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Endicott v. Huddleston

decided: August 15, 1980.

GEORGE W. ENDICOTT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
A. M. HUDDLESTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES .



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Illinois, Benton Division. No. 76-C-4036 -- William G. Juergens, Judge.

Before Swygert, Circuit Judge, Kilkenny, Senior Circuit Judge,*fn* and Wood, Circuit Judge.

Author: Swygert

At issue in this appeal is whether plaintiff-appellant George W. Endicott, the former Supervisor of Assessments for Pulaski County, Illinois, was as a result of not being reappointed the victim of a due process violation or a conspiracy to violate his First Amendment rights. We hold that while Endicott did suffer a procedural due process violation when he received an inadequate hearing on the reasons for his termination, that wrong was remedied by a second hearing. He is entitled to recover damages only for the injuries he sustained in the interim.

I

Plaintiff Endicott was appointed to the office of Supervisor of Assessments of Pulaski County pursuant to Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 120, § 484a, which provides:

In counties containing less than 1,000,000 inhabitants and not having an elected board of assessors, the office of supervisor of assessments or county assessor, shall be filled by appointment by the county board, as herein provided.

To be eligible for appointment a person . . . must have passed an examination conducted by the Department (of Local Government Affairs) to determine his competence to hold such office. . . . Appointment shall be made of one of the 3 persons attaining the highest grades in the examination. . . . The term of office shall be 4 years from the date of appointment and until a successor is appointed and qualified.

Of the persons seeking appointment to the position of Supervisor of Assessments for Pulaski County in 1970, Endicott, a Democrat, was the only applicant who passed the examination. He was appointed by the Board of County Commissioners (the "County Board") to the post for the statutory four-year term beginning October 1, 1970.

Under Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 120, § 490, the County Board also constitutes the County Board of Review, which reviews assessments made by the Supervisor. At the time of Endicott's appointment the County Board was comprised of one Republican, defendant-appellee A. M. Huddleston, and two Democrats. In addition, defendant-appellee Byron Connell, the State's Attorney and legal advisor to the County Board, was a Republican. Two months after plaintiff's appointment, another Republican, defendant-appellee Henry Schnaare, was elected to replace one of the two Democrats on the Board.

Shortly after his appointment as Supervisor, Endicott developed and implemented a four-year plan for the assessment of all real estate in the county. Over the course of his term in office, hundreds of property owners appealed directly to the County Board, in its capacity as Board of Review, for reductions in the new assessments on their property. In as many as eighty percent of these cases, the Board issued Certificates of Error, thereby reducing the assessments on those parcels. Endicott consistently disputed the Board's power to issue Certificates of Error regarding his judgments as to the valuation of property.

In October 1972 County Board members Huddleston and Schnaare met privately with State's Attorney Connell to discuss removal of Endicott from his position as Supervisor. Connell told Huddleston and Schnaare that it would be easier to let Endicott serve out his term and not reappoint him, rather than try to remove him from office during his term.*fn1

In April 1974 defendant-appellee Donald R. Miller joined Huddleston and Schnaare on the Board, so that all members were then Republicans. On June 28, 1974, these defendants, as members of the County Board, determined not to reappoint Endicott as Supervisor of Assessments. State's Attorney Connell prepared a notice informing Endicott that his term would expire on September 30, 1974, and that, upon request, he would receive a public hearing as to why he would not be reappointed. Endicott did request a hearing, and the Board members determined that the hearing would take place on September 30, 1974, the last day of Endicott's term. With the advice of Connell, the County Board members established procedural guidelines for the hearing contrary to those requested by the plaintiff. No evidence was to be presented by either side. No witnesses were to testify, so that there was to be no opportunity to cross-examine any witness or Board member. No court reporter was to be present. While Endicott and the Board were to have the right to counsel at the hearing, there were to be no opening or closing statements or interrogations by counsel. In accordance with these guidelines, Endicott's hearing consisted exclusively of the reading and public distribution of a written resolution enacted by the County Board which listed its eleven purported reasons for not reappointing him. Among these were the following:

4. That the Supervisor of Assessments allowed conflicts of interest to develop between his office and the assessment work therein involved, due to political considerations, particular persons involved, and his duties as an agent of Mutual Insurance companies, resulting, in many instances, in discriminatory assessments.

7. That he failed to properly notify many tax payers of an increase in assessment, and used deceptive practices in notifying many others, by stating the "Old Assessment" at a multiplied figure, and the "New Assessment" at an un-multiplied figure, so ...


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