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Weitzman v. Cook County

OPINION FILED MAY 23, 1985.

HOWARD WEITZMAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

COOK COUNTY ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. George Higgins, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE LINN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied July 15, 1985.

Plaintiff taxpayer sought injunctive relief on behalf of himself, all other taxpayers similarly situated, and the taxing districts to restrain the Cook County Board from allegedly violating its fiduciary duty to plaintiffs by awarding certain properties purchased at a scavenger sale to Neighborhood Housing Development Organizations rather than selling said properties to the highest cash bidders.

The Cook County Board moved to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint on the basis that he lacked standing to assert the rights of the taxing districts and that he had failed to show that the Cook County Board had abused its discretion. The trial court granted defendant's motion, and plaintiff now appeals.

We affirm the decision of the trial court.

BACKGROUND

Pursuant to section 216d of the Illinois Revenue Act, defendant Cook County Board (board) entered "no cash bids" on certain properties offered for sale in 1983 under the provisions of the Scavenger Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 120, par. 697d).

In force and effect at the time such properties were acquired by defendant were certain "Agreements for Scavenger Sale" executed between the board and several Neighborhood Housing Development Organizations (NHDO). In said agreements, the board set forth its goal of returning tax delinquent properties to timely tax-producing status and its desire to assist in the rehabilitation of these properties for the purpose of providing affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents.

The substantive sections of the agreements provided that, pursuant to section 216d of the Revenue Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 120, par. 697d), the board agreed to make no-cash bids equal to the amount of the tax delinquency on offered properties and to obtain title thereto. The NHDO correspondingly agreed to tender to the board the sum of $2,000 within five days of signing the agreement, to be placed in an escrow account and ultimately applied in partial payment of the tax delinquency. The agreement further specified as follows:

"This agreement shall be contingent upon NHDO's securing within six (6) months of the date the property is sold at the tax sale, financial commitments sufficient to bring the Property into substantial compliance with local building codes. If NHDO does not obtain the necessary financial commitments, NHDO shall notify the County in writing within said time period. If the County is not so notified, it shall be conclusively presumed that NHDO has secured such commitment. If NHDO notifies the County as above provided, this contract shall be null and void and the escrow funds * * * shall be returned to the NHDO."

In the agreement, the NHDO covenanted that for a period of seven years, the property was to be used for the benefit of low- and moderate-income persons, defined as those persons earning no more than 80% of the Cook County median income. Should the NHDO fail to rehabilitate the subject property and not provide low-income housing for the required period, the current owner would become obligated for payment of a penalty in the amount of all taxes, interest, and penalties extinguished by the tax deed.

In performance of the aforementioned agreements and pursuant to section 216d of the Revenue Code, which empowers the board with the authority to "sell or assign the tracts of land [acquired at a Scavenger sale]" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 120, par. 697d), the board instituted tax deed proceedings to obtain title to the subject properties in order to assign them to the NHDO.

Plaintiff, Howard Weitzman, a taxpayer and property owner in Cook County, brought suit on behalf of himself, all other persons similarly situated, and the taxing districts of Cook County, seeking to enjoin the board from conveying the properties to the NHDOs. Plaintiff alleged that the board, by executing contracts with the NHDOs rather than selling the properties to the highest cash bidders, had violated its fiduciary duty to those entitled to the proportionate distribution of the proceeds of taxes levied and assessed upon the properties. Plaintiff further alleged that the "taxing district beneficiaries" of the "no cash bids" would suffer a loss of income by the board's action and that, consequently, plaintiff and others similarly situated would be forced to pay increased taxes.

Defendant board filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint, contending that plaintiff failed to allege facts sufficient to demonstrate that he had standing to assert the rights of a taxing body or that the board had abused its discretion. The trial court granted ...


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