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Board of Education of Dolton School District 149 v. Miller

June 30, 2004

[5] THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF DOLTON SCHOOL DISTRICT 149, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
GEORGE MILLER, HIGHWAY COMMISSIONER OF THORNTON TOWNSHIP ROAD DISTRICT, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John K. Madden, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice O'mara Frossard

[8]  Plaintiff, the Board of Education of Dolton School District 149 (the Board), appeals from an order of the circuit court directing it to build sidewalks or walkways on land owned by the Thornton Township Road District. The Board contends that the circuit court's order violates the separation of powers doctrine, was issued without any authority or jurisdiction, and lacks any legal or factual basis. The Board also contends that none of the requirements for the entry of injunctive relief were met in this case. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the circuit court.

[9]  BACKGROUND

[10]   Dolton School District 149 planned to construct a new elementary school building on about 15.4 acres of property at the northeast corner of the intersection of 158th Street and Clyde Avenue in Thornton Township. The school was scheduled to open in January 2004.

[11]   On October 29, 2002, the general contractor responsible for constructing the school and related improvements applied for a permit to perform construction activities in the 158th Street and Clyde Avenue rights-of-way that bordered District 149's property. The application requested permission to work on the rights-of-way from November 4, 2002, to August 1, 2003. George Miller, the highway commissioner of the Thornton Township Road District, issued a permit on March 27, 2003. The permit indicated that work was permitted through September 2003.

[12]   Relying on the probability of the issuance of the permit, and later, the actual issuance of the permit, Dolton School District 149 contracted for and proceeded to pay for about $500,000 worth of improvements to the 158th Street and Clyde Avenue rights-of-way that bordered its property. On November 7, 2003, Miller appeared at the construction site and ordered all workers to cease work on the Clyde Avenue and 158th Street rights-of-way. According to Frank Cordetti, an employee of the architecture firm that designed the school, Miller stated he would not allow an extension of the permit for the completion of the improvements to the rights-of-way until District 149 paid him $25,000.

[13]   On November 10, 2003, the Board of Education of Dolton School District 149 filed a three-count complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, naming Miller as the defendant. In count I, the Board asserted that as a public entity, District 149 could only expend taxpayer funds upon approval by a vote of the Board. The Board alleged that the $25,000 payment demanded by Miller was unconstitutional, illegal, unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious because it was never approved by the Board and did not meet the "specifically and uniquely attributable to" test that is applied to evaluate the legality of conditions imposed for governmental permits. In count II, the Board alleged that because District 149 had incurred expenditures and obligations under the permit issued by Miller on March 27, 2003, it had a vested property right to complete the work authorized by the permit. The Board contended that Miller's demand for a $25,000 payment and refusal to extend the permit to allow completion of the approved improvements unconstitutionally deprived District 149 of a vested property right. Finally, in count III, the Board alleged that Miller had no authority to frustrate or control District 149's governmental purposes of providing facilities for the education of children by demanding $25,000 as a condition for the extension of the permit for the completion of improvements to the 158th Street and Clyde Avenue rights-of-way.

[14]   On November 14, 2003, the Board filed a motion for a temporary restraining order preventing Miller from interfering in the completion of the construction improvements to the 158th Street and Clyde Avenue rights-of-way. In response, Miller filed two unauthenticated documents. The first was an untitled, hand-written four-page document that was not dated or signed. It provided, in relevant part, as follows:

[15]   "The school to be constructed for Dist. 149 located at 157th & Clyde in the unincorp. Area of Thornton Twsp. will impact the area w/ substantial expenses, that are not being covered.

[16]   In agreeing to allow permitee the right of way for ditches & driveways & new road construction, the Highway Commissioner requests & asks certain considerations.

[17]   9. The School Dist. will allocate the sum of $25,000 cash to the Thornton Township Road & Bridge, for any future use toward street improvements, as the Highway Commissioner deems necessary. Such monies to be held in an escrow acct by the Highway Commissioner."

[18]   The second unauthenticated document filed by Miller was a letter to Miller's attorney from the Board's attorney, dated April 3, 2003. The letter included spaces for signatures on behalf of the "Thornton Township Highway Commissioner" and "Dolton School District 149" and a space for the date "agreed to," but those spaces were left blank. The letter included the following paragraph:

[19]   "The parties have agreed that in lieu of extending the walking path (at the west side of Chappel Avenue) south to the Village Greens and Sand Ridge Condominiums with a new asphalt path, the School District will allocate Twenty-five Thousand and 00/100 Dollars ($25,000.00) from the contract sum to the Highway Commissioner for future use towards street improvements as he deems necessary, with such allocation to be held in an escrow account."

[20]   On November 14, 2003, the circuit court entered an order on the motion for a temporary restraining order, directing that construction of the road improvements should not be stopped by Miller. The court enjoined Miller from preventing or interfering with the construction "until a hearing on the ...


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