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03/20/89 Nicole Motors, Inc., v. Jim Edgar

March 20, 1989

NICOLE MOTORS, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

JIM EDGAR, SECRETARY OF STATE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION

536 N.E.2d 879, 181 Ill. App. 3d 37, 129 Ill. Dec. 829 1989.IL.358

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Charles E. Freeman, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

PRESIDING JUSTICE MANNING delivered the opinion of the court. BUCKLEY and O'CONNOR, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MANNING

Plaintiff, Nicole Motors, Inc., filed for administrative review of the Secretary of State's decision to revoke its dealer plates. The trial court reversed the administrative decision as being against the manifest weight of the evidence. We reverse the decision of the trial court.

In 1983 the Secretary of State filed a complaint and a rule to show cause at the administrative level against the plaintiff, a used car dealer, as to why its 1983 Illinois "Dealer Certificates of Authority" and dealer plates and any subsequent renewal should not be revoked. The Secretary of State claimed that the plaintiff: (1) failed to maintain an established place of business in violation of section 5-100 of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 95 1/2, par. 5-100), and section 1020.10 of 92 Ill. Adm. Code of rules and regulations (92 Ill. Adm. Code 1020.10 (1985)); (2) failed to maintain required records in violation of section 5-401 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 95 1/2, par. 5-401); and (3) filed fraudulent tax returns with the Illinois Department of Revenue in violation of section 5-402 of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 95 1/2, par. 5-402).

At the administrative hearing, the hearing officer found that the plaintiff had not shown cause why its licenses and plates should not be revoked, made certain findings of fact and recommended that all Illinois dealer certificates of authority and dealer plates be revoked. The Secretary of State adopted the findings of fact and recommendations and revoked plaintiff's licenses and plates. Plaintiff's subsequent application for its 1984 dealer licenses and plates was denied by the Secretary of State.

Plaintiff filed for administrative review in the circuit court. After a hearing, the trial court reversed the administrative decision, ruling the Secretary of State's findings and Conclusions were against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The Secretary of State appeals that decision, arguing that the circuit court applied the wrong standard of review and abused its discretion in reversing the administrative decision. It claims that the trial court was limited to the sole issue, determining whether the Secretary of State's findings and Conclusions were against the manifest weight of the evidence and had no authority to reweigh the evidence.

Section 3-110 of the Administrative Review Law provides, inter alia, that the findings and Conclusions of the administrative agency on questions of fact shall be held to be prima facie true and correct. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 3-110.) The court is not permitted to reweigh the evidence on administrative review; its function is solely to ascertain whether the agency's decisions are against the manifest weight of the evidence. (Sheldon v. Edgar (1985), 131 Ill. App. 3d 489, 491, 475 N.E.2d 956.) The fact that the record reveals conflicting testimony alone is not sufficient to warrant a reversal of the decision of the agency. (Schoenbeck v. Board of Fire & Police Commissioners (1979), 69 Ill. App. 3d 366, 372, 387 N.E.2d 738.) The administrative agency, not the court, is charged with weighing the conflicting evidence and determining the credibility of the witnesses. (Nendza v. Board of Review of the Department of Labor (1982), 105 Ill. App. 3d 437, 442, 434 N.E.2d 470.) To find that a decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence, the reviewing court must conclude that all reasonable and unbiased persons acting within the limits prescribed by law and drawing all inferences in support of the finding would agree that the finding is erroneous. (Schoenbeck v. Board of Fire & Police Commissioners (1979), 69 Ill. App. 3d 366, 372-73, 387 N.E.2d 738.) If there is substantial competent evidence to support an agency's action, the court will not disturb the agency's decision. (Hale v. First National Bank (1978), 57 Ill. App. 3d 310, 314, 372 N.E.2d 959.) It is well established that a reviewing court must examine the entire record to determine whether the decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Baldridge v. Department of Registration & Education (1977), 52 Ill. App. 3d 568, 574, 367 N.E.2d 95.

Pursuant to section 5-501 of the Code any license issued pursuant to the Code may be denied, revoked or suspended if the Secretary of State finds that the licensee, any officer, director, shareholder having 10% or greater ownership interest in the corporation, owner partner, trustee, manager, employee or member of the licensee has violated any provision of the Code or committed certain other transgressions. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 95 1/2, par. 5-501.) In the present case, the Secretary of State determined that the respondent had committed the following violations:

(1) Failed to maintain an established place of business as ...


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