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Allen v. Illinois Community College Board

July 26, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County. No. 98-CH-236 Honorable Scott Mansfield, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hopkins

Rule 23

Motion to publish granted August 17, 2000.

Opinion filed August 17, 2000.

This case stems from the formation and subsequent dissolution of an experimental community college district, which is now known as Metropolitan Community College (the College), pursuant to the Public Community College Act (the Act) (110 ILCS 805/1-1 et seq. (West 1998)). Edna Allen and Gordon D. Bush (plaintiffs) filed the complaint in their individual capacities as registered voters and taxpayers of the district. Allen also filed the complaint in her official capacity as a member of the board of trustees of the College. Plaintiffs argue that the trial court improperly dismissed their complaint for a failure to state a cause of action. Plaintiffs claim that their complaint stated a cause of action for the following reasons: (1) that the Act is unconstitutionally vague; (2) that the Act deprived plaintiffs of their property without due process of law; (3) that the Act allows for an improper delegation of legislative authority to an administrative agency; (4) that the Act unconstitutionally infringes upon plaintiffs' right to vote; (5) that defendant, the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), abused its discretion in dissolving the College district; (6) that the trial court improperly denied plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief; and (7) that the trial court erred in dismissing count II of plaintiffs' complaint because there was no pending motion to dismiss count II. We affirm the dismissal of the complaint.


The College is the successor to the State Community College of East St. Louis (State Community College), which was formed over 30 years ago by our legislature as an experimental community college district. See Public Act No. 76-724, 1969 Ill. Laws 1489; 110 ILCS 805/2-12.1 (West 1998). Unlike other community colleges, the State Community College was maintained and operated by the ICCB and was funded entirely by the State of Illinois. See 110 ILCS 805/2-12.1(a) (West 1998).

This State-controlled arrangement ended when the Act was amended to provide for a voting referendum on whether the experimental district should be abolished. See 110 ILCS 805/2-12.1(b), (c) (West 1998). Since the vote was favorable, the College was established in the place of the experimental district. See 110 ILCS 805/2-12.1 (West 1998). In 1995, a board of trustees was elected for the College. Allen was elected as a member of that board. She and Bush are both residents and taxpayers of the district. Bush is also the mayor of East St. Louis, a city within the district of the College.

On May 15, 1998, the ICCB voted to place the College on "recognition with conditions" status. The Act creates a system under which the ICCB recognizes those community colleges that meet the standards in the Act and its accompanying regulations. Section 2-15 provides, "The [ICCB] shall grant recognition to community colleges which maintain equipment, courses of study, standards of scholarship[,] and other requirements set by the [ICCB]." 110 ILCS 805/2-15 (West 1998). The recognition standards by which the community colleges are evaluated are the "applicable statutes within the *** Act and applicable ICCB rules." 23 Ill. Admin. Code §1501.114(d) (West 1996).

Plaintiffs alleged in their pleadings that the ICCB placed the College on recognition with conditions status because the College failed to meet certain recognition standards set by ICCB, in particular, that the College failed to submit a financial audit for fiscal year 1997, that the College failed to properly report student enrollments for State-funding programs, and that the College failed to develop a financial-accounting system that is essential for the sound fiscal management of the institution. Plaintiffs also alleged that the ICCB appointed a special study committee (the committee), pursuant to section 2-15(5) of the Act (110 ILCS 805/2-15(5) (West 1998)), that the committee submitted a report to the ICCB recommending that the College be dissolved, that the ICCB adopted the report of the committee, and that the ICCB passed a motion, effective January 1, 1999, dissolving the College.

Plaintiffs alleged that the committee's report was "seriously deficient and flawed" because it was:

"based, in part, upon improper criteria, namely: That District 541 [the College] did not meet the statutory requirements that a community college district have an equalized assessed valuation of $150,000,000 and have a population base of 60,000. These criteria were improper considerations, in that[] the [l]egislature specifically exempted District 541 from having to satisfy these two requirements." See 110 ILCS 805/2-12.1(c)(1) (West 1998).

Plaintiffs alleged that ICCB's use of the committee's report "to justify or support its action to dissolve [the College] constituted an arbitrary, capricious[,] and unreasonable exercise of its purported powers and authority and an abuse of its discretion." They alleged also that the financial administrator was operating under a conflict of interest in that it was in the position of evaluating the College's performance at the same time that it was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the College.

Plaintiffs further alleged certain constitutional violations: that the ICCB's dissolution of the College deprived plaintiff Allen of her due process rights in that neither she nor any of the trustees were afforded sufficient notice or a hearing; that ICCB's grant of administrative authority over the College to the financial administrator (see 110 ILCS 805/2-15 (West 1998)) constitutes "an unlawful delegation of legislative authority"; that the statute is "unconstitutionally vague and overbroad in that there is an absence of sufficient standards restricting the discretion of ICCB in applying the emergency powers enumerated in [section 2-15]"; and that the statute unconstitutionally deprived the voters of the College district of their property without due process of law and in violation of equal protection.

Plaintiffs requested injunctive relief from the dissolution of the college district and requested the court to enter a declaratory judgment "making binding declarations of rights, duties[,] and powers with the force of final judgments regarding the constitutionality, construction, interpretation[,] and application of state statutes, and in particular, [section 2-15] of the *** Act." Finally, plaintiffs alleged that section 2-12.1(d) of the Act (110 ILCS 805/2-12.1(d) ...

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