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Davis v. City of Country Club Hills

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

September 30, 2013

ANTHONY DAVIS, JOHN EDWARDS, CYNTHIA SINGLETON, VINCENT LOCKETT, LEON WILLIAMS, TYRONE HUTSON, STEVEN BURRIS, and FRANK MARTIN, in Their Official Capacities as Aldermen of the City of Country Club Hills, and OSCAR MCNEAL and CHESTER MILLER, as Individuals, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
THE CITY OF COUNTRY CLUB HILLS, DEBORAH M. MCILVAIN, in Her Official Capacity as Clerk of the City of Country Club Hills, and DAVID ORR, in His Official Capacity as the Cook County Clerk, Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 12 COEL 25 Honorable Maureen Ward Kirby, Judge Presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE HYMAN delivered the judgment of the court with opinion. Justices Pucinski and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

HYMAN PRESIDING JUSTICE

¶ 1 This interlocutory appeal challenges the trial court's denial of a petition to preliminarily enjoin the results of a referendum reducing to five the number of aldermen in the City of Country Club Hills. A majority of eligible voters approved the referendum at the November 6, 2012, general election, and in April 2013, the voters elected five aldermen, who then took office.

¶ 2 The only issue the trial court determined was the request for preliminary relief. That issue is now moot, and the public-interest exception to the mootness doctrine does not warrant our exercise of review.

¶ 3 BACKGROUND

¶ 4 The City of Country Club Hills' city council consisted of 10 aldermen, with 2 representing each of the City's five wards. Qualified voters petitioned to place a referendum on the ballot for the 2012 general election seeking to reduce the number of elected aldermen to five, with one alderman representing each ward. The petition requested that the following proposition be placed on the ballot:

"SHALL THE CITY OF COUNTRY CLUB HILLS RESTRICT YES [ ]
NUMBER OF ALDERMEN TO 5, WITH ONE ALDERMAN NO [ ]
REPRESENTING EACH WARD?

All existing aldermanic terms shall expire as of the date of the next regular aldermanic election, at which time a full complement of aldermen shall be elected for the full term."

¶ 5 This language was taken from section 3.1-20-20(a) of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/3.1-20-20(a) (West 2008)). After the time for filing objections closed, the city clerk submitted a written certification of the ballot proposal to the county clerk. The referendum question as certified by the city clerk included the question as to whether the number of aldermen should be reduced to five, but omitted the informational language regarding the expiration of current aldermanic terms. The referendum passed with 58.44% of the vote.

¶ 6 About three weeks later, on November 26, 2012, plaintiffs, which included nine aldermen in their official capacities, as well as two proponents of the referendum, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, mandamus, and injunctive relief. They alleged the city clerk exceeded her authority by failing to include all of the requested petition language on the ballot, rendering the referendum election void. That same day, plaintiffs filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction seeking to stop the county clerk from certifying the election results the following day. At an emergency hearing on the plaintiffs' motion, the county clerk's office stated that if the trial court issued an injunction in plaintiffs' favor, it would revoke its November 27, 2012, certification. The plaintiffs then withdrew their request for a temporary restraining order and proceeded on their request for preliminary injunctive relief.

ΒΆ 7 A hearing on the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction was held on December 7, 2012. Plaintiffs argued that the city clerk had a duty to certify or reject the proposition as requested in the petition and did not have discretion to alter the language of the petition by omitting the informational language on the ballot. The trial judge denied the plaintiffs' motion finding plaintiffs failed to show irreparable harm because the aldermen still had time to file as independent candidates. The trial judge also concluded that plaintiffs failed to establish a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the underlying action, noting that the city clerk complied with the Municipal Code by placing the question on the ballot without the informational language and the plaintiffs had time to file objections to the proposition before it was certified. The ...


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