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Collinsville Comm. Unit Sch. Dist. No. 10 v. Witte

MAY 4, 1972.

COLLINSVILLE COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 10, PLAINTIFF-COUNTERDEFENDANT-APPELLANT,

v.

BENJAMIN WITTE ET AL., DEFENDANTS-COUNTERPLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Madison County; the Hon. PAUL C. VERTICCHIO, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE JONES DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This case concerns the validity of the action taken by a school board to purchase certain land from the defendants and counterplaintiffs. We are called upon to determine whether the action of the school board in entering into a contract to purchase real estate was sufficient to comply with the requirements of the statute in relation to Meetings of Public Agencies. (Ill. Rev. Stat., ch. 102, sec. 41, et seq.) The school board appeals a judgment rendered by the trial court denying its complaint for a judgment declaring the contract void and granting specific performance in favor of the defendants-appellees upon their counterclaim.

On December 1, 1966, the school board, with a quorum present, met in a closed session which the minutes of the meeting described as an "executive session." The closed session followed the public portion of the meeting which was a special meeting of the board. The minutes reflect that the following action was taken:

"A motion was made by Richter, seconded by Bitzer, to purchase approximately 24 acres of Witte property on Route 157 at a cost of $5,000 per acre. Motion carried on roll call vote as follows: Richter, yes; Blumberg, yes; Bitzer, yes; Turner, yes; Grimm, yes; and Wall, yes."

These minutes were a public record and were presumably available for public inspection.

A contract for sale was prepared by the board's attorney which provided for a $25,000 down payment and the balance under terms set out therein. The contract, together with the warrant of the district for $25,000, was delivered to the defendants who evidently signed the same on December 29, 1966. The contract was signed by the president and secretary on behalf of the school district.

At the January 16th meeting which followed the board approved the $25,000 payment to the Wittes as one of a large number of bills which were presented for approval. This action was taken in public meeting and became a part of the minutes available to the public.

On March 13th the Wittes and the district, by its president and secretary, signed an amendment to the articles of agreement permitting the board to make test borings. At a special meeting of the board that evening the following item appears in the minutes:

"A motion was made by Doherty, seconded by Turner, to hold up further action by the board on the Witte property pending further legal advice. Motion carried on roll call vote as follows: Richter, yes; Bitzer, yes; Blumberg, yes; Turner, yes; Doherty, yes; Grimm, yes; and Wall, yes * * *."

In April, 1967, four new members were elected to the board of education of the school district and thereafter the board as then constituted declined to honor the contract with the Wittes and commenced this action for a declaratory judgment that would find the contract invalid. The Wittes counterclaimed for specific performance. The trial court denied summary judgment to the school district and entered judgment for specific performance in favor of the defendants in accordance with the terms of the contract.

The appellant school district strenuously contends that taking of action to purchase real estate at an executive session rather than a public meeting renders the contract unenforceable since such contracts can only be approved in a public meeting. They also contend that the contract was not binding because its execution by the president and secretary of the board was not authorized by the board.

• 1 In substance, the plaintiff's argument is based upon the terms of the Act in relation to Meetings of Public Agencies as it was in effect on the date of the occurrences in question. Section 2 of that Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1965, ch. 102, sec. 42) provides in part as follows:

"All official meetings at which any legal action is taken by the governing bodies of * * * school districts * * * shall be public meetings, except * * * meetings where the acquisition or sale of property is being considered, provided that no ...


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