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Suzanne R. White, As Sole Beneficiary Under Atg Trust Company, Trust v. Robert Mercado

April 8, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman

Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys


Plaintiff Suzanne R. White ("Plaintiff") filed this pro se action alleging various constitutional violations arising out of citations she received regarding her property at 226 West Street, in Waukegan, Illinois. Plaintiff named as defendants several City of Waukegan employees ("Waukegan Defendants"), Lake County officials ("Lake County Defendants") and T. J. Properties, Inc. (T. J. Properties). The Waukegan Defendants, the Lake County Defendants, and Defendant T. J. Properties (collectively "Defendants") have independently moved for dismissal of this action for failure to state a claim. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants each motion.


Plaintiff is the beneficiary of a land trust which holds title to the property at 226 N. West Street ("subject property") in the city of Waukegan located in Lake County, Illinois. (Compl. ¶ 13.) In July 2002, Plaintiff had an altercation of an unknown nature with Defendant Robert Mercardo ("Mercado") in the alley behind the subject property. (Id. ¶ 14.) Mercado is employed by the City of Waukegan as a code inspector. (Id. at ¶ 2.) On Tuesday, September 3, 2002, following the rainy Labor Day weekend, a Waukegan city employee left a notice on Plaintiff's front door stating Plaintiff was in violation of the Weeds Ordinance, which prohibits weeds or grass in excess of 10 inches. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff did not cut her grass in response to the notice. (Id. at ¶ 19.) A second weeds violation notice was placed on Plaintiff's door on September 5, 2002. (Id. at ¶ 21.) More than a week later, on September 13, 2002, Plaintiff returned to the subject property and discovered that her lawn had been cut. (Id. at ¶ 22.)

On February 15, 2010, nearly seven and one half years later, Plaintiff received a tax sale notice informing her that the subject property had been sold to Defendant T. J. Properties for delinquent taxes on December 8, 2009. (Id. at ¶ 23.) The notice indicated that the subject property could be redeemed before December 8, 2011. (Id.) Defendant Willard R. Helander ("Helander") was listed on the notice as the Lake County Clerk.

On the advice of Plaintiff's then counsel, Plaintiff went to the Lake County Courthouse that day to inquire about the tax sale notice. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Plaintiff spoke with the Lake County Treasurer, Defendant Robert Skidmore ("Skidmore"), who provided Plaintiff with further documentation concerning the tax sale. (Id. at ¶ 25.) Plaintiff learned that Waukegan City Collector, Defendant Sharon Barnes ("Barnes"), published a list of collectible liens in the News Sun on November 12, 2009 and submitted a certified list of collectible amounts to Defendant Skidmore. (Id. at ¶¶ 26-27.) Defendant Robert Masini ("Masini"), a former City of Waukegan Attorney notarized the list. (Id. at ¶ 27.) Plaintiff was also provided with a copy of Section 9-2-4.5 of the Illinois Municipal Code ("the Special Assessment Statute"), 65 ILCS 5, which authorized the tax sale on the subject property. (Id. at ¶ 29.)

Plaintiff met with Defendant Helander and obtained an estimate of redemption, which indicated that a total of $497.94 was necessary to redeem the property. (Id. at ¶ 30.) A handwritten notation on the estimate indicated that the original assessment was for $303.81 and listed the name and telephone number for Defendant Michele Weland ("Weland"), a City of Waukegan employee. (Id.) Plaintiff also obtained a copy of the lien that was placed on her property from the office of Defendant Mary Ellen Vanderventer ("Vanderventer"), the Lake County Recorder of Deeds. (Id. at ¶ 31.) The lien for "Weed Cutting & Debris Removal" was recorded on November 14, 2002 and signed by Defendant John Washington ("Washington"), a City of Waukegan Code Enforcement Supervisor. (Id.) Plaintiff observed a poster on the bulletin board in the Lake County Recorder's Office identifying Defendant Ann Linn Conzelman ("Linn"), a City of Waukegan Attorney, as the person to contact for questions concerning sold weed and water liens. (Id. at ¶ 32.)

Ten days later Plaintiff met with Defendant Masini in his office. (Id. at ¶ 35.) Masini stated he initiated the collection of the lien on the subject property through a tax sale. (Id.) Masini provided Plaintiff with a copy of the letter Defendant Barnes (the city collector) sent to Plaintiff on September 1, 2006 informing Plaintiff of Waukegan's intention to include the lien on the subject property in a tax sale. (Id.) For reasons unknown, Waukegan did not include the lien in a tax sale until 2009. (Id. at ¶¶ 35-36.) In a later meeting with Defendant Barnes, Plaintiff asked for a copy of the bill that prompted the lien. (Id. at ¶ 37.) Barnes referred Plaintiff to Defendant Weland, a City of Waukegan Adjudication Administrator. (Id. at ¶¶ 7, 37.)

Plaintiff submitted a Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") request for records relating to the lien and subsequent tax sale on her property. (Id. at ¶ 40.) In response, Plaintiff received six documents written by Defendant Mercado as follows:

1. A September 9, 2002 report stating "need file for 226 West St..Will cite for not cutting grass after 2 placards were placed."

2. A September 10, 2002 report stating "Weeds were still not cut so citation was posted on to entrance of property."

3. A September 12, 2002 report stating "[W]ill issue work order grass as high and ...

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