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Rottman v. The Illinois State Officers Electoral Board

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

March 23, 2018

THOMAS J. ROTTMAN JR., Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THE ILLINOIS STATE OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD and Its Members, WILLIAM J. CARDIGAN, JOHN R. KEITH, ANDREW K. CARRUTHERS, IAN K. LINNABARY, WILLIAM M. McGUFFAGE, KATHERINE S. O'BRIEN, CHARLES W. SCHOLZ, and CASSANDRA B. WATSON; THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS; and SCOTT DRURY, Defendants Scott Drury, Defendant-Appellant.

          Rule 23 order filed February 16, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 18 COEL 6 Honorable Alfred J. Paul, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE CONNORS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice Pierce concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          CONNORS JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Scott Drury, is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the office of Illinois Attorney General in the general primary election to be held on March 20, 2018. Plaintiff, Thomas J. Rottman Jr., objected to Drury's nomination petition. The State Officers Electoral Board (Board) overruled Rottman's objection. Rottman sought review of the Board's decision in the circuit court, which reversed the Board's decision and ordered that Drury's name not appear on the ballot. Drury appeals, contending that the Board correctly found that he satisfied the requirements of section 7-12(8) of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/7-12(8) (West 2016)) when he submitted a receipt with his nomination petition, showing that within the preceding year, he filed his statement of economic interests with the Secretary of State in connection with his position as state representative. We reverse the circuit court's decision and conclude that Drury's name should appear on the ballot.

         ¶ 2 Drury has been a state representative in the General Assembly. On November 27, 2017, Drury filed a nomination petition with the Illinois State Board of Elections for nomination as the Democratic candidate for the office of Illinois Attorney General. The nomination petition included a statement of candidacy and a receipt from the Office of the Secretary of State, dated November 17, 2017, which stated:

"Please accept this receipt as acknowledgment that our office has received and filed your Statement of Economic Interests pursuant to the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act. Your statement was filed on April 10, 2017 for the following agencies:
REPRESENTATIVE IN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY."

         ¶ 3 On December 11, 2017, Rottman filed an objection with the Illinois State Board of Elections, contending that under section 7-10 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/7-10 (West 2016)), Drury should have filed a statement of economic interests " 'in relation to his candidacy, ' to-wit, his candidacy for Illinois Attorney General, not later than December 4, 2017." Rottman continued that the Election Code only excused this requirement where, within the last year, a candidate filed a statement of economic interests in relation to the same governmental unit for which the candidate now sought office. However, state representative and attorney general are not in the same governmental unit because the positions are in two distinct and separate branches of government. According to Rottman, Drury should have filed a new statement of economic interests and receipt, and by not doing so, Drury failed to comply with the Election Code and should be removed from the ballot.

         ¶ 4 Drury opposed the objection before the Board, contending that the positions of state representative and attorney general relate to the same governmental unit-the State of Illinois. On January 5, 2018, a hearing examiner recommended that the objection be sustained and Drury's name not appear on the ballot for the March 20 election. The hearing examiner concluded that members of the General Assembly are in a different unit of government than members of the executive branch, and so Drury should have submitted a new statement of economic interests for his attorney general candidacy.

         ¶ 5 The General Counsel of the Illinois State Board of Elections disagreed with the hearing examiner. In his recommendation, the General Counsel stated in part that he was not convinced that the legislative and executive branches are separate units of government. The General Counsel further stated that Drury's statement of economic interests, which he filed as a state representative, related to the State of Illinois and not only to the representative district that he represents.

         ¶ 6 On January 11, 2018, the Board issued a decision that adopted the General Counsel's recommendation and overruled Rottman's objection. The Board found that the offices of state representative and attorney general were the same governmental unit for the purposes of filing a statement of economic interests. Thus, Drury's filing of a statement of economic interests for the office of state representative within a year preceding the date on which he filed his nomination papers for attorney general satisfied the requirements of the Election Code. The Board ordered that Drury's name be certified for the primary election ballot.

         ¶ 7 On January 16, 2018, Rottman sought review of the Board's decision in the circuit court. On February 2, 2018, after a hearing, the court reversed the Board's decision and ordered that Drury's name not appear on the primary ballot as a candidate for attorney general. Drury filed a notice of appeal on the same day. On February 5, 2018, pursuant to a motion by Drury, this court (1) stayed enforcement of the circuit court's order and judgment pending the outcome of the instant appeal and (2) granted a request for expedited consideration.

         ¶ 8 On appeal, Drury contends that the Board correctly held that he satisfied the requirements of section 7-12(8) of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/7-12(8) (West 2016)). Drury argues that he filed his statement of economic interests in relation to the same governmental unit for which he now seeks office. Drury asserts that with respect to state offices, the State of Illinois is the applicable governmental unit for a statement of economic interests. Drury maintains that statutory and constitutional language support the Board's ...


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