Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 03-MR-753 Honorable Lola P. Maddox, Judge, presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hopkins
The petitioner, Alan Libbra, appeals the trial court's interlocutory order granting the motion of the respondents, the Madison County Regional Board of School Trustees et al., to lift a stay imposed by statute once a party has filed a complaint for administrative review (105 ILCS 5/7-7 (West 2002)). The petitioner appealed under Supreme Court Rules 307(a)(1) and (d) (188 Ill. 2d Rs. 307(a)(1), (d)). We vacate the trial court's order.
On October 27, 2003, a petition to annex the Livingston Community Consolidated District No. 4 (Livingston), in Madison County, to the Staunton Community Unit School District No. 6 (Staunton), in Macoupin County, was filed pursuant to section 7-2 of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/7-2 (West 2002)). The petition also asked that the regional boards implement and ensure that the matter of the petition be submitted "to the voters of both the Livingston Community Consolidated School District No. 4 and the Staunton Community Unit School District No. 6 at the next regularly scheduled election on March 16, 2004."
On November 17, 2003, two of the respondents-the Madison County Regional Board of School Trustees and the Macoupin County Regional Board of School Trustees-held a special joint meeting to consider the petition to annex filed on October 27, 2003.
The respondent Harry Briggs, the regional superintendent and ex officio secretary of the Madison County Regional Board of School Trustees, advised the chairperson that the petitioner had filed an objector's exhibit, containing six written objections, that day. The petitioner's written objections were as follows: (1) that the regional boards have discretion on the question of whether to allow the election petitioned for but are failing to exercise their discretion and are failing to consider the results of a commissioned study, (2) that the study recommends that Livingston be annexed to Highland Community Unit School District, (3) that "[t]he time has not expired to challenge the 'Petition in Opposition of the Dissolution of the Livingston Community Consolidated School District No. 4' which could bar the present action," (4) that the petition for annexation is barred by the two-year ban on successive petitions, (5) that the statutory requirements of sections 7-6(h) through (k) of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/7-6(h) through (k) (West 2002)) have not been met, and (6) that there has been a lack of an opportunity to review and oppose the petition for annexation and a lack of a reasonable time to obtain the withdrawals of signatures from the petition.
The substance of the petition to annex was stated, i.e., Harry Briggs stated that the regional board had reviewed the Madison County portion of the petition and that it had found the "prayer and the signatures to be in order." The respondent Larry Pfeifer, the regional superintendent and ex officio secretary of the Regional Board of School Trustees of Macoupin County, also stated that the regional board had reviewed the Macoupin County portion of the petition to annex and that "a majority of the qualified voters" of the Staunton Community Unit School District No. 6 had signed the petition. The Madison County Regional Board of School Trustees and the Macoupin County Regional Board of School Trustees each made and passed a motion to pass the petition to annex and to place the matter on the respective ballot at the March 16, 2004, election. After the petition to annex was passed, public comment was requested, but no public comment was made.
On December 22, 2003, the petitioner filed his complaint for the administrative review of the decision made by the joint regional boards on November 17, 2003. On January 29, 2004, the respondents filed a motion to lift the statutory stay mandated by section 7-7 of the School Code. That provision states in pertinent part as follows: "The commencement of any action for judicial review shall operate as a stay of enforcement, and no further proceedings shall be had until final disposition of such review." 105 ILCS 5/7-7 (West 2002). The respondents' motion requested only that the statutory stay be lifted temporarily in order to allow the matter to be placed on the ballot for the March 16, 2004, general election.
On January 29, 2004, the court heard arguments concerning the respondents' motion to lift the statutory stay. The court entered an order on January 30, 2004, partially lifting the statutory stay imposed, thereby allowing the question of the annexation of Livingston to Staunton to be placed on the ballot in Macoupin County and the question of the dissolution and annexation of Livingston to Staunton to be placed on the ballot in Madison County. The petitioner filed his interlocutory appeal and requested that the appeal be expedited.
The parties disagree on the standard of review. We find the reasoning of LAS, Inc. v. Mini-Tankers, USA, Inc., 342 Ill. App. 3d 997 (2003), applicable. In LAS, Inc., this court held that it is the nature of the question presented to the court and not the supreme court rule that dictates the standard of review. LAS, Inc., 342 Ill. App. 3d at 1001. Where the court's review is of a legal question, such as the interpretation of a statute, which we have here, the standard of review is de novo. LAS, Inc., 342 Ill. App. 3d at 1001. Accordingly, we apply the de novo standard of review.
In this case, the petitioner argues that the language of section 7-7 of the School Code requires that the petition to annex cannot be placed on the March 16, 2004, ballot because the statute mandates that no further proceedings can occur after the complaint for administrative review is filed. We do not agree for the following reasons.
The petition filed on October 27, 2003, contained two requests: that the boundaries be changed for Livingston and that a referendum concerning the public question of the changing of the boundaries be put on the ballot of the March 16, 2004, general election. Thus, the petition set in motion two separate processes, one governed by the School Code (105 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq. (West 2002)) and one governed by the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq. (West 2002)). Section 7-7.5 of the School Code provides that elections concerning matters such as the one presented here are to be conducted in accordance with the general election law. 105 ILCS 5/7-7.5 (West 2002). Thus, because both the School Code and the Election Code are applicable to ...