Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS ex rel. W.C. WOFFORD, KEITH PRICE, and DONALD NESBIT, Plaintiffs,
LAMONT D. BROWN; and THE CITY OF HARVEY, an Illinois Municipal Corporation, Defendants-Appellees Keith Price, Plaintiff-Appellant.
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 2015 CH 09540
Honorable Thomas R. Allen, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE ROCHFORD delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Cunningham
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff-appellant, Keith Price, appeals from the denial
of a petition for leave to file a quo warranto
complaint seeking the removal of defendant-appellee, Lamont
D. Brown, from the office of alderman of the fourth ward of
defendant-appellee, the City of Harvey (the City). For the
following reasons, we reverse and remand.
2 Mr. Brown was elected alderman of the fourth ward of the
City and sworn into office on May 11, 2015, as one of the
seven members of the city council (comprised of six aldermen
and the mayor). Prior to his election, however, Mr. Brown was
convicted of two felonies: possession of a controlled
substance in 1991 and possession of a stolen motor vehicle in
3 On June 18, 2015, W.C. Wofford, as a citizen and resident
of the fourth ward, filed a petition for leave to file a
quo warranto complaint seeking the removal of Mr.
Brown as alderman. Mr. Wofford alleged in the petition and
attached proposed complaint that, under section 3.1-10.5(b)
of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5(b) (West
2014)), Mr. Brown was ineligible to hold an elected municipal
office in that he had been twice convicted of a felony. Mr.
Wofford further maintained that, prior to Mr. Brown taking
office, written requests had been submitted to the offices of
the Illinois Attorney General (AG) and the State's
Attorney of Cook County (SA) to bring a quo warranto
action against Mr. Brown, but they had failed to do so.
Certified records of Mr. Brown's convictions where
attached to the petition.
4 On July 6, 2015, the circuit court granted Mr. Wofford
leave to file the proposed quo warranto complaint
instanter against defendants-appellees, the City and
Mr. Brown. Subsequently, the court entered an order on July
22, 2015, granting Mr. Wofford's emergency motion for a
temporary restraining order (TRO) which prohibited Mr. Brown
from exercising the powers and authority of the office of
alderman. Mr. Brown was not present in court.
5 On July 28, 2015, Mr. Brown filed a motion to dissolve the
TRO arguing, in part, that Mr. Wofford, as a private
individual, did not have standing to bring the quo
warranto action because the relevant issue was one of
public interest and Mr. Wofford had no distinct private
interest in the matter. Mr. Brown also maintained that Mr.
Wofford was motivated to bring the action for political
reasons, as he was aligned with the mayor of the City on
certain key issues in opposition to Mr. Brown. The circuit
court, on July 30, 2015, granted that motion and entered an
order which vacated and dissolved the TRO and set a schedule
on a motion to dismiss the complaint due to Mr. Wofford's
lack of standing to pursue a quo warranto action.
6 On August 7, 2015, Mr. Brown filed a motion under section
2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619 (West
2014)), to dismiss the action, on the ground that Mr. Wofford
lacked standing. The motion argued that the issue raised in
the complaint, as to Mr. Brown's eligibility to hold
office, was purely one of public interest and could only be
brought by the AG or SA. The motion further asserted that,
even if the question was not one of public interest, Mr.
Wofford's status as a citizen and taxpayer of the fourth
ward did not give him standing under established case law.
7 Mr. Wofford did not respond to the motion. Instead, on
August 24, 2015, Mr. Wofford, with Keith Price and Donald
Nesbit as additional relators (collectively referred to as
plaintiffs-aldermen), filed an amended petition for leave to
file a quo warranto complaint seeking to remove Mr.
Brown as alderman. In the amended
petition, Mr. Price alleged that he is a resident, citizen,
and duly elected alderman of the sixth ward of the City, and
Mr. Nesbit contended that he is a resident, citizen, and duly
elected alderman of the fifth ward of the City.
8 Mr. Brown filed a response in opposition to the amended
petition contending that the three named relators lacked
standing to bring a quo warranto action.
Plaintiffs-aldermen replied that they, as aldermen, possessed
private interests which were distinct and separate from those
of other citizens. Specifically, plaintiffs-aldermen alleged
that they have been forced to exercise their legislative
authority-to enact legislation and determine public
policy-with Mr. Brown, who was not qualified to hold office.
In support of their standing argument, plaintiffs-aldermen
cited the decision in People ex rel. Ballard v.
Niekamp, 2011 IL App (4th) 100796, which held that
members of a local board of education had standing to bring a
quo warranto action seeking the removal of another
member of the board for that board member's violation of
the Public Officer Prohibited Activities Act (Act) (50 ILCS
105/1 (West 2008)). Niekamp, 2011 IL App (4th)
100796, ¶ 1.
9 On February 18, 2016, the circuit court entered an order
which denied the amended petition for leave to file a quo
warranto complaint. In so doing, the court rejected the
applicability of Niekamp and found that
plaintiffs-aldermen lacked standing to bring a quo
warranto action, as they possessed the same interest in
the removal of Mr. Brown from his office as those of all
citizens of the City and the "public at large." The
court also concluded that the suit would cause
"chaos" and not benefit the public.
10 Mr. Price filed a motion for reconsideration of the order
denying the amended petition, which was adopted by Mr.
Wofford and Mr. Nesbit. In his motion, Mr. Price argued that
the court erred in its conclusion that he lacked a private
interest distinct from the public in general. Mr. Price
asserted that as an alderman, he was sworn to uphold the law
and owed fiduciary duties to the public in fulfilling his
official duties. Further, Mr. Brown's presence on the
city council subjected its work and actions to challenges and
questions of validity. The court denied the motion to
11 Only Mr. Price (plaintiff-appellant) has appealed from the
orders denying the amended petition and reconsideration of
that denial. In addition, defendants-appellees have not filed
a brief with this court. However, since the record is simple
and the issues on appeal are such that we can decide them
without the aid of an appellees' brief, we will review
the case on the ...