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People v. Walker

OPINION FILED MARCH 20, 1978.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ELIZABETH P. WALKER ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. EDWIN DOUGLAS, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE SEIDENFELD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Mr. JUSTICE SEIDENFELD delivered the opinion of the court:

The People of the State of Illinois, represented by the State's Attorney of Du Page County, sued in quo warrantor (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 112, par. 10) to oust seven commissioners of the Fox Valley Community Airport Authority. Following extensive hearings the trial court dismissed the complaint and the People appeal.

On March 18, 1974, a petition was presented to the Circuit Court of Kane County praying that an election be held on the question of whether an airport authority should be established in territory partially situated in Kane County and partially in Du Page County, to be named the Fox Valley Community Airport Authority (hereinafter, Airport Authority). The petition was signed by the required number of electors residing in the proposed territory. At a public hearing held on April 5, 1974, on the proposed election to form the Airport Authority, the only objectors were the State's Attorney representing the County of Du Page, Gerald R. Weeks, the chairman of the Du Page County Board, and Noreen Fredericks, chairwoman of the Du Page County Public Works Committee. The court set June 25, 1974, as the date for a special election. On May 2, 1974, the court, in denying a motion by the County of Du Page to cancel the election, specifically found that (1) the County of Du Page was not a municipal corporation within the intendment of the municipal airport authorities act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 15 1/2, par. 68.1 et seq; hereinafter the Act); and (2) that, in any event, the county's population as indicated by the 1970 Federal census was only 491,882 with the result that Du Page County was not a county of 500,000 or more whose territory could not be included within the boundaries of an airport authority.

The election resulted in 4,216 votes being cast in favor of establishing the Airport Authority and 1,734 opposed. On July 16, 1974, commissioners of the new Airport Authority were appointed; and thereafter on July 24, 1974, the quo warrantor action was filed.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the proceedings on the grounds that the Circuit Court of Du Page County did not have jurisdiction over the subject matter and that venue was not properly placed in Du Page County. The Court denied defendants' motion to dismiss. (Defendants have not cross-appealed.) Defendants thereupon answered; and the People replied contending, as they do in this court, that the purported incorporation of the Airport Authority was invalid for the following reasons: the County of Du Page was, on March 18, 1974, a municipal corporation with a population of 500,000 or more which owned and operated an airport; the territory of the Airport Authority embraces part of the Enrico Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory owned by the United States Atomic Energy Commission; the notice of election incorrectly described the proposed Airport Authority's territory; and, finally, because the Act is unconstitutional. The People subsequently amended their reply and charged that the incorporation was invalid because part of the Village of Wayne, a municipality, was included and part excluded from the territory of the Airport Authority. The court found that all seven defendants lawfully hold the office of commissioner of the Airport Authority and dismissed the quo warrantor petition.

The meaning and effect of the municipal airport authorities act is placed in issue by the appeal. The People first contend that a county, and in particular Du Page County, is included in the term "municipal corporation" as that term appears in section 2 of the Act which provides:

"Creation of an Airport Authority. Any area of contiguous territory having a population of not less than five thousand and containing one or more municipalities as defined by this Act, and in which there is not included any territory contained within the corporate limits of an existing Airport Authority, and in which there is not included any territory or airport facilities of a municipal corporation having a population of five hundred thousand or more which owns, maintains, or operates an airport or airports within or without its corporate limits, may be incorporated as an Airport Authority in the manner provided in this Act." Emphasis added. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 15 1/2, par. 68.2.)

We agree with the People's argument that Du Page County is a "municipal corporation" as that term is used in the Act and disagree with the trial court's conclusion that it was not.

The answer to the question whether a county is included as a "municipal corporation" under the Act cannot clearly be found by express definition under the Act. Section 1 of the Act, "Definitions" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 15 1/2, par. 68.1) states:

"`Municipality' means any city, village or incorporated town of the State of Illinois."

However, the section does not specifically define a "municipal corporation." It does contain a definition of a "Public Agency" as meaning:

"* * * any political subdivision, public corporation, quasi-municipal corporation or municipal corporation of the State of Illinois, excepting public corporations or agencies owning, operating or maintaining a college or university with funds of the State of Illinois." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 15 1/2, par. 68.1.

The defendants contend that the use of both "municipal corporation" and "quasi-municipal corporation" in the definition of a "public agency" indicates a legislative intent to classify counties as quasi-municipal corporations since, defendants argue, otherwise the use of both terms would be superfluous. We find little merit in this argument. The definition in its entirety reveals an overabundance of caution by the legislature. If the legislature intended to use terms in a precise fashion, it could have left out either "quasi-municipal corporation" or "municipal corporation" or both, since the phrase "public corporation," which precedes these terms, embraces both.

Since we do not find the phrase "municipal corporation" to be a precise term, the true intent and meaning of the legislature must be ascertained by considering the entire statute, subsequent amendments and also "the evil to be remedied and the object to be attained." See, e.g., People v. Bratcher, 63 Ill.2d 534, 543 (1976).

The reference to municipal corporations having a population of 500,000 or more was added to the Act as of February 11, 1959. From surrounding circumstances and from "the historical designation of counties as quasi-municipal corporations" defendants argue that the legislature did not intend that counties be considered as municipal corporations within the meaning of section 2. They argue that the questioned language (municipal corporations having a population of 500,000 or more) was added because the legislature desired to protect only O'Hare Field, Midway Airport and Meigs Field, all of which were operated by the City of Chicago, from expropriation by an airport authority. Neither argument is persuasive. At the time the reference to "municipal corporations" was added to the Act in 1959, numerous public entities were entitled to operate public airports, including cities, villages and incorporated towns (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 24, par. 11-101-1 et seq.); counties (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 15 1/2, par. 69); park districts (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 105, par. 9-2); port districts (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 19); airport authorities (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 15 1/2, par. 68.1) and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 144, par. 78a). It seems obvious that if the legislature had desired only to protect the airports operated by the City of Chicago it could have accomplished its end by using the term "municipality" instead of the broader term "municipal corporation" which imports an intention to protect public airports operated by public entities other than cities, villages and incorporated towns. Assuming that the population of the district of any public entity is at least 500,000 there seems to be no logical basis for protecting it from expropriation and not protecting a county with the same population.

Nor do we agree that there is any present practical basis for the distinction which the defendants seek to make. Even though counties were once regarded as mere political subdivisions of the State possessing few corporate functions (see, e.g., Scates v. King, 110 Ill. 456, 466 (1883); Woodmen of World Life Insurance Society v. County of Cook, 322 Ill. App. 112, 117-18 (1944)) counties have since entered into corporate functions of all kinds. These include the maintenance of hospitals, sanatoriums and, of course, airports to mention only a few. The courts> have also defined counties as "municipal corporations." In Skil Corp. v. Korzen, 32 Ill.2d 249, 250 (1965), the supreme court stated:

"The term `municipal corporation' includes counties. Perkins v. Board of County Commissioners of Cook County, 271 Ill. 449, 459."

• 1 We therefore conclude that the phrase "municipal corporation" as used in the Act includes counties since we find no reasonable ...


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