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

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

April 22, 2015

THE VETERANS ASSISTANCE COMMISSION OF GRUNDY COUNTY, ILLINOIS, and ELTON MONSON, Petitioners-Appellants and Cross-Appellees,
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(The County Board of Grundy County, Illinois, Cross-Appellant).

Appeal from the Circuit Court No. 11-MR-104 of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Grundy County, Illinois. Appeal No. 3-13-0969. Honorable Robert C. Marsaglia, Judge, Presiding.

JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice McDade and Justice Wright concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

SCHMIDT JUSTICE

¶ 1 In 2002, the county board of Grundy County passed a resolution recognizing the Veterans Assistance Commission of Grundy County (hereinafter original VAC or VAC 1). Petitioner, Elton Monson, served as the duly-elected superintendent of VAC 1. This action stems from a resolution passed by the Grundy County board in December of 2011, wherein the board voted to reorganize and recognize a new VAC (VAC 2) with Kenneth Buck serving as superintendent.

¶ 2 Petitioners (VAC 1 and Monson) brought a declaratory judgment action in the Grundy County circuit court, requesting the court declare the county board's resolution contrary to statute and without legal effect. Respondents, the county board and the six individuals who organized VAC 2, counterclaimed for injunctive relief prohibiting Monson from occupying the county-funded VAC office and from having access to the VAC 2's files. The trial court granted the injunction and denied petitioners' complaint for declaratory judgment. The court found the county board had the authority to recognize that VAC 2 was not required to fund VAC 1.

¶ 3 Petitioners appealed. In Veterans Assistance Comm'n v. County Board, 2013 IL App (3d) 120075, ¶ 23, this court reversed and remanded with instructions to make specific factual findings as to whether either purported VAC met the statutory requirements of the Military Veterans Assistance Act (Veterans Act) (330 ILCS 45/1 et seq. (West 2010)). Veterans Assistance Comm'n, 2013 IL App (3d) 120075, ¶ 23.

¶ 4 Following a hearing on remand, the trial court concluded that VAC 1 extinguished its own legal status by arbitrarily and capriciously excluding some posts and chapters of duly-recognized military veterans' organizations in the county. Specifically, that VAC 1 prevented those members from voting based upon restrictive bylaws that were not statutorily authorized. The trial court further recognized the VAC 2 as the county's only valid VAC, and noted that not all chapters or posts had to participate in the VAC in order for the VAC to be operational.

¶ 5 Petitioners appeal, claiming, inter alia, that VAC 1 did not extinguish its own legal status and that the VAC 1's bylaws were valid, binding, and enforceable on the VAC 1's members.

¶ 6 The county board of Grundy County cross-appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in the appointment of a special assistant State's Attorney to represent the legally extinguished VAC 1.

¶ 7 We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand with directions.

¶ 8 BACKGROUND

¶ 9 The present appeal is, in many respects, a continuation of the first. As such, it is necessary to briefly set forth the facts of the first appeal and the underlying action of the county board of Grundy County to fully grasp the parties' competing contentions. We note that the parties are identical in both appeals.

¶ 10 In 1999, the various military veterans' organizations in Grundy County formed the VAC 1. Petitioner Elton Monson served as the duly-elected superintendent. The county board passed a resolution in 2002 formally recognizing VAC 1 as the county's Veterans Assistance Commission pursuant to section 2 of the Veterans Act (330 ILCS 45/2 (West 2010)).

¶ 11 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 Monson refused to allow delegates from their respective Grundy County veterans' organizations to participate in the decision-making processes of the original VAC.

¶ 12 On December 13, 2011, 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 effectively repealed the 2002 resolution and recognized the second, newly organized VAC 2. Three days later, petitioners filed a complaint in the circuit court seeking a declaratory judgment that the board's resolution was without legal effect.

¶ 13 VAC 2 elected Kenneth Buck from Morris American Legion Post No. 294 as superintendent on December 23, 2011. Shortly thereafter, the county board sent a letter to Monson indicating that all income, benefits, and insurance for Monson as superintendent would terminate on December 31, 2011. Respondents then filed a counterclaim to petitioners' original declaratory action, requesting Monson demonstrate his authority to continue to act as the superintendent of the Grundy County VAC. Respondents further sought to enjoin Monson from conducting VAC business and to prohibit any further access to the county VAC office.

¶ 14 Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order declaring the county board had the authority to recognize VAC 2 and was not required to fund VAC 1. The court also granted respondents' counterclaim enjoining Monson from conducting VAC business and from occupying the VAC office.

¶ 15 Petitioners appealed, arguing the county board lacked authority to create, destroy or reorganize VAC 1. Respondents argued that the board properly exercised its legislative authority to withdraw its recognition of the original VAC based upon improper behavior and malfeasance by the original VAC. See generally Veterans Assistance Comm'n v. County Board, 2013 IL App (3d) 120075.

¶ 16 This court determined that the county board's resolution had no legal effect, as the existence of any properly organized VAC is not dependent upon the " 'recognition' " of the county board (relying on 330 ILCS 45/2 (West 2010)). Veterans Assistance Comm'n, 2013 IL App (3d) 120075, ¶ 16. However, the court's analysis did not end there. It went on to note that the petitioners requested a declaration that VAC 1 was still intact. After an analysis of section 9 of the Veterans Act (330 ILCS 45/9 (West 2010)), the court concluded that the legislature intended for only one VAC to exist in each county. Veterans Assistance Comm'n, 2013 IL App (3d) 120075, ¶ 19. The court further opined that a VAC must be an inclusive coalition with delegates and alternates from " 'each' " of the veterans organizations situated in the county. Id. ¶ 20. As the trial court did not address that issue, this court reversed and remanded with directions to examine whether either purported VAC currently met the statutory requirements of the Veterans Act. Id. ¶ 23.

ΒΆ 17 Petitioners subsequently filed a motion to appoint Brett R. Geiger as special prosecutor for the representation of VAC 1. The trial court granted the motion over the objection of the county ...


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