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Solomon v. North Side Sanitary Dist.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. C. WOODROW FRAILEY, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied May 26, 1971.

The plaintiffs brought this action against the defendant, North Shore Sanitary District, to enjoin it from issuing bonds authorized by a special election, from expending funds derived from the sale of such bonds, and from utilizing any of such funds for constructing certain contemplated improvements to an existing treatment plant on Clavey Road. The circuit court of Lake County granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs have appealed directly to this court, in that questions involving revenue and arising under the constitution are involved. Supreme Court Rule 302(a) (1) (2). Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 110A, par. 302(a) (1) (2).

On March 14, 1968, the defendant district adopted an ordinance calling an election to authorize the issuance of $35,000,000 of bonds to finance a $59,000,000 project to construct additions and improvements to its sewage disposal facilities. The ordinance recited that the Board of Trustees of the district had considered the report of its engineers and had found it "necessary for the public health and in the best interests of the residents" of the district to construct certain enumerated additions and improvements. The ordinance separated these into three categories: sewage disposal facilities, pumping stations, and intercepting sewers and force mains. Under the first two descriptions, the ordinance briefly set forth the locations of the additions and nature of the new improvements. Under the intercepting sewer and force mains category, the ordinance specified fourteen improvements and additions to its sewage disposal facilities.

The ordinance called the election for May 4, 1968, and specified the form of notice to be given. The notice advised the voters that the purpose of the election was to vote on the following proposition:

"Proposition to issue bonds of North Shore Sanitary District to the amount of Thirty-Five Million Dollars ($35,000,000).

"For the purpose of paying a portion of the cost of constructing additions and improvements to its sewage disposal facilities, including sewage treatment facilities, pumping stations, intercepting sewers and force mains, and acquiring lands, easements, rights of way and equipment and paying the engineering, surveying and other costs incidental thereto."

The ordinance further specified the form of the ballot, which set forth, as the proposition to be voted upon, the language quoted immediately above.

The proposition passed at the election held on May 4, 1968. In reliance thereon, the district, in 1969, issued and sold $8,000,000 of the authorized bonds. Also, in 1969, the district sought a special use permit from the city of Highland Park for the purpose of constructing a number of specified additions to the Clavey Road treatment plant in that city. The plaintiffs objected to this proposed expansion, and it is apparently this portion of the project which precipitated this action.

The plaintiffs filed their complaint in June of 1970. The complaint challenged the election held to authorize the issuance of the bonds in three general areas: (1) The sufficiency of the election documents, the ordinance, notice and ballot; (2) the constitutionality of the statute authorizing the issuance of the bonds; and (3) the authority of the defendant district to issue the bonds and to levy taxes to pay for them.

The plaintiffs contend that the election documents were void because the ordinance, notice and ballot did not describe with sufficient specificity the nature and location of the improvements and project, and did not set forth the "duration of" or interest rates for the bonds. They urge that the statute is unconstitutional in that if the defendant may issue bonds and levy taxes thereunder, then the statute permits other than corporate authorities of municipal corporations to assess and collect taxes, and permits the issuance of bonds and the levying of taxes without adequate notice to the taxpayers pursuant to an incomplete and vague statute. Lastly, and related to a part of the foregoing, is the contention that the defendant is not a "corporate authority" authorized by the constitution to assess and levy taxes, because the manner in which the board has been selected was changed without the assent of the voters.

The question before us is whether the trial court correctly granted summary judgment for the defendant on the basis of the pleadings and the motion.

The first question pertains to the sufficiency of the election documents. The defendant does not dispute that the election was a special election (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 46, par. 1-3), and that there was no presumption favoring its validity. (Bilek v. City of Chicago, 396 Ill. 445, 465; Southworth v. Board of Education, 238 Ill. 190, 197.) It is essential to the validity of a special election that the mode prescribed for conducting it must be complied with in all material respects (People ex rel. Carr v. Chicago Heights Terminal Railway Transfer Co., 319 Ill. 389, 391, 392), and this includes the giving of adequate notice. Bilek v. City of Chicago, 396 Ill. 445, 459-461 incl.; Thatcher v. People ex rel. McCrea, 93 Ill. 240, 244.

The defendant contends that the notice given here was adequate, and we agree. The only notice that is jurisdictional and required for a special election is that prescribed by statute. The notice need not contain more than that described by statute as mandatory. (Bilek v. City of Chicago, 396 Ill. 445, 455.) Section 9 of the Sanitary District Act of 1911 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 42, ...

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