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Legal News Affecting Illinois Municipalities March 15, 2017

 IML Legal Bulletin 2017-03

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Registration Deadline for IML’s Municipal Attorneys Seminar Is March 24
IML’s 2017 Municipal Attorneys Seminar will be held Friday, March 31 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the DoubleTree Hotel in Bloomington. A $175 registration fee includes breakfast, lunch and a copy of IML’s Sunshine Laws manual as well as 6.25 hours of MCLE. Topics covered include Land Use Exactions & Takings; Mandatory Subjects of Bargaining; Appellate Practice; Ethics for Government Lawyers; Sunshine Laws; Employment Law; and Section 1983 & Municipal Liability. Register online at iml.org/seminar.
Federal Issues
IML Comments Filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
IML filed comments (available here) with the FCC on March 7, 2017, regarding a Petition for Declaratory Ruling requested by Mobilitie, LLC.  Mobilitie, a telecommunications company, sought FCC clarification that would ultimately limit local government control of its property interests in the right-of-way. IML’s comments centered on how Illinois law addresses right-of-way siting application and access fees as well as the manner in which Illinois municipalities are currently addressing deployment of wireless infrastructure.   IML opposes the requested reduction of local authority. 
Illinois Supreme Court
Judicial Process & Procedures
Stone Street Partners, LLC (Stone Street) sued the City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings (City) in circuit court to obtain administrative review, declaratory judgment and an award of damages after discovering that a judgment was recorded against one of its properties in 2009 for failure to pay a fine in 1999. The circuit court rejected Stone Street’s cause of action and the appellate court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The City filed a petition for leave to appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court, which affirmed the judgment of the appellate court and remanded. Stone Street Partners, LLC v. City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings, 2017 IL 117720 (February 17, 2017).
Illinois Appellate Courts
Plaintiffs, Pisani and her union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 193, sued the City of Springfield (City) on behalf of city employees who participated in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) and refrained from taking advantage of a vacation buy back provision enacted in the City’s ordinance. This buy back provision allowed city employees to cash in their unused vacation days prior to retirement, increasing their final rate of earnings and thereby boosting the amount of their retirement annuity. The trial court granted the City’s motion for summary judgment, and the appellate court affirmed. Pisani v. City of Springfield, 2017 IL App (4th) 160417 (March 3, 2017).
Under the provisions of the Criminal Code, the trial court’s rejection of the innocent owner defense in a forfeiture case was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.  Judgment of the circuit court was affirmed. People v. One 2006 Mercedes Benz, 2016 IL App (2d) 151092-U (February 23, 2017).
Government Immunity and Liability
Krivokuca filed an action for negligence against the City of Chicago (City) after his truck fell into a sinkhole on a city street.  The complaint alleged negligence for the City’s failure to properly maintain the roadway and sewers near the sinkhole. The City filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that res ipsa loquitur could not be maintained in light of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Act).  The trial court granted the City’s motion to dismiss, and the appellate court affirmed. Krivokuca v. The City of Chicago, 2017 IL App (1st) 152397 (February 17, 2017).
Quo Warranto
Wofford, a resident of the 4th Ward of the City of Harvey, Illinois (City) brought a quo warranto action seeking the removal of Lamont D. Brown, elected 4th ward alderman of the City, on the basis of ineligibility of office due to two felony convictions. 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(b) (West 2014). Following Brown’s motion to dismiss, two additional plaintiffs who were both aldermen for the City, Keith Price and Donald Nesbit, joined Wofford in a motion for leave to file an amended complaint. The circuit court denied the motion and dismissed the action, finding the plaintiffs lacked standing and the suit would cause “chaos” and not benefit the public.  Price alone pursued an appeal of the matter. The defendants filed no response in the appellate court.  The appellate court reversed and remanded the matter. People ex rel. W.C. Wofford v. Lamont D. Brown, 2017 IL App (1st) 16118 (February 17, 2017).
Unsafe Property Act – Demolition or Repair
The Village of West Dundee sought to require the repair of an historic building under the Unsafe Property Act. Defendant, the First United Methodist Church of West Dundee, sought to demolish the property. The trial court dismissed the countercomplaint and held a trial, ultimately entering a judgment requiring the repair of the building. The Second District Appellate Court vacated the judgment entered by the trial court, and reversed and remanded the trial court’s pre-trial dismissal of the amended countercomplaint filed by the defendant. Village of West Dundee v. First United Methodist Church of West Dundee, No. 2-15-0278 2017 IL App (2d) 150278 (March 7, 2017).
Zoning and Land Use
The Village of Willow Springs (Willow Springs) filed a complaint seeking to enjoin its neighboring village, Lemont, from approving a zoning reclassification and proposed property development.  The circuit court dismissed the complaint, concluding that Willow Springs lacked standing to contest the zoning reclassification and lacked standing to challenge the development application, which Lemont had not yet approved. The appellate court affirmed. The Village of Willow Springs v. The Village of Lemont, 2016 IL App (1st) 152670 (December 19, 2016).
Illinois Attorney General - Public Access Counselor Advisory Opinion
The Public Access Counselor (PAC) determined the Open Meetings Act (OMA) was not violated by the Board of Trustees of the Village of Northbrook (Board) at its April 12, 2016, meeting in connection with a proposed development because the applicable action items were sufficiently described on the meeting agenda. In addition, the PAC determined there was insufficient evidence of any undisclosed meetings related to the development project.  Open Meetings Act: Final Action on Proposed Development on Agenda as Item for Reconsideration; Undisclosed Meetings, 2016 PAC 42283 (PAC Advisory Opinion).
RSVP for Lobby Day on April 26, 2017
You are invited to attend IML’s Lobby Day on Wednesday, April 26 in Springfield. The Lobby Day briefing will begin at 9 a.m. at the IML office, followed by an opportunity to visit legislators at the Capitol (be sure to make your appointments in advance). A reception will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Additional information, including online registration for both events, is available online at iml.org/lobbyday.