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People Ex Rel. Spitzer v. County of La Salle

OCTOBER 9, 1959.

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, EX REL. HENRY J. SPITZER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

THE COUNTY OF LASALLE, ILLINOIS, THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF LASALLE COUNTY, ILLINOIS, GEORGE L. HUNTER, COUNTY CLERK OF LASALLE COUNTY, ILLINOIS, RUSSEL

v.

WRIGHT, COUNTY TREASURER OF LASALLE COUNTY, ILLINOIS, AND J.L. JACOBS AND COMPANY, A PARTNERSHIP, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of LaSalle county; the Hon. ALBERT PUCCI, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.

PRESIDING JUSTICE SPIVEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Rehearing denied November 30, 1959.

Two contracts were executed by the Defendant, J.L. Jacobs and Company, hereafter called "Company" and the Tax Committee of the County Board of Supervisors of LaSalle County, Illinois. The first contract was styled Specifications and Agreement for Preparation of Property Record Cards and Appraisal of Commercial and Industrial Real and Tangible Personal Property. The second contract was styled Agreement for Preparation of Property Record Cards and Appraisal of All Locally Assessable Non-Industrial Real Estate. A fair reading of the contracts indicates that the Company undertook to appraise all commercial and non-commercial and industrial and non-industrial real estate and tangible personal property in LaSalle County, Illinois. In addition, the Company agreed to furnish property record cards for real property containing all the information recommended by the State of Illinois, Department of Revenue, including location and description of the property, ground plan sketch, owner's name and address, appraised valuation of land and improvements. The Company was also to furnish tangible personal property forms containing all information necessary for listing and appraising inventories, goods and merchandise and works in process, furniture and fixtures, machinery and equipment including location and description of each class of tangible personal property and the appraised valuation of such class of property.

The Company agreed to develop appraisal standards and furnish a manual of procedures. Also to be furnished were the appraised valuations of the land recorded on the property record card to be determined by the application of basic unit values and the appraised valuation of buildings and tangible personal property. In addition, the Company agreed to review with the Township Assessors and County Assessment officials the appraisal standards and procedures established by the Company. All of the valuation data of the Company and the land maps prepared by the Company were to be duplicated and left with the Tax Committee of the Board of Supervisors. The Company agreed that its appraisers and field assistants would measure each building or lot and prepare a pencil sketch and the Company was to furnish all personnel including appraisers. The appraisal supervisor of the Company was required to appear and testify as an expert witness in processing appeals before the County Board of Review for a period of twenty (20) working days during the year the new assessments become effective. Under the contract the Company was also to assist the Tax Committee and Board of Supervisors to develop a public relations program on systematic property valuation by preparing newspaper articles, giving talks to civic, business and other groups.

In consideration for the services to be performed by the Company, the County agreed to furnish certain information with reference to the legal description of real estate, agreed to provide working space in the courthouse together with necessary furnishings, agreed to furnish a bond to the Company at the County's expense for the performance of the contract and agreed to pay a total amount of $245,000 for the services to be performed by the Company.

Plaintiff, a resident and taxpayer of LaSalle County, brought suit in the Circuit Court of LaSalle County and alleged the execution of the contracts. He also alleged that the Company had entered upon the performance of one of the contracts and had completed a major portion of the work and had been paid $50,000 for services rendered at the time of filing the suit. Plaintiff alleged that the contract was null and void, but that the public officials of the County resisted efforts to prevent the illegal payment of county funds to the Company. In his complaint Plaintiff charged that the Board of Supervisors had no authority to contract with any person or firm for the performance of the duties of the regularly elected or appointed assessment officials of the County. Plaintiff also charged that the statute the Board relied upon as authority to execute the contract was vague, indefinite and ambiguous and invalid. Several constitutional questions were raised by the Plaintiff also, but it is not necessary to reiterate these here. The complaint concluded with an allegation that Plaintiff had no adequate remedy at law and prayed that the contract be set aside and declared null and void and ultra vires. Plaintiff also prayed for an injunction to restrain the parties to the agreement from any further performance under the contract and to restrain any payment under the contracts. The Court was requested to restrain the officials of the County from using or applying any of the services, valuations or results which the Company furnished under the contract. Plaintiff requested that the Company be ordered to restore funds paid by the County to it and that costs be assessed against the Company.

The cause was tried by the court and the court found the issues for the Plaintiff and granted the relief prayed in the complaint. The trial court found that the contracts were ultra vires and void in that they attempted to bestow upon the Company power to perform duties imposed upon the assessment officials of LaSalle County and for the further reason that the County Board has no authority to contract with persons to discover property omitted from taxation. The trial court declined to pass upon the constitutional questions presented with reference to the statute.

[1-3] It is contended that the statute is unconstitutional and invalid. We cannot pass upon such questions and this is so well established as to require the citation of no authority. Section 86 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1957, Chapter 110, par. 86) would require us to transfer the cause to the Supreme Court on our own motion even in the absence of a motion to transfer if our jurisdiction is improperly invoked. Stevens v. Stevens, 14 Ill.2d 99, 150 N.E.2d 799. Here however, the determination of the validity of the statute is not essential to a decision of the case. If the issues can be fairly decided without reference to the statute, its constitutionality cannot be said to be involved and its validity will not be determined by the Supreme Court, Moran v. Zoning Board of Appeals, 11 Ill.2d 374, 377, 143 N.E.2d 16. Under these circumstances it would not be proper for us to transfer the cause and it must be determined upon the other issues.

This appeal was perfected from the decree of the trial court. Defendant Company contends that the court erred in declaring the contract ultra vires for the reason that the County Board had the statutory authority to enter into contracts with the Company for the preparation of a detailed property record system which would provide information useful to assessment officials. This authority, the Company contends, is contained in Paragraph 25 of Chapter 34, Illinois Revised Statutes, 1955, and in Section 25.16 of the same chapter. Section 25 provides:

"The County Board of each county has the powers enumerated in Sections 25.01 to 25.19, inclusive, subject to the conditions therein stated. Powers conferred on counties shall be in addition to and not in limitation of their existing powers."

The power granted in Section 25.16 is:

"To expend monies for the preparation, establishment and maintenance of a detailed property record system which would provide information useful to assessment officials. Such record shall be available to all assessing officials.

"The County Board may enter into contracts with persons, firms, or corporations for the preparation and establishment of such record system."

The Company is correct in its contention that the County may contract for a property record system, for the authority has been granted by the legislature. However, it begs the question to urge that the Board had the power to contract with the Company. The question to be determined is, "Did the Board ...


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