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09/15/94 DAN SEELHOEFER v. REGIONAL BOARD SCHOOL

September 15, 1994

DAN SEELHOEFER, KAREN SEELHOEFER, KEN FISCHER, DAWN FISCHER, WANDA HOERCHLER, JIM SCHROEDER, DIANE SCHROEDER, MARK SLYGH, DEB SLYGH, AUGUST TRAME, LORETTA TRAME, AND ROLAND TRAME, APPELLEES,
v.
REGIONAL BOARD OF SCHOOL TRUSTEES OF CLINTON AND WASHINGTON COUNTIES, ILLINOIS; CARLYLE COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1; WILLIAM B. SCHLOTT; ANN DUNCAN; BONNIE HEINZMANN; NORMAN CONRAD; PENNY BEHRENS; BARTELSO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 57; AND CENTRAL COMMUNITY HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 71, APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clinton County. No. 93-MR-24. Honorable Dennis E. Middendorf, Judge Presiding.

Honorable Charles W. Chapman, J., Honorable Thomas M. Welch, J., Honorable Gordon E. Maag, J.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chapman

JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Appellee brought a petition seeking administrative review of the decision of the Regional Board of School Trustees of Clinton and Washington Counties (the Regional Board) which denied appellees' petition to detach territory for Carlyle Community Unit SchoolDistrict No. 1 and annex it to Bartelso Elementary School District No. 57 and Central Community High School District No. 71. The circuit court reversed the decision of the regional Board and entered judgment for appellees. We affirm.

Appellants first argue that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition. Second, they contend that the circuit court erred in holding that the Regional Board's denial of the petition for detachment and annexation was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Appellants claim that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction because appellees' first amended petition did not satisfy article 7 of the Illinois School Code (School Code) (105 ILCS 5/7-1 (West 1992)), which provides for detachment of a territory from an existing school district and annexation to another district within one county upon petition signed by two-thirds of the legal voters residing within the affected area. Article 7 further requires:

"Each page of the circulated petition shall include the full prayer of the petition, and each signature contained therein shall match the official signature and address of the registered voters as recorded in the office of the election authority having jurisdiction over the county. Each petitioner shall also record the date of his signing. Each page of the petition shall be signed by a circulator who has witnessed the signature of each petitioner on that page. The length of time for signatures to be valid, before filing of the petition, shall not exceed 6 months." 105 ILCS 5/7-1 (West 1992).

Appellants argue that, although appellees' first amended petition contains two pages of signatures, only the second page is signed by the circulator. Therefore, they contend that the first page of the first amended petition fails to comply with that part of section 7-1 of the School Code which requires that "each page of the petition shall be signed by a circulator who has witnessed the signature of each petitioner on that page." 105 ILCS 5/7-1 (West 1992).

Even if we were to disregard the signatures on the first page of the petition, there would still be a sufficient number of certified signatures on the second page. The record reveals that six families resided within the affected territory and that all of the adults except one, Sylvia Schlott, signed the petition. The certificate of the Clinton County Clerk shows that Sylvia Schlott and 11 of the signers of the petition were registered voters at the time of the filing of the petition. The clerk's certificate omitted Roland Trame from the list of registered voters.

We note that if Roland Trame was a registered voter, nine signatures would be needed on the petition in order to comply withthe statute, since the number of registered voters would be 13. The page certified by the circulator contained nine signatures, including that of Roland Trame, thus meeting the two-thirds requirement.

If Roland Trame was not a registered voter, then there would be 12 registered voters in the affected territory. Thus, eight signatures would be needed in order to comply with the statute. The second page of the petition contained eight certified signatures, excluding Roland Trame. Therefore, despite the fact that the first page of the petition was not signed by the circulator, the two-thirds requirement of section 7-1 was satisfied by the signatures contained on the second page.

Appellants contend that the second page of the petition is also invalid because it fails to meet the statutory requirement that the full prayer of the petition be stated on each page. The appellees stated the full prayer only on the first page of the petition and stapled the first and second pages together. However, not every irregularity in a petition is fatal to jurisdiction. (See Board of Education of Wapella Community Unit School District No. 5 v. Regional Board of School Trustees of McLean-De Witt Counties (1993), 247 Ill. App. 3d 555, 617 N.E.2d 442, 187 Ill. Dec. 234; Sakonyi v. Lindsey (5th Dist. May 18, 1994), No. 5-93-0449.) Courts should avoid hypertechnical reasons for avoiding decisions made on the merits of a case when neither party suffered any delay or harm as a result of the technical violation. Worthen v. Village of Roxana (1993), 253 Ill. App. 3d 378, 623 N.E.2d 1058, 191 Ill. Dec. 468.

We believe that appellees substantially fulfilled the requirements of the School Code. An examination of the petition reveals that if each page contained the full prayer and the circulator's sworn verification, there would be space left on the 8 1/2 x ll form for the signature of one petitioner, at most. Further, if the legal description of the territory were four lines longer, compliance with the statute would be impossible. Therefore, common sense dictates that we allow appellees to state the full prayer in the first page of the petition and bind it to the second page of signatures.

We, therefore, conclude that appellants' argument that the Regional Board and the circuit court lacked jurisdiction of the subject matter and the parties because appellees' petition failed to meet ...


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