APPEAL from Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. HOWARD
LEE WHITE, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is an appeal from a decision of the circuit court of Sangamon County, sitting in administrative review, which reversed a decision of Timothy E. Griffin, Commissioner of Savings and Loan Associations of Illinois. In broad outline, the Commissioner's decision permitted Hillsboro Savings and Loan to relocate its office in Springfield and to maintain a facility at Hillsboro.
Hillsboro Savings and Loan (Hillsboro) had been in business in Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois, for about 90 years. In 1975, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation requiring all savings and loan associations to obtain insurance on their withdrawable capital accounts. Many smaller savings and loans, including Hillsboro, were unable to afford such insurance and were left with two alternatives merge with a larger institution capable of meeting the criteria for obtaining insurance of accounts, or liquidate. Evidence in the record indicates that Hillsboro had assets of about $305,000 and a net worth between $60,000 and $65,000.
Hillsboro sought the merger route and entered into a bulk sales agreement (not involved in this appeal) with American Savings and Loan Association of Springfield. Apparently there had been some discussion about relocating in Rock Island, Illinois, because on September 8, 1975, Hillsboro addressed a letter to the Commissioner of Savings and Loan Associations of Illinois (Commissioner) in which it stated that the bulk sales agreement had been made and Hillsboro sought leave of the Commissioner to relocate its office in Rock Island and maintain a facility in Hillsboro. On September 10, 1975, a further letter was hand delivered from Hillsboro to the Commissioner; that letter modified the letter of September 8 by stating that the proposed relocation was to Springfield instead of Rock Island. On September 11, 1975, a certified copy of a bylaw amendment adopted by the Board of Directors of Hillsboro on September 9, 1975, was hand-delivered to the Commissioner. The amendment stated that the principal office was to be in Springfield and a facility in Hillsboro. These dates and the form of the letters will become significant in the following portions of this opinion.
American Savings and Loan Association of Springfield filed letters with the Commissioner confirming the bulk sale and concurring in the relocation and facility requests. Security Savings and Loan Association of Hillsboro (Security) and Montgomery County National Bank of Hillsboro filed objections. These objections were limited to the facility aspect of the matter; the objectors did not contest the relocation.
The Commissioner appointed two hearing officers and extensive evidence was taken before them. They filed a report with the Commissioner, which, in substance, made favorable recommendations on both the relocation and the facility application. The Commissioner adopted the report and on March 5, 1976, issued his approval of change of location and maintenance of a facility at the existing location of Hillsboro. Administrative review followed in the circuit court as above described. The court's order reverses only that portion of the Commissioner's approval dealing with the maintenance of a facility. It does not mention the relocation. This appeal followed.
The core of the trial court's decision is contained in the following quotation taken from its written opinion:
"The letters filed herein are not applications within the meaning of the rules. The by-law in question was not filed simultaneously with the application; therefore, the Commissioner has not followed his own rules in this case.
Under this decision, it is not necessary to consider the other points on appeal."
The rules referred to by the trial court are the Rules of Practice and Procedure Before the Illinois Savings and Loan Commissioner, and, in pertinent part, read:
PROCEDURE ON APPLICATIONS BEFORE THE COMMISSIONER
Section 1. Application Filings.) Any association desiring to relocate its business office pursuant to Section 3-4(h) of the Act, or to maintain a facility pursuant to Section 1-9 of the Act and Article X of the Rules and Regulations * * * shall:
(a) File in triplicate on a form or forms prescribed by the Commissioner its verified application at the Springfield Office of the Commissioner.
RELOCATIONS AND FACILITIES
Section 1. Authorization.) Subject to the law of the State of Illinois and this Article X, an association may maintain facilities:
(b) At the existing location of an association's business office, and the authorized facility offices of the association, incident to a change in the location of the association's business office; * * *
Section 2. Approval by the Commissioner.)
(b) An application for approval of the maintenance of a facility shall be filed with the Commissioner simultaneous with the filing of: * * * (2) the application for approval by the Commissioner of a by-law amendment providing for a change in the location of an association's business office, in the case of a facility authorized by Section 1(b) of this Article X, * * *."
At the outset it may be noted that the copies of these rules contained in the record bear the notation "10-31-75" indicating to us that these particular rules were not in existence at the time the application was made. This belief is further reinforced by a statement in the brief of the Attorney General, representing the Commissioner, that no form was in existence at the time of the application. Hillsboro would be hard put to apply on a nonexistent document. We also note from the record that the objections of Security ...