JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Burke, and Theis
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Justice Karmeier took no part.
1 The issue in this appeal is whether plaintiffs, as private
citizens, are proper claimants on a statutorily mandated,
public official bond issued by RLI Insurance Company (RLI),
as surety, to the Madison County Treasurer and Collector
under section 3-10003 of the Counties Code (55 ILCS 5/3-10003
(West 2014)) and section 19-40 of the Property Tax Code (35
ILCS 200/19-40 (West 2014)). The circuit court of Madison
County granted RLI's motion to dismiss a portion of
plaintiffs' class action complaint involving
plaintiffs' claim against RLI, pursuant to section 2-615
of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West
2014)). The circuit court determined that plaintiffs were not
proper parties to seek redress directly against the public
official bond, and the appellate court affirmed (2015 IL App
(5th) 140473-U). We agree and hold that plaintiffs, as
private citizens, are precluded from making claims on the
statutorily mandated, public official bond at issue in this
case. We therefore affirm the judgments of the appellate
court and the circuit court of Madison County dismissing
plaintiffs' claim against RLI.
3 Plaintiffs brought this action in their own interest and on
behalf of a purported class of similarly situated persons to
recover damages resulting from an alleged scheme to inflate
the interest rate delinquent property taxpayers in Madison
County, Illinois, were compelled to pay to those who
purchased delinquent taxpayer debt. The alleged conspiracy
scheme was perpetrated by the former Madison County Treasurer
and Collector, Fred Bathon, who purportedly agreed with
certain defendants to manipulate the delinquent tax
purchasing system. The result of this scheme was that
taxpayers who were delinquent in paying their Madison County
real estate taxes were required to pay the maximum allowable
interest to the purchasers of their tax debt to discharge the
liens and redeem their real estate properties. The purchasers
of the tax debt, in turn, allegedly provided financial
support to Bathon.
4 Plaintiffs brought suit against those involved in the
scheme, as well as Madison County. Plaintiffs also brought
suit directly against defendant, RLI, the entity acting as
surety on Bathon's statutory public official bond
required as the Madison County Treasurer and Collector. See
55 ILCS 5/3-10003 (West 2014) (stating the bond form
requirements for the county treasurer); 35 ILCS 200/19-40
(West 2014) (stating the bond form requirements for the
county collector). The bond named Bathon, the elected
"County Treasurer/County Collector, " as the bonded
principal and "Madison County Government" as the
named obligee. The bond issued by RLI specifically stated:
"KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS:
That we, Fred Bathon, as Principal, and RLI Insurance
Company, a corporation duly licensed to do business in the
State of Illinois, as Surety, are held and firmly bound unto
the Madison County Government in the penal sum of One Million
Dollars ($1, 000, 000) to the payment of which sum, well and
truly to be made, we jointly and severally bind ourselves and
our legal representatives firmly by these presents."
5 RLI moved to dismiss plaintiffs' claim against it
pursuant to section 2-615 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West
2014)). RLI argued that plaintiffs are not proper claimants
under the terms of the public official bond or under the
statutes that require its procurement. The circuit court
granted RLI's motion to dismiss with prejudice and
entered an order pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule
304(a) (eff. Feb. 26, 2010), finding no just reason to delay
enforcement or appeal. The appellate court affirmed. 2015 IL
App (5th) 140473-U. This court allowed plaintiffs'
petition for leave to appeal pursuant to Illinois Supreme
Court Rule 315 (eff. Jan. 1, 2015).
7 Plaintiffs' claim against RLI was dismissed pursuant to
section 2-615 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2014)). A
section 2-615 motion to dismiss challenges the legal
sufficiency of a complaint based on defects apparent on its
face. Marshall v. Burger King Corp., 222 Ill.2d 422,
429 (2006). Our review of an order granting or denying a
section 2-615 motion to dismiss is de novo.
Marshall, 222 Ill.2d at 429. "In reviewing the
sufficiency of a complaint, we accept as true all
well-pleaded facts and all reasonable inferences that may be
drawn from those facts." Marshall, 222 Ill.2d
at 429. The allegations of the complaint will be construed in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and a cause of
action should not be dismissed "unless it is clearly
apparent that no set of facts can be proved that would
entitle the plaintiff to recovery." Marshall,
222 Ill.2d at 429.
8 Here, the circuit court dismissed plaintiffs' claim
against RLI, holding that the plaintiffs were not proper
claimants under the public official bond. As the appellate
court aptly noted, the issue in this case is not whether RLI
will ultimately be liable under the public official bond.
Rather, the issue is whether plaintiffs have standing to
pursue RLI directly under the bond.
9 Public official bonds are instruments "by which a
public officer and a secondary obligor undertake to pay up to
a fixed sum of money if the public officer does not
faithfully discharge the duties of his or her office."
Restatement (Third) of Suretyship and Guaranty § 71 cmt.
c (1996). Illinois statutes require county treasurers and
county collectors to execute public official bonds before
taking office. 55 ILCS 5/3-10003 (West 2014); 35 ILCS
200/19-40 (West 2014). The statutory public official bond
issued by ...