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02/11/88 Roger D. Little, Champaign v. East Lake Fork Special

February 11, 1988

DRAINAGE DISTRICT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE

v.

EAST LAKE FORK SPECIAL DRAINAGE DISTRICT ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES AND CROSS-APPELLANTS



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT

ROGER D. LITTLE, Champaign County Treasurer and ex officio

Treasurer and Collector of East Lake Fork Special

519 N.E.2d 1113, 166 Ill. App. 3d 209, 116 Ill. Dec. 898 1988.IL.199

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. Creed D. Tucker, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE SPITZ delivered the opinion of the court. GREEN, P.J., and LUND, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE SPITZ

Plaintiff, the treasurer of Champaign County (treasurer), filed a complaint in the circuit court of Champaign County against defendants East Lake Fork Special Drainage District (district) and its commissioners, alleging that he was entitled to reimbursement for the actual costs for his services as ex officio treasurer and collector for East Lake Fork Special Drainage District, pursuant to sections 4-36 and 4-37 of the Illinois Drainage Code (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 42, pars. 4-36, 4-37). Defendants filed an amended motion for judgment on the pleadings (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-615(e)), alleging that sections 4-36 and 4-37 were in violation of article VII, section 9(a), of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VII, § 9(a)). Following a hearing, the trial court denied the motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding the disputed provisions were constitutional. A bench trial was held. At the Conclusion of the trial, the court found that the treasurer's method of computing his actual costs was inappropriate under the provisions of the Code. The treasurer appeals from this finding and the district cross-appeals from the order of the trial court denying the motion for judgment on the pleadings and ruling that sections 4-36 and 4-37 of the Code were constitutional. For the following reasons, we reverse the order of the trial court which found the treasurer's method of computing his actual costs was inappropriate under sections 4-36 and 4-37 of the Code.

On August 28, 1985, plaintiff Roger D. Little, treasurer of Champaign County, filed a complaint in the circuit court of Champaign County against defendants East Lake Fork Special Drainage District and its commissioners, Bill Klein, John Hixson, and Gilbert Magsamen. The treasurer's complaint alleged that pursuant to sections 4 -- 36 and 4 -- 37 of the Code he was ex officio treasurer and collector of East Lake Fork Special Drainage District and in that capacity he provided various services and incurred certain expenses. The complaint further alleged that sections 4 -- 36 and 4 -- 37 provided for reimbursement of his actual costs and that he had made a demand for payment but the district refused to pay. The treasurer requested that the disputed provisions of the Code be declared constitutional and that the district be ordered to pay his actual costs in the amount of $2,395.72.

The district filed an answer to the complaint which admitted the demand for payment and refusal to pay but denied that the figure calculated by the treasurer was "actual costs" and denied that the disputed provisions were constitutional. Thereafter, the district filed a motion and an amended motion for judgment on the pleadings, alleging on several grounds that sections 4 -- 36 and 4 -- 37 of the Code were unconstitutional. Following a hearing, the trial court ruled that the disputed provisions were constitutional. The district's subsequent motion to reconsider was denied.

A bench trial was then held on April 20, 1987. The first witness to testify was the Champaign County treasurer, Roger D. Little. The treasurer testified on direct examination that his responsibilities as elected treasurer generally include the safekeeping and custody of all funds derived under the Champaign County budget and the authorized disbursement of those funds. As ex officio collector for Champaign County he is responsible for collecting all real estate taxes levied within the county. The treasurer pointed out that his office services 123 separate taxing districts and that it services tax collections for 71 drainage districts. With regard to the drainage districts, the treasurer's responsibilities include the collection of taxes, the distribution of funds to the districts' accounts, the authorized disbursement of funds from those accounts, the authorized investment of funds, and maintenance of the districts' books and accounts.

The treasurer next testified that he had previously lobbied for a law to allow recovery of expenses incurred in performing the aforementioned services. On January 1, 1984, the provisions of sections 4 -- 36 and 4 -- 37 of the Code became effective, whereupon the treasurer instructed his staff to begin implementing the new laws. The treasurer stated that he initially informed Joyce Meents, the accounting clerk, to "try to keep track of her time on each individual district" but that this "proved not to be the best method." The treasurer described the formula ultimately used by his office to compute the expenses as follows:

"I think the formula we finally came up with has a factor in for a substantial portion of Mrs. Meents actual salary, a portion that's in for computer time, since the districts have been fully put on the computer system now for the transactions. In addition to the daily or monthly transactions for the districts, the office is responsible for preparing the annual report for each district, and so that has been placed on computer, so the formula did include a factor for computer time, and some office overhead figures in there.

I do not think our formula was all-inclusive, because the formula reflects charges for Mrs. Meents' salary only, and, obviously, because of the smallness of our office and one person being [in] charge, all of us within the office do devote a certain amount of time to the activity in her absence, and, certainly, there is no factor in the formula for any of my salary or my deputy or any other people in the office. So I feel the formula is very modest, and I don't think that there was [ sic ] any excesses built into the formula."

The treasurer testified that the first bills sent to the drainage districts in 1984 covered only a nine-month period due to their fiscal year and totaled approximately $12,000 for all districts. Thereafter, annual billing has totaled between $12,000 to $13,000.

On cross-examination, the treasurer was asked how his office allocated the costs and expenses to the districts and he responded:

"I think the -- by nature of the laws, it was left -- that was adopted by the State Legislature -- left it up in the air. The language simply stated that we could bill for actual costs incurred. By the nature of having 71 separate districts that we were responsible for, and one person doing virtually all the services for them, I think you can see that it becomes very difficult to allocate one, two or three minutes for transactions for this district, and then, two minutes later, you have an allocation for that district. That was what was attempted to be done, initially, and found it was just very impractical to try to take into account any type of time log, because when you've had a phone call, say, from your office, or any of the other attorneys representing drainage districts that you put down 30 seconds or 60 seconds, for each bank reconciliation -- or she would put down two minutes on this one and, maybe, 10 minutes or half an hour on the bigger ones -- so it did not seem that the time method was a proper way for a -- feasible way for us to tax the charges.

. . . That's when we came up with the fact that it included numbers of transactions for each district, because we felt that it would even out -- small transactions that took 30 seconds would be evened out by longer ones that took, maybe, 25 or 30 minutes. But, on a transaction basis for each district, I think it's still a fairly equitable method of apportioning costs."

The treasurer stated that the transactions are entered into the ledgers for the various districts and are counted and totaled at the end of the year. He further stated that although he did not personally calculate how much time Meents spent "on each set of books," he believed that "a minimum of two-thirds of her time in the office is spent on doing . . . drainage work alone."

The treasurer testified that Meents sought help from the auditor's office to devise the formula for billing which included such items as a percentage of her salary and fringe benefits, and overhead such as computer time, stationery and postage. The treasurer interpreted the statutory language "actual costs" to ...


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