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The Veterans Assistance Commission of v. the County Board of Grundy

April 2, 2013

THE VETERANS ASSISTANCE COMMISSION OF GRUNDY COUNTY, ILLINOIS, AND ELTON MONSON,
PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE COUNTY BOARD OF GRUNDY COUNTY, ILLINOIS; KENNETH BUCK, COMMANDER OF MORRIS AMERICAN LEGION POST NO. 294; GLENN GAVRIL, COMMANDER OF COAL CITY AMERICAN LEGION POST NO. 796; DOUGLAS MARTIN, COMMANDER OF MINOOKA AMERICAN LEGION POST NO. 1188; ALAN LOVE, COMMANDER OF GRUNDY COUNTY MARINE CORPS LEAGUE; RHODE BRONK, COMMANDER/OFFICIANT OF DISABLED AMERICAN VETERANS, CHAPTER 86; AND GERALD BELT, COMMANDER OF MORRIS VFW POST NO. 6049, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Grundy County, Illinois, Circuit No. 11-MR-104 Honorable Robert C. Marsaglia, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Wright

PRESIDING JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holdridge and McDade concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 In 2002, the County Board of Grundy County (the County Board) passed a resolution recognizing the Veterans Assistance Commission (VAC) of Grundy County (the original VAC), which was formed in 1999. On December 13, 2011, the County Board passed a resolution that first repealed the 2002 resolution recognizing the original VAC and then recognized another, newly created Grundy County VAC (the second VAC).

¶ 2 The petitioners filed a complaint for declaratory judgment in the circuit court of Grundy County requesting the court to declare that the original VAC remained intact and the County Board's "reorganization" resolution was contrary to statute, an unlawful exercise of power, and "without legal effect." The respondents, the County Board and the six individuals who organized the second VAC, filed a counterclaim requesting an injunction restraining the superintendent of the original VAC from occupying the county-funded office of the VAC and having access to VAC files.

¶ 3 On January 12, 2012, the court entered an order granting the injunction. The court also denied the petitioners' amended complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that the original VAC remained intact and that the County Board's 2011 resolution was without legal effect. The petitioners now appeal the trial court's January 12, 2012, order granting relief in favor of the respondents. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

¶ 4 FACTS

¶ 5 On November 28, 2011, respondents Kenneth Buck, Alan Love, Rhode Bronk, Gerald Belt, Glenn Gavril, and Douglas Martin appeared before the media relations committee of the County Board on behalf of the following veterans' organizations, respectively: Morris American Legion Post No. 294; Grundy County Marine Corps League; Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 86; Morris VFW Post No. 6049; Coal City American Legion Post No. 796; and Minooka American Legion Post No. 1188. The six representatives requested the County Board "cease the current operation" of the original VAC and recognize a separate, second VAC. When appearing before the media relations committee, the six representatives advised the committee that Elton Monson (Monson), superintendent of the original VAC, refused to allow delegates from their respective six Grundy County veterans' organizations to participate in the decision-making of the original VAC.

¶ 6 Ultimately, the media relations committee acted on this information and recommended that the County Board should repeal resolution 2002-069, which recognized the original VAC for purposes of county funding. On December 13, 2011, consistent with the recommendation of the media relations committee, the County Board passed a resolution entitled "RESOLUTION TO RECOGNIZE AND APPROVE A REORGANIZED VETERANS ASSISTANCE COMMISSION AND TO REPEAL GRUNDY COUNTY RESOLUTION NUMBER 2002-069." The resolution repealed resolution 2002-069 and recognized the second, newly organized VAC. Three days later, on December 16, 2011, the petitioners filed a complaint in the circuit court of Grundy County seeking a declaratory judgment that the County Board's December 13, 2011, resolution was without legal effect, and the petitioners requested other injunctive relief not relevant to the outcome of this appeal.*fn1

¶ 7 The second VAC elected Buck, from Morris American Legion Post No. 294, as superintendent on December 23, 2011. The next day, the original VAC held its annual election of officers on December 24, 2011, and reelected Monson as superintendent for another four-year term. On December 29, 2011, the county sent a letter to Monson indicating that all benefits, income, and insurance for Monson, as superintendent, would be terminated as of December 31, 2011.

¶ 8 On January 9, 2012, Buck, Love, Bronk, Belt, Gavril, and Martin filed a counterclaim in the original declaratory action initiated by the petitioners. Count I of the counterclaim involved an action in quo warrantor to require Monson to demonstrate his authority to continue to act as the superintendent of the Grundy County VAC. Count II sought an injunction restraining Monson from occupying the offices of the Grundy County VAC and possessing any of its files.

¶ 9 On January 10, 2012, the petitioners filed an answer to the counterclaim, as well as an amended petition for declaratory judgment, which included the additional facts that took place after December 16, 2011. The amended complaint also sought to have the second VAC's election declared void and the original VAC's election recognized as valid.

¶ 10 The matter proceeded to a hearing on the petitioners' amended complaint and the respondents' counterclaim on January 12, 2012. The parties stipulated to the following relevant facts summarized below.*fn2 The parties stipulated that since December 29, 2011, two separate elections have occurred, "resulting in multiple persons acting and otherwise holding themselves out as having the authority to bind the [VAC]."

ΒΆ 11 In addition, the petitioners presented several witnesses who testified that elections for the original VAC took place on December 24, 2011. According to these witnesses, several of the respondents, namely, Buck, Bronk, Belt, Love, and Gavril, received ...


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