Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 93-MR-11. Honorable William D. Block, Judge, Presiding.
Rehearing Denied June 9, 1995. Released for Publication June 9, 1995.
The Honorable Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the court: Rathje and Hutchinson, JJ., concur.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas
JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the opinion of the court:
The plaintiffs, the Village of Lake Barrington and the Village of Lake Barrington Special Service Area Number Three (collectively the Village), filed a three-count amended complaint against the defendants, Mary E. Hogan, Sam Loiacono and Ruth Loiacono. Count I of the Village's amended complaint sought a declaration that the ordinances it adopted creating a special service area were valid. Count II of the amended complaint alleged that the defendants tortiously interfered with the Village's contract with the company that was to provide the bonding for the project. Count III of the amended complaint alleged that the defendants tortiously interfered with the Village's economic advantage. Pursuant to section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1992)), the defendants brought a two-count counterclaim against the plaintiffs and a third-party complaint against third-party defendants James Bateman and Nancy Smith. The defendants also brought a counterclaim seeking a declaration that the Village ordinances creating the special service area were invalid. The Village appeals from the trial court's summary judgment order finding that the ordinances creating the special service area were not validly enacted. The Village and Bateman appeal the trial court's order imposing sanctions against them pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 137 (134 Ill. 2d R. 137). The defendants appeal the trial court's dismissal of their counterclaims.
The pleadings, exhibits, and affidavits on file reveal that in December 1990 John Reindl was hired by the Village to coordinate the creation and implementation of a special service area in a location known as the Lake Barrington Industrial Park (Park). The Village adopted its first ordinance with respect to the project on July 7, 1992, which established a public hearing date of July 29, 1992. The Village then attempted to satisfy the statutory notice requirements. Notice of the hearing was published in the Daily Herald on July 13, 1992.
According to Reindl's affidavit, he mailed notices to the person or persons in whose names the general taxes for the preceding year had been paid. He based his decision of who should receive notice on information appearing in duplicate tax receipts. He explained that when he sent the notices he was unaware this information was not as comprehensive as the actual tax bills and that the names of some individuals on behalf of whom taxes were also paid were left out. The notices were sent by first-class mail and also by certified mail.
Defendant Ruth Loiacono, one of two persons in whose names the taxes had been paid for a single parcel of land in the special service area, was not mailed a notice. A notice was signed for by her husband, defendant Sam Loiacono. Phyllis Pynsky, Mildred Drasen, and Margaret Malo were also not mailed notices, but they are not parties to this action.
After the public hearing was adjourned on July 29, 1992, defendants Mary Hogan, Sam Loiacono, and Ruth Loiacono filed objections to the service area. However, the total number of objections filed was less than the 51% required by statute to prevent the creation of the special service area, the levy of taxes, and the sale of bonds. Specifically, two of the five registered voters signed objections, and 46 out of 127 owners of record filed objections.
Thereafter, the Village adopted an ordinance establishing the special service area. The area consisted of 100 separate parcels and 127 owners of record. It also adopted an ordinance which provided for the levy of taxes and the sale of bonds in the aggregate amount of $7 million. The Village then entered into an agreement with Bernardi Securities, Inc., for the sale of the bonds.
According to the Village's amended complaint, Village attorney James Bateman had a series of communications with attorney James Hecht, who represented defendant Mary Hogan. Hecht had attended a Village Board meeting, at which time he had raised certain legal objections to the establishment of the special service area. Bateman had a conversation with Hecht on November 12, 1992, in which Bateman disclosed to Hecht that the bond ordinance would be adopted very soon and that Hecht should conclude his review as soon as possible. On December 3, 1992, Hecht told Bateman in a telephone conversation that he was preparing a suit to enjoin the sale of the bonds. On December 9, 1992, in another telephone conversation, Bateman informed Hecht that his threat of litigation was holding up the bond sale closing, which had been set for December 14, 1992. According to the Village's amended complaint, Hecht's threat of litigation prevented the Village from closing on the bonds on December 14, 1992. On December 18, 1992, Bateman spoke on the telephone once more with Hecht, who was told that his threat of litigation was interfering with the ability of the Village to close on the sale of the bonds, since the Village could not represent to bond counsel that there was no pending or threatened litigation. In that conversation, Hecht denied that he had threatened litigation. Bateman then sent a letter to Hecht on December 21, 1992, to confirm this statement.
On December 22, 1992, Bateman had another telephone conversation with Hecht, in which Hecht refused to confirm his earlier denial that the defendants had threatened or were threatening suit and stated that he "did not like how this matter was going." Hecht's subsequent letter to Bateman of December 22, 1992, recited certain defects in the special service area proceedings.
The sale of the bonds never closed. The Village contends that the closing was prevented by the persistent threat of litigation by Hecht on behalf of defendant Mary Hogan and certain other undisclosed clients of Hecht.
According to the defendants' counterclaim, Hecht advised Bateman sometime prior to December 9, 1992, that a suit would be filed to contest the validity of the ordinances creating the special service area. Thereafter, Bateman met with Village president Nancy Smith, and the two agreed that the defendants should be dissuaded from filing a lawsuit. Notwithstanding the defendants' constitutional rights to challenge the validity of the ordinances, Bateman advised Hecht sometime before December 7, 1992, that if Hecht's clients sought a judicial determination of the validity of the ordinances, the Village would file an action for damages against his clients. At that point, Hecht's clients advised him not to file suit in view of the Village's threat to sue them for $6 million in damages.
Thereafter, Bateman repeatedly attempted to ascertain the identity of Hecht's clients so that he could file suit against them on behalf of the Village. On January 5, 1993, the Village and Bateman carried out their threats and filed suit against the defendants, alleging in essence that the defendants were liable in tort for having ...