Appeal from the Circuit Court of Montgomery County; the Hon.
Joseph L. Fribley, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE KASSERMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Carl H. Heldebrandt, defendant, paid his Montgomery County real estate taxes for revenue year 1980 under protest and subsequently filed tax objections to the application by the Montgomery County Collector (collector) for a judgment for delinquent real estate taxes and taxes paid under protest for 1980. After a hearing, the trial court ordered a refund of some of the taxes defendant had paid under protest. The collector appeals this decision and contends that: (1) Mr. Heldebrandt failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) the tax objection filed by Mr. Heldebrandt was legally insufficient; and (3) Mr. Heldebrandt failed to establish constructive fraud in the assessment of taxes on his farmland.
Prior to trial, the collector moved to dismiss Mr. Heldebrandt's tax objection on the ground, inter alia, that the objection failed to state sufficient facts to allege constructive fraud. The trial court denied the motion.
Testimony from Montgomery County Board of Review (board of review) members established the following facts: On January 22, 1981, the board of review received correspondence from the Illinois Department of Revenue stating that the proposed tax assessments that the board of review had submitted for the year 1980 were erroneous. The Department of Revenue recommended two alternatives to the board of review to rectify the problem. The board of review was informed that it could either reassess the entire county or increase the tax rate on farmland by 1.08 pursuant to section 108(5) of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 120, par. 589(5)). The board of review chose to increase the assessment on farmland because the shortage of time precluded reassessing the entire county. Notice of hearing on the matter was published in a newspaper of general circulation in Montgomery County. Such notice stated:
NOTICE OF BOARD OF REVIEW HEARING
Notice is hereby given, that the Board of Review has been requested and directed by the Department of Revenue, State of Illinois, to reconvene in this session.
This session is for the purpose of adjusting agriculture land only, for 1980 assessments; as required by Section 108 of the Revenue Act of 1939, in accordance with Section 20e of the Act, as revised by applying the multiplier set forth below:
Notice is further given that the owners of property affected or any one representing them, or other citizens of the affected territory may appear before the Board of Review at a hearing to be held at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, February 23, 1981, at the Montgomery County Courthouse, Supervisor's Room, to show cause why such action should not be taken.
Montgomery County Board of Review * * *."
A public hearing in conformity with such notice was conducted on February 23, 1981. Mr. Heldebrandt did not attend.
The hearing on February 23, 1981, was attended by Mr. John Lambert, the legislative chairman of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau. According to Mr. Lambert's testimony, he read a prepared statement at the hearing in opposition to the proposed increase in the assessment. Mr. Lambert further stated that he did not appear at the meeting as a representative of Mr. Heldebrandt.
On February 27, 1981, the board of review decided to increase the 1980 assessment on Montgomery County farmland by ...