APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Rock Island County; the Hon.
JOHN DONALD O'SHEA and the Hon. CONWAY L. SPANTON, Judges,
JUSTICE SCOTT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The plaintiff taxpayers filed a suit in the circuit court of Rock Island County challenging the right of South Moline Township to pay lump sum expenses to certain officials of South Moline Township. The case was heard on a stipulation of facts in a non-jury trial. The trial court found the allowance to be unconstitutional, and the individual defendants were ordered to make reimbursement for allowances received in excess of actual expenditures, and this appeal ensued.
The scenario of events which must be considered by this court are set forth in the stipulation of facts, the pertinent part of which provides as follows:
"3. Defendants are the South Moline Township Board of Trustees and its Supervisor, Clerk and Road Commissioner.
4. On March 1, 1977, the South Moline Township Board of Trustees, at a regularly called board meeting, set salary and expense allowances to become effective upon the election of the next board. The pertinent salary and expense allowances were set as follows: Supervisor was to receive $12,500.00 a year and $1,000.00 as District Road Treasurer a year salary and an expense account of $200.00 per month; the Clerk was to receive $4,200.00 a year salary and an expense account of $80.00 per month; the Road Commissioner was to receive $13,000.00 a year salary and an expense account of $100.00 per month.
5. Elections for a new Township Board and Officers were held on April 5, 1977.
6. The new board and officers were sworn in on April 25, 1977.
7. The newly elected officers were: Supervisor, Larry Burns; Clerk, Virginia Ryan; and Road Commissioner, Lester Vande Heyden, who was succeeded upon retirement by John Bernard on April 18, 1978.
8. On April 11, 1978, at the South Moline Township Town Meeting, a motion was made and carried that all travel expenses be itemized and reimbursed at the rate of $.17 per mile.
9. On April 18, 1978, at the regularly called meeting of the South Moline Township Board, a motion was made and passed that said expenses be turned in every two weeks with payment of expenses once a month.
10. On October 16, 1979, at the regularly called meeting of the South Moline Township Board, a motion was made and carried that the lump sum allowances be reinstated for Supervisor, Town Clerk, Assessor and the Road Commissioner."
We deem the pleadings filed in this case to be significant in that the amended complaint of the plaintiff, the answer filed in the same and an undenied affirmative defense all proceeded and were predicated upon the assumption that the so-called expense allowances were to be paid and in fact were paid regardless of whether or not expenses were actually incurred. The affirmative defense recited that the additional money received by the township officials was "intended * * * to be an increase in compensation." The amended complaint stated that the "flat rate" expense accounts amounted to a raising of salaries. The pleadings clearly establish that the township board's resolution of March 1, 1977, was intended to increase the compensation of the township officers. The trial court in its memorandum opinion found that the additional money awarded to the town officers and entitled "lump sum expense allowances" were in fact an increase in compensation.
Agreeing with the parties in this case and the trial court we are presented with the narrow issue as to whether the raise in compensation provided for on March 1, 1977, by the township board of trustees is violative of our State Constitution of 1970.
In addressing the issue we first note that on or before the last Tuesday of March immediately preceding the election of township officers, the board of town auditors shall establish the compensation to be paid each township officer elected at the forthcoming election. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 139, par. 126.7.) Our township code provides that the term "town auditors" means and refers to "board of township trustees." (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 139, par. 117.) Though not presented as an issue, these statutory provisions clearly establish that if action ...