citation, claiming that the City failed to present evidence of the "average height" of the weeds. The administrative judge rejected that argument, and imposed a fine of $640.

Subsequently, Tucker filed a class action claim against the City claiming that the City's weed ordinance violated her civil rights because it did not provide a "post deprivation" hearing or other rights and because the City's delay in citing her violated her due process rights.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Tucker's arguments, and upheld the City's weed ordinance. First, the Court noted that Tucker was provided with a hearing before the administrative judge where she could contest the citation. Second, the Court held that there is no due process right to an immediate "notice-on-demand" of an ordinance violation. Finally, the Court rejected Tucker's argument that the City misinterpreted its own ordinance, finding no due process right violation when a City disagrees with an individual's legal interpretation of a City ordinance. In sum, the City rejected Tucker's constitutional challenges to the City's process and weed ordinance, holding that the proper process to challenge a municipal citation is through the state courts. Tucker v. City of Chicago (7th Cir. 10/19/2018)

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

County Not Liable for Sexual Assault Committed by Park Employee

After a county employee assaulted a woman volunteer, the victim sued the county arguing that the county was liable for the acts of its employee.  In Doe v. Vigo County, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the county could not be held liable because (1) the employee’s job did not require close contact with vulnerable members of the public and (2) there was no evidence the county pursued a policy or custom of tolerating this type of behavior.

The employee worked for the county parks department where he oversaw volunteers including those completing community service.  The victim alleged the employee brought her to a restroom, locked the door, and sexually assaulted her.  The employee was arrested and eventually convicted of criminal confinement and official misconduct. 

In finding for the county, the Court held that in cases of sexual misconduct, Indiana law does not hold an employer vicariously liable for an employee’s misconduct unless the employee’s job requires intimate physical contact with individuals.  The court distinguished the park employee’s general maintenance and oversight responsibilities with public positions requiring close contact, such as an equipment manager outfitting youth baseball players or a caseworker required to bathe and dress disabled youth.  Similarly, the Court rejected the victim’s contention that the county made it a practice to ignore sexual misconduct allegations.  Instead, the county was able to rebut several misconduct cases offered by the victim by showing it had either fired, or allowed to resign, at least three of the individuals involved.  
While the outcome favored the county in this case, Illinois municipalities should be cautioned that Illinois law may not apply the same standards for vicarious liability.  For example, one Illinois appellate court found a school district vicariously liable when its bus driver sexually assaulted a student, without regard to whether the bus driver’s duties involved close contact with students of the kind required by Indiana.  

Post Authored by David Warner, Ancel Glink

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

FOIA Case Dismissed as "Moot" & Sanctions Awarded to Public Body

In Garlick v. Bloomgindale Township, Garlick filed a FOIA request with the Bloomingdale Township, asking for the native format of an electronic copy of all publicly disclosable data within the Township’s  property assessment software system. The Township initially responded that the requested information could be accessed on its website. Garlick responded that he could only review the information one parcel at a time on the website, which was too laborious and asked the Township to reconsider.  The Township responded that responding to the request would constitute an undue burden.  

Garlick then sued the Township arguing that it failed to respond to his request and that he did not have reasonable access to the website to retrieve the data. The Township argued that copyright and proprietary claims prohibited release of the data in its native format but that the data could be provided in an Excel format, which the Township provided to Garlick. Garlick then asked the Township to provide the record in an “SQL Server database,” which the Township did. The Township then filed a motion to dismiss since the requested data had been provided to Garlick, which was granted by the court.

Subsequent to that case, Garlick sent a new FOIA request to the Township, seeking all publicly disclosable data within the Township’s CAMA property-assessment software system.  He asked for the data in its native file format, which he believed was an SQL server database. The Township responded by providing the data in a SQL Server format.  The plaintiff then responded that  the data was not received in the format it is maintained, and requested the data as it exists in the Township’s SQL Server database.  Garlick sued again, asking the court to order release of the data in his requested format and that the court impose civil penalties, fees, and costs on the Township.  

Two days later, the Township responded to plaintiff’s FOIA request, stating that although the data was exempt from disclosure because it is JRM’s proprietary, trade-secret, and copyright protected information, the Township provided the data to plaintiff as JRM had authorized release of the data to plaintiff.  The Township then filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the issue was moot since Garlick now had the data. The Township also sought an award of sanctions against Garlick for filing of a frivolous complaint.  The court agreed with the Township and dismissed the case finding that the complaint was moot and barred by collateral estoppel.  The court also agreed that the case was frivolous and awarded the Township sanctions over $31,000.  

This case and the high amount of sanctions awarded show the dangers of frivolous FOIA lawsuits and potential relief to public bodies.

Post Authored by Erin Pell, Ancel Glink

Monday, October 22, 2018

New Podcast Episode on Zoning Hearings

Episode 12 of Ancel Glink's podcast "Quorum Forum" has just been released. In this episode, Quorum Forum airs live from the recent 2018 American Planning Association – Illinois Chapter State Conference! Ancel Glink’s David Silverman joins us to discuss endearing (enduring?) public hearings, and lessons learned to effectively process requests for zoning relief. You can access our podcast website here.

Have you ever been part of a crazy public hearing? Tell us about it, podcast@ancelglink.com! Also, please email us with your ideas or requests for future podcast episodes. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Upcoming APA Webcast on Planning, Law & Plain English

The Planning & Law Division of the American Planning Association will be hosting an upcoming webcast on planning law and plain English. One of the speakers is Ancel Glink partner David Silverman. You won't want to miss this!

Details about the webcast and a link to register is below.

Webcast— Planning, Law, and Plain English

November 1, 2018
1:00 – 2:30 PM EDT

CM | 1.50 | Law
CLE 1.50 through Illinois State Bar

The Planning and Law Division of the American Planning Association is pleased to host the upcoming webcast Planning, Law, and Plain English on Thursday, November 1, 2018 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. EDT. Registration for individuals is $20 for PLD members and $45 for nonmembers. Registration for two or more people at one computer is $140.

This webinar will examine how words frame our understanding of often complex concepts and demonstrate how our choice of words can either illuminate the concept, or make it impossibly difficult to comprehend. The speakers will use real world examples of how English serves or compromises important planning and development policies and regulations and provide useful drafting tips that can make even the most verbose writer elegantly efficient.  Speakers are David Silverman, AICP, Partner at Ancel Glink in Chicago and Kimberley Mickelson, AICP, Sr. Asst City Attorney for Planning and Development, City of Houston Legal Department, Real Estate Division.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

PAC Rules Public Body Improperly Denied FOIA Request as Unduly Burdensome

In the 13th binding PAC opinion of the year, the PAC found that the Governor’s office improperly denied a request for records as unduly burdensome.  PAC Op. 18-013.  The requester, One Illinois, submitted a FOIA request to the Governor’s office seeking documents and emails sent or received by seven current and former employees and officials pertaining to certain appointments. The Governor’s office responded that the request was unduly burdensome and offered the requester the opportunity to narrow the request under Section 3(g) of FOIA.  The requester then narrowed his request to seek only emails and not related documents.  The Governor’s office again denied the narrowed request as unduly burdensome.  The requester then filed a complaint with the PAC.     

In defense of its denial, the Governor’s office claimed that its initial search for emails yielded 44,356 potential responsive emails.  However, that initial search was not limited to the subject of appointments.  The PAC found that the Governor’s office failed to demonstrate that the initial search was a reasonably adequate search for responsive emails, noting that a subsequent search that included the word “appoint” yielded only 1,783 potentially responsive emails.  The PAC found that the Governor’s office did not show that review of 1,783 emails would be unduly burdensome.  Further, the PAC noted that the Governor’s office did not show that the burden of reviewing and responding to this FOIA request would outweigh the public interest in the information sought.  The PAC ordered the Governor’s office to provide the requester with the e-mails in response to the request.

This opinion shows that when responding to a claim as unduly burdensome, the public body must demonstrate that it conducted an adequate search, with tailored search terms, and show why the burden outweighs the public interest in the information. 

Post Authored by Erin Pell, Ancel Glink

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Requiring Protesters to Leave LGBTQ Festival Area Violated Free Speech Rights

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion finding Nashville's requirement that anti-gay protesters move from the sidewalk in the LGBTQ festival area and across the street violated the protesters' free speech rights. McGlone v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, et al.

The Nashville Pride Festival was held in June of 2015, pursuant to a special events permit issued by Nashville. A group of protesters also showed up to the event with the purpose of protesting the Festival. However, police told them they could not remain on the sidewalk area immediately adjacent to the Festival and would have to move across the street.  Attendees of the Festival were not asked to leave, however. After the Festival was over, the protesters filed suit claiming that the police actions violated their free speech rights under the First Amendment.

The issue for the court was whether Nashville's exclusion of the protesters from the sidewalk area in the park was unconstitutional. The court concluded that the police actions were unconstitutional because there was no evidence that the protesters would interfere with the Festival, leading the court to conclude that the only reason they were moved was because their message conflicted with the Festival's message. Since Nashville couldn't show a compelling government interest for making them move to the other side of the street, the protesters' free speech rights were violated.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Lawsuit Against Transit District Relating to Bus Accident Time-Barred by Tort Immunity Act

Kelley was injured in a multi-vehicle accident that involved a bus operated by a unit of local government (Rides Mass Transit District). She subsequently sued to recover damages, and RMTD filed a motion to have the case dismissed, arguing that Kelley did not file her claim within the one year statute of limitations under the Tort Immunity Act. Kelley, on the other hand, argued that the one year statute of limitations did not apply because of the "common carrier" exception to that statutory time limit for filing a lawsuit against a unit of government. 

The case made its way to the appellate court, which ruled in favor of RMTD. Specifically, the court held that the "common carrier" exception to the one year time limit to file a lawsuit did not apply in this case. Although RMTD was a common carrier, it was not a common carrier to Kelley, because she was not a passenger of the bus when the accident occurred. As a result, the court determined that Kelley's lawsuit was not timely filed, and should be dismissed.  Kelley v. Bonham, 2018 IL App (5th) 170103-U

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

PAC Issues 12th Binding Opinion on "Personnel" Exception to OMA

The Illinois Attorney General's PAC office recently issued its 12th binding opinion for 2018, finding a public body in violation of the Open Meetings Act for improperly discussing its budget, layoffs, and related matters in closed session during a board meeting. PAC Op. 18-012.

A union president filed a complaint with the PAC office alleging that the Board of Trustees of Western Illinois University violated the OMA when it went into closed session to discuss reducing the salaries of all librarians and laying off other employees. The union argued that the discussion of classes of employees rather than specific employees was not within the scope of the OMA exceptions. The University Board responded that the Board did, in fact, discuss specific employees during closed session, and that discussion falls within the scope of section 2(c)(1) of the OMA that authorizes the discussion of compensation, performance, hiring, and dismissal of specific employees. 

The PAC disagreed with the University, finding that although the Board of Trustees did discuss one specific employee during closed session, the majority of the discussion concerned budgetary matters and considerations applicable to categories of employees, which the PAC said was outside the scope of 2(c)(1). The PAC also stated that the discussion of an elimination of a job or position for budgetary reasons unrelated to the performance of the employee does not fall within the scope of 2(c)(1). The PAC concluded that the Board of Trustees' closed session discussion exceeded the scope of the OMA's exceptions, and violated the OMA. The PAC ordered the public body to release a copy of the closed session minutes and verbatim recording, except for that portion that discussed a specific employee.

Although the PAC's opinion regarding budgetary discussions being outside the scope of the OMA's exception is not new (the PAC has issued previous opinions on this issue), the broad statement that a public body cannot discuss the dismissal of a specific employee unless the reason is performance-based seems inconsistent with the unambiguous language of 2(c)(1), which states as follows:
(1) The appointment, employment, compensation, discipline, performance, or dismissal of specific employees of the public body or legal counsel for the public body, including hearing testimony on a complaint lodged against an employee of the public body or against legal counsel for the public body to determine its validity. However, a meeting to consider an increase in compensation to a specific employee of a public body that is subject to the Local Government Wage Increase Transparency Act may not be closed and shall be open to the public and posted and held in accordance with this Act.
The language clearly allows discussion of the dismissal of specific employees without any qualification that the dismissal be performance-related - the statute uses the word "or" between "performance" and "dismissal" and does not contain language that a discussion of the dismissal of an employee be for "performance-related" reasons. This opinion seems to narrow the scope of 2(c)(1) beyond the clear language of that exception.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Quorum Forum Podcast Airs Live From the IML Conference

Episode 10 of our Quorum Forum Podcast is now available. In this episode, we broadcast live from the recent Illinois Municipal League (IML) conference in Chicago and we feature guest speakers from a number of Illinois municipalities and provide highlights from some of the sessions presented by Ancel Glink attorneys. 

You can listen here.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Homeowners May Not Enforce Terms of Annexation Agreement

A recent Illinois appellate court decision examined who is a “successor in interest” under an annexation agreement and state law.  The result is informative for municipalities and developers seeking to better understand what rights and obligations flow to successors in interest of all or a portion of the property subject to such agreements.  

In 1990, a developer entered into an annexation agreement with a village to develop a subdivision over approximately 828 acres.  The agreement included a requirement that the developer design and construct a storm drain system for the subdivision.  In 2004, Patricia and Brian Doyle contracted with the developer to build a home in the subdivision and approximately three years later the Doyles began to notice their sump pump ejecting water every few seconds during times of rain or heavy snow.  Two years later, in March 2010, the Doyles noticed erosion around the storm drain next to their home causing them to file a drainage complaint with the village.  

After attempting several minor fixes, the village eventually corrected the problem in December 2011 but not before the failed system damaged the Doyles’ home.  The Doyles then brought suit including a claim of negligence against the developer for failing to install a properly working storm drain system.  The Doyles claimed the developer breached its duty under the annexation agreement to install a functioning sewer system and the Doyles had standing to recover because the annexation agreement was binding on “successor owners of record of the Subject Property.”  The trial court dismissed the Doyles’ claim and, on appeal, the First District Court of Appeal agreed. 

In Doyle v. Village of Tinley Park and Malone, the appellate court found that both the annexation agreement, and the Illinois Municipal Code provisions governing these agreements bind successor owners of land subject to an annexation agreement and that any party to such an agreement may bring a civil action to enforce its provisions. However, the Court added that these provisions did not apply to subsequent purchasers of each and every lot in a subdivision.  To do so, the Court explained, would result in absurd results such as a village being able to sue homeowners for a developers failure to construct a working sewer system. 

The court held that the phrases used in the annexation agreement (“successor owners of record of the Subject Property”) and in the statute (“successor owners of record of the land) were intended to only mean those successors who take title to the entire subject property.  If the agreement or statute intended otherwise, the Court wrote, it would have expressly stated that it applied to successor owners of the subject property “or any portion thereof.

The decision has practical implications for parties drafting annexation agreements who are seeking to clarify what provisions will remain enforceable by and against subsequent owners.  As the court pointed out, in order to make provisions of an annexation agreement specifically applicable to subsequent purchasers, the parties must expressly provide say so in the agreement rather than merely relying on generalized assignment and successor in interest provisions.       

Post Authored by David Warner, Ancel Glink         

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Court Dismisses Challenge to Village's Zoning Approval for a Gun Shop

We reported previously about a lawsuit challenging the Village of Niles' approval of a special use permit to allow the operation of a gun store and indoor firing range in the Village. In an earlier decision, the appellate court reversed the trial court's dismissal of the lawsuit based on lack of "standing", and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

After the case was sent back to the trial court, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint alleging that the Village's grant of the special use permit was unconstitutional. The trial court again dismissed the case for lack of standing, and the plaintiff again appealed. Last week, the appellate court upheld the dismissal of the case in People for a Safer Society v. Village of Niles.

The plaintiff had argued that the ordinance the Village approved to grant a special use to allow the gun store and indoor firing range was "arbitrary and capricious" and violated the plaintiff's substantive due process rights. The lawsuit also argued that the approval would reduce the value of neighboring properties. In its motion to dismiss, the Village argued that plaintiffs lacked standing because they did not own or reside in property adjacent or adjoining the property. The Village also argued that the complaint did not show any evidence of a special harm to the plaintiffs different than what the general public might suffer.

The appellate court applied a three-part test to determine whether the plaintiff "People for a Safer Society" had association standing to challenge the zoning approval. Although the court determined that the plaintiff showed that the group's interests in suing were consistent with its purposes and that the claim did not require participation of individual members, it did not meet the third factor - that its members would have standing to sue in their own right. Since plaintiff could not show that any of its members had individual standing to sue, plaintiff did not have the standing required to challenge Niles' zoning approval. As a result, the dismissal of the case was appropriate.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Exclusive Remedy to Challenge Township Road Tax is Tax Objection Process

A citizen filed a lawsuit to challenge a road tax assessed by an Illinois township. The tax had been approved by residents at a special township meeting. The plaintiff claimed that the tax was illegal because it was imposed in violation of the state tax cap law (PTELL), and that the meeting at which it was approved was not properly noticed and township officials acted inappropriately. 

The circuit court dismissed the case, finding that plaintiff was required to file a tax objection complaint rather than pursue a class action lawsuit. Plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court also ruled against him, finding that the appropriate and exclusive remedy for plaintiff to challenge a tax is through the statutory tax-objection process. Since plaintiff did not avail himself of that procedure, the circuit court properly dismissed his case. Reno v. Newport Township, 2018 IL App (2d) 170967

Monday, October 1, 2018

Ill Supreme Court Upholds Hospital Charitable Tax Exemption

The Illinois Supreme Court recently issued an opinion relating to a hospital's eligibility for a charitable property tax exemption. Oswald v. Hamer, 2018 IL 122203

Oswald, a Cook County taxpayer, had filed a lawsuit alleging that Section 15-86 of the Property Tax Code (which authorizes charitable property tax exemptions) is facially unconstitutional. Oswald claimed that the Illinois Constitution authorizes the state legislature to exempt from taxation only properties that are exclusively used for charitable purposes, yet the statute mandated that hospitals receive a tax exemption even if they were not exclusively used for charitable purposes. 

The Court rejected Oswald's constitutional challenge, finding that Oswald did not meet the burden of showing that the statute was unconstitutional in all applications, and that each hospital would still have to establish that it met the statutory definition to obtain a tax exemption.