The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McBRIDE
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County
Honorable Robert V. Boharic, Judge Presiding.
This quo warrantor proceeding was brought by petitioner the Village of Orland Hills (Orland Hills) following competing attempts by Orland Hills and respondent the Village of Orland Park (Orland Park) to annex a group of unincorporated parcels of property (collectively, the subject property). The complaint sought a determination that Orland Hills' annexation of the subject property was valid and that Orland Park's annexation of portions of the subject property was void. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. After hearing the arguments of the parties, the trial court granted Orland Hills' motion for summary judgment, denied Orland Park's cross-motion, and ousted Orland Park from exercising jurisdiction over the subject property. Orland Park now appeals.
Orland Hills is a municipality located in southern Cook County. Orland Park is a municipality located in southern Cook County and northern Will County. The subject property is made up of four separate parcels of land: the Purpura, Duffek, Schwab, and Smith parcels. The Purpura, Duffek, and Schwab parcels are rectangular in shape and all border 167th Street on their southern end. On the other side of 167th Street is Cook County Forest Preserve property. The Smith parcel is irregular in shape and extends north and west of the Schwab parcel. The subject property and Orland Hills do not share a common boundary. However, the forest preserve land that abuts the southern border of the subject property also abuts the western border of Orland Hills.
The owners of the parcels that make up the subject property commenced voluntary annexation proceedings with Orland Hills in 1995. Pursuant to section 7-1-8 of the Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/7-1-8 (West 1996) (concerning annexation of territory contiguous to a municipality)), the owners of each parcel filed separate annexation petitions and entered into annexation agreements with Orland Hills (the 1995-96 annexation agreements). Orland Hills then adopted annexation ordinances pertaining to the subject property (the 1995-96 annexations). The 1995-96 annexations were later found to be technically-flawed in a separate proceeding and are not the subject of this case.
In June 1996, Orland Park published notice that it intended to involuntarily annex the Purpura, Duffek, and Schwab parcels pursuant to section 7-1-13 of the Municipal Code, as well as a parcel immediately south of the Smith parcel (this parcel is referred to in the record as the "southwest parcel"). 65 ILCS 5/7-1-13 (West 1996). Under section 7-1-13, a municipality may forcibly annex unincorporated territory of less than 60 acres which is wholly surrounded by one or more municipalities or other types of property listed in the statute, such as forest preserve district or State property. 65 ILCS 5/7-1-13 (West 1996).
Prior to July 1, 1996, John Daly, the Village Administrator of Orland Hills, was advised by attorneys for Orland Hills that the 1995-96 annexation proceedings were potentially defective on technical grounds. Daly proceeded to obtain new petitions for voluntary annexation from the owners of the subject property. On July 1, 1996, at approximately 2:15 p.m., Daly brought the new petitions to the Orland Hills Village Hall (Village Hall) and submitted the petitions to a clerical employee for filing.
On the evening of July 1, 1996, the corporate authorities of Orland Park adopted an ordinance annexing the Purpura, Duffek, and Schwab parcels of the subject property, along with the southwest parcel.
On July 9, 1996, Orland Park commenced a quo warrantor proceeding against Orland Hills, in which it challenged the 1995-96 annexations by Orland Hills on procedural grounds. On December 12, 1996, by court order, the 1995-96 annexations were found to be deficient for various reasons and were thus declared void and of no legal effect.
On June 18, 1997, the corporate authorities of Orland Hills acted on the petitions filed on July 1, 1996, by adopting ordinances annexing the parcels that made up the subject property to Orland Hills.
Orland Hills then filed the quo warrantor complaint that is the subject of this action. The complaint sought to have the Orland Park annexation declared void and sought an order ousting Orland Park from jurisdiction over any of the subject property. Orland Hills moved for summary judgment, arguing that Daly's filing of the Orland Hills annexation petitions on July 1, 1996, gave it priority over Orland Park's annexation several hours later on the evening of July 1, 1996. Orland Hills further maintained that Orland Park's annexation was invalid because the property annexed was not "wholly surrounded" as required by statute. Orland Park filed a cross-motion for summary judgment contending, inter alia, that its annexation should prevail over Orland Hills annexation because Orland Hills had failed to comply with statutory filing requirements and had abandoned its annexation efforts.
Much of the evidence and argument before the trial court on the cross-motions for summary judgment concerned the filing of the Orland Hills petitions. At the Orland Hills Village Hall, there was a single counter shared by the Village Clerk, Building Department, Recreation Department, and other departments of the Village. Signs above the counter indicated that the counter was for persons who had business with the Building Department, Clerks Office, or Recreation Department. The open area behind the counter was known as the "general office" or "clerk's office" and was staffed by clerical personnel who were available to handle all problems, questions, and requests for any of the Village's departments. Pursuant to section 7-1-8 of the Municipal Code, which requires that annexation petitions be filed "with the municipal clerk," Daly went to the counter and asked that the petitions be filed on behalf of the owners. 65 ILCS 5/7-1-8 (West 1994). Sharon Richmond, an administrative assistant for the Village's Building Department, accepted the petitions. According to Richmond, she, along with the other individuals who worked in the general office behind the front counter, had the authority to accept a filing on behalf of the Village Clerk's Office.
The general office had two manual date stamps. One, which said "Building Department," was typically kept by Richmond on her desk. Richmond accepted the petitions by taking the Building Department stamp off of her desk and stamping each petition "Received July 1, 1996, Orland Hills Bldg. Dept." She also initialed each petition.
There was also a stamp that read "Village of Orland Hills" in the office. That stamp was typically kept under the front counter. Various employees testified that there was no hard and fast rule related to stamping or which stamp to use and that they generally did not distinguish between the two stamps. There was no written policy, procedure or guidelines related to the use of the two stamps. At the old Village Hall, the Building Department stamp had been kept downstairs where the Department was located and the "Village of Orland Hills" stamp had been kept upstairs ...